A bit over a month ago, clicked on a link to a post by Hattie Gladwell titled “We really need to stop calling people living with chronic illness ‘brave.’ ”
In it, Gladwell talks about herself and a group of like-minded others who feel offended that people are aware of her issues and want to treat her as a brave person. Apparently, they feel that being brave suggests that you chose to do something brave instead of just being stuck with a chronic illness. They feel particularly offended by being considered someone inspiring. That just dealing with difficulties is a human state and nothing to be getting excited about.
It goes on to say that calling someone brave is “patronizing” and “can be offensive.” And to cap it off, “It’s almost like people assume living with a chronic illness means you constantly struggle or that just choosing to live is a huge thing to do.”
Actually, living with a chronic illness IS a huge thing to do. It IS a constant struggle.
The argument that living with a chronic illness isn’t a choice is absurd. If you are talking about actually living? It is a choice.
For instance, I know that I am scheduled to go out with a friend tomorrow night. Do I take an opportunity to do some necessary grocery shopping with my mother, or do I stay home? If I go, I jeopardize getting sick (because in peak flu season, being on immunosuppressive drugs means a much higher risk of catching something) or possibly just too fatigued to go out tomorrow. So, guess what? I choose to stay home.
How about the choice to get out of bed every morning? Chronic illness sufferers deal with constant depression issues that can lead to months-long episodes that can result in suicide. As a result, we form support groups and encourage each other to tend to our mental health. Because we want to survive and ultimately thrive as much as is humanly possible.
Getting up, and doing what you can do, knowing your limits, is suddenly your full-time job when you are chronically ill. If you are still able-bodied enough to work, that is a choice. To get up every day and work to provide for your family when you yourself are suffering, that is a choice.
Some people, like myself, have enough complex issues that it may very well be impossible to keep on doing full-time work. Or even part-time work. Developing chronic issues may be life-threatening and require you to completely restructure your life and possibly go on disability.
The thing is though, you choose life. You choose to live as abundantly as you can. You develop empathy and hope and pray that you can extend that to others.
If that’s not bravery, I don’t know what is.