Being a Creative with a Shitty Immune System…

I was a relatively healthy child. Aside from the severe infection I had as a child, I was never really sick. I mostly dealt with the occasional injury–like a sprained ankle or welding-flash induced blindness. You know, the perfectly normal, child and teenage-related injuries. (snort.)

And then I hit adulthood. I developed asthma, Celiac Disease, and Autoimmune-thyroid. I get sinus infections once in the spring, and sometimes twice in the fall. My immune system is trash, and it isn’t for lack of trying to be a healthy person.

I take vitamins, I get the right amount of sleep, I’ve changed my diet to fit my disease, I eat relatively healthy, and I’m in the gym four times a week–unless I’m ill. These are all things that should theoretically help boost my immune system… If it wasn’t confused and total, utter trash.

Somewhere along the way, my body started fighting itself and it hasn’t stopped. It literally views my organs as enemies. My immune system is constantly waging a war it made up–seemingly arbitrarily–in its own head. So, while it is off fighting my intestines because I swallowed two crumbs of bread or inhaled some flour dust, other things that really deserve my immune system’s attention–like bronchitis or pneumonia–are left with the scrappy, barely fit for battle, leftover fighters.

What does this look like?

It looks like a severe case of Bronchitis in February, a debilitating cold in March, and the flu/pneumonia/sinus infection/doctor really has no clue in April. It’s an unexplained fever for ten days. Sore muscles, swollen glands, aching bones, and absolutely no fucking energy. None. I might as well be comatose. But, I put on a good smile.

There is no energy to move or think or feel. It is hard for me to maintain friendships, conversations, connections. I work really hard to do this, because I hate feeling isolated or abandoned. But I’ve also noticed that with a few of these connections, I’m often the main initiator of these conversations. I rarely mind, but it can be exhausting, having little energy and feeling like I’m the one putting in all the effort to maintain a connection.

There are many issues living with an invisible illness brings–like no one understanding how sick or how tired you are because you lack physical proof. To be fair, I mostly bring this on myself. I’m a “chin up and keep moving, no matter how tired you are” type of person. I don’t show my fatigue often or well. I have my reasons for that. Yes, they are stubborn and prideful and I’m most definitely never changing.

Even worst, invisible illnesses like the one I’m dealing with, the one that wrecks my immune system and leaves me sick seemingly every 4 weeks, makes living a creative, passionate life difficult.

There are so many projects I want to work on, and so little time already in the world. After a day job, daily chores, and exhaustion, there is little room for creative pursuits anymore. But, I push through and try, anyway.

I wish I could offer grand, life-changing advice for other creatives living with an illness that leaves them lacking the energy needed to work on projects they are passionate about. There really is nothing I can say that can help someone overcome fatigue or pain or emotional distress to push through and keep working.

*Whispers* You can do it, I believe in you!

But, I know what it is like to feel so tired that you want to fade out of existence or sleep until the collapse of the universe and then, instead, get up and make some more fucking art. I’m there with you in solidarity, brothers and sisters. Hallelujah.

Right now, I’m not sure what the hell is up with my body. Things don’t feel right–it didn’t feel like the flu. I can’t really explain it, but I feel like something isn’t really clicking. Maybe I’m just still really off from being so, so sick. The problem is, I’ve got a hell of a lot to do for my creative career right now–a book launch in a month to be exact.

So, I will focus on that. I’m hoping and praying that my energy bounces back from this last immune system shakeup and I can feel excited about the book launch again.

I’ve got some funky liver test results I’m waiting on word from my doctor about. I’m only a smidge concerned because it could be many things, like the antibiotics affecting the results or the sinus infection. Who knows?

I know that feeling like I was dying last week (seriously; I have never felt that terrible in my life), really lead me to some interesting, dark thoughts. Like, what if I get really sick? Like, sicker than I am now or have been before. I mean, let’s be honest, with my dense family history of cancer, the odds are most definitely not in my favor.

I’ve got a whole series to finish! Three books to write, edit, and release (and it takes so damn long to do that)! What about all the other stories I want to write and share with people? What if… something happens and I don’t get to share those with anyone? What if they leave the world with me and no one ever hears them? That thought horrifies me. Not the prospect of illness or death, mind you, just the idea of uncompleted, unfinished, unexpressed creative work–forever lost because I lacked the time or energy to complete them.

It’s the kind of fear that makes one want to quit their job and focus solely on their passions–if only one had the wealth and means to do so. But, I don’t so…

I will keep plugging away at balancing both work and creative pursuits–along with all the other complicated mess having a shitty immune system brings.

*Whispers* I can do it, I believe in me.

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