Surviving Heartbreak When You’re Chronically Ill

Surviving Heartbreak When You’re Chronically Ill
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The end of this year has turned into the toughest of times.

I’ve spent the past weeks in excruciating pain, talking to doctors, and trying to figure out what was going on. More devastatingly, I’ve had to let go of “my person,” the one hero in my life, my long-term partner and best friend. To add to the heartbreak, I have temporarily lost my dogs, which feels like a repeated kick to the stomach. Where I live, finding a new home that’s dog-friendly and within my budget is like searching for a unicorn.

The breakdown of my haven has been coming for a while. Stubbornly, I fought it with all my might, holding on to every droplet of hope that I found and throwing it all the love pumping through my heart. I kept looking at the stars wishing for things to improve, but all I received was a lot of pain and unsettling amounts of fear. 

If you let fear linger too much, it will slowly break you.

This relentless fear monster reminded me daily that I was losing my best ally. And when it broke me and had me on my knees, it delivered the gutting sentence, “You won’t be able to make it alone.”

For someone such as me, living with a chronic disease, any personal loss leaves an emptiness of seemingly insurmountable dimensions. Gone is the hand that I’ve squeezed in cold waiting rooms. Gone is the love that wiped away my tears when my excruciating flare-ups turned me into a pile of despair. The meals lovingly cooked for me when I was too useless to stand have evaporated. A love I constantly felt that I never deserved has left me. 

I have spent the last few days crying rivers and sleeping little.

I have lost so much of my appetite that my clothes are looser after just three days. Mornings feel the cruelest. For a few seconds, I feel safe. But quickly, like a puzzle that comes into completion in thin air, every part of my new reality becomes clear: I’m alone. Jarvis, my youngest dog, won’t jump on my bed and greet me with a kiss on the nose like he did every morning. 

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My boys. (Photo by Jessie Madrigal)

Now I feel a tug in my ovaries and know there is no one to drive me to the emergency room. No one to join me on a road trip to find the best specialist in the country. 

All I have are my arms to wrap around myself.

I live in the hope that my heart will mend and that I will prove to myself what I already know: I’ve always navigated my chronically challenged life by myself. No one knows my pain other than me. No one feels my endometriosis in their muscles the way I do. It was my body, my pain, and my suffering all along. 

The mornings will get better, and my appetite will return. Best of all, I will find a way back to my dogs. They are not just dogs. They are my family, a part of me. I am never going to give up on them. 

It’s a horrid time of the year to be alone. I know I will break down every time I see fictional families on TV, embodying the Christmas spirit that will feel painfully foreign. And that’s when I will have to tell myself that greater things await. That I will prove to be stronger than any flare-up, tougher than any pain. I will get up and reach for my warm-water bottle, my pain relief tools. I will create my haven. And my dogs will be there to watch me do it all, over and over. 

Anyone living with a chronic illness is a lifelong warrior.

We are strong, powerful, and courageous. Life throws the biggest of challenges at us daily, but we persist. Our heartbreaks are extremely unsettling, but we survive them. Our capacity to carry on against forces that feel like gale-force winds is a trait we all share. 

Never give up. I’m not going to. 

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Note: Endometriosis News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Endometriosis News or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to endometriosis.

Jessie is a writer living in the South of England. She was diagnosed with complex endometriosis in 2016 after two decades of chronic pain, PMDD, and suffering from other health issues since the age of 12. She is a lifestyle and science writer, but has also produced several screenplays and short stories. She is also a lip-synch assassin, a coffee snob, and Madonna’s biggest fan. In 2019 she ran The London Marathon, although her favorite pastime is curling up under a duvet with her two sausage dogs nearby. She writes about periods and endometriosis because she wants to help improve the lives of anyone diagnosed with this disease
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Jessie is a writer living in the South of England. She was diagnosed with complex endometriosis in 2016 after two decades of chronic pain, PMDD, and suffering from other health issues since the age of 12. She is a lifestyle and science writer, but has also produced several screenplays and short stories. She is also a lip-synch assassin, a coffee snob, and Madonna’s biggest fan. In 2019 she ran The London Marathon, although her favorite pastime is curling up under a duvet with her two sausage dogs nearby. She writes about periods and endometriosis because she wants to help improve the lives of anyone diagnosed with this disease

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4 comments

  1. Bes says:

    Big hug on such a difficult time of your life. Not much can be said but take it one minute at a time if you can. Your posts always been a starting point of support for me and given strength so wanted to send some back now.

  2. Affar says:

    I’m not really sure how to respond. If you were near me I would hug you. This cruel diseases robs lovely young women of so much.
    I personally salute your strength of character and know you will get through.
    I’ve been reading your blogs for a while. My daughter was diagnosed then undiagnosed it’s just awful and hopeless but people like you help so much by being honest. You will be ok there’s a troop of supporters out there. We see you and feel your pain

  3. Misako says:

    Jessie, I am sending you all the love and good vibes you deserve. Thank you for writing this post. Last month, on Friday the 13th, I had to say goodbye to my dog, my sweet girl, Snowflake, after 13 years. The chronic pain of endo has made my life worse since my diagnosis in 2018, and losing my only comfort has been so difficult to handle. I am still grieving her over a month later. Heartbreak on top of endo pain is so hard to handle. I’m thankful to know I’m not alone. <3

    • Misako, thank you for reading and taking the time to comment. Thank you so much for sharing this with me and this community. Comments like yours make my writing so very worth it. I am so sorry you lost the sweetest of girls. I don’t know what we did to deserve dogs. They provide so much comfort, and love… it’s so heartbreaking when they leave us. I am sending you the biggest of hugs, you are definitively not alone.

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