Tuesday, October 20, 2015

What They Don't Tell You About Being a Teenager with a Chronic Illness

As a teenager, life can be overwhelming. Between the stress of trying to juggle extracurricular activities along with the typical teenager drama one can become exhausted. The course load however is where many students feel like the world is coming down on them when teachers continuously pile on several, different homework assignments every night. If you have finished high school think back to those days when you were struggling with similar tasks. No matter the time frame of when you graduated or will graduate everyone has still been through almost the exact same basic high school struggles.

Now put yourself in the shoes of a teenager who has a chronic illness. These teens have to manage all the basic high school struggles but also deal with the daunting task of keeping their health in check to make sure they are even able to attend school on a regular basis. There's a lot of things the general public doesn't understand about teenagers with chronic illnesses. Someone people don't even think teenagers can get chronic diseases! Even during the time of when you were diagnosed with a chronic illness the doctor is there to tell you all of the health related effects of the disease and how it will change your life health wise. What doctors are unable to say is how it will mentally effect your day to day life.

1. You probably will lose friends.
Chronic illnesses affect relationships. When you are lying in bed for days on end, unable to go to school people will often forget about you. You won't get to be at school every second of the day to spend time with them. When you can't attend social events, such as, Friday night football games or going out to grab a slice of pizza, many friends will eventually stop inviting you. No one wants to hang out with the kid who is always sick and can't get out of the house. There will be a few friends who stick around but that big group of friends you thought you once had no longer understand the challenges you face; So many choose to walk out. You learn who your true friends are when you go through a crisis such as, a chronic illness.

2. It sucks and there will be plenty of bad days to go around!
Maybe they do tell you this, but I don't feel it's something that is well spoken. I think it is only implied. At times when you are at your lowest you'll think that you are never going to get better and life is going to continue on like this forever, but that is not true. Everyone has moments in life that are particularly hard. The only tip I have to offer is to try not to take out your anger on anyone else. This disease is an emotional roller coaster and sometimes you may say things that you don't really mean. You have every right to be mad and upset, because it's not fair that you've been stuck in a position that no one could even fathom, but try to direct that anger somewhere else. It isn't that specific person's fault, due to what has happened to you.

3. Most people won't understand what you are going through.
I heard a quote from one of my favorite TV shows that says "I see people with disabilities all the time, but seeing and understanding aren't always the same thing." (House M.D. Season 8 Episode 14) The people you surround ourselves with will see what a struggle you face on a daily basis, but they won't live what you feel. You are the only one who will ever understand just how horrific the pain can be. They will think they know how you are feeling, because they see the struggle but they don't feel the struggle. If you are too sick to get out of bed and have to cancel plans quite a few people might question you as to why. When you explain, sometimes they still don't see why you are canceling. They might think you are lazy or that you just don't want to hang out with them, even if that isn't the case. People with chronic illnesses want to try and live a typical life however often times we are not able to do so and many don't see why we might have to cancel plans when our bodies aren't cooperating. Try to remind your friends that what they can see and what you feel might be two different views about your health.

Whatever it is being a teenager can be quite the overwhelming experience for anyone. However, when you add having a chronic illness to the mix it can be emotionally taxing on someone's mental health. Many doctors understand medicine but they don't understand how your chronic illness can affect you mentally. You probably won't be prepared for what pops up in your chronic illness journey, but you just have to take a big deep breath and face the problem head on because that is all you can do. The journey is scary and there's many unknowns, but I hope knowing someone of the things no one tells you, will help a teen who is recently diagnosed with a chronic illness understand their journey a little better.