Having a chronic illness sucks. Believe me, I am learning this the hard way! It’s full of confusion and so many emotions that contradict each other. One particular confusion that is rarely understood, especially by people who haven’t directly experienced this, is the emotions that often accompany test results. If you know anyone who has a chronic illness, you may know that the most disappointing thing is when you receive normal test results.
But why would NORMAL test results be a bad thing?? Isn’t it GOOD that nothing is wrong with you??
Excellent question Dear Reader! Yes, generally it is good that nothing is wrong with us. And yes, we do appreciate when things happen to work right for ONCE in our complicated-why-does-my-body-hate-me lives. But the catch is: We KNOW something is wrong. We KNOW that we’re sick and that we feel like crap. The hard part is getting the doctors to believe us and then to treat us. This is a very hard task to accomplish when the tests keep coming back normal. It’s almost like we need abnormal tests results in order to validate how we feel. “Oh, so my ECG shows A-flutter? Maybe NOW you’ll believe me when I say I have chest pain with palpitations.” But believe me, that particular episode of A-flutter was almost impossible to find. Three ECGs, two holter monitors and one event monitor later and I FINALLY have evidence that my heart is a prissy little b*tch. Without these abnormal results, it’s a fine line we walk between having a doctor believe us and treat us or having a doctor write “hypochondriac” on our medical records behind our backs.
So, now Dear Reader, you probably assume that we get really happy when we DO get an abnormal test result right? Wrong. While we appreciate validation, and while it does bring a sense of relief to potentially know what we are dealing with, it also means that something is wrong. We have undeniable proof that we are sick. We can no longer hide behind the veil of “oh, this too shall pass.” No, my spine is not going to spontaneously regenerate and heal itself. Yes, the pain I have is real and has a known cause. Unfortunately that pain will not get better anytime soon. So while I have validation that my back pain is real and I have scans to prove it, I also have to face the new reality that I will most likely need back surgery at some point. Imagine having to face that in your early twenties. It’s both a relief to have validation, but it is a sobering new reality that I am struggling to deal with.
On a more personal note, I write this post because soon I will be undergoing more testing and am struggling with whether I want to see an abnormality or whether I want normal results. Either way, I am probably setting myself up for disappointment, but that is the reality of dealing with a chronic illness. Wish me luck!