Personality changes are common among people with chronic illness. Because of chronic pain, extreme fatigue and exhaustion and just the severity of the illnesses can take a real toll on patients mentally along with physically.
I personally feel like Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde and I’m sure that many people over the years have wondered who the real Sandy is because of this. I have always basically been an upbeat, happy person who smiles big and loves life and gets really excited about new adventures. But when I am having a bad day or a severe flare, I need to be left alone. I don’t want to talk to anyone, I don’t want anyone around me, and I am not very friendly. Every little thing annoys me and I become a recluse. Going back to work a few hours a week has helped this somewhat because it forces me to get out but it can be very difficult working with the public when I am having a CFS, Fibromyalgia and/or IC Disease flare.
I have always felt like I needed to hide how bad I really feel and, as long as I am not feeling extremely bad, I can usually put on a smile, turn on the charm and do what I need to do while I’m in public. Once I get in my car or get home, I burn out and there’s nothing left. I try to put on a happy face at home, especially for my son, but there are times when that’s not even possible. I can say just one word to my son and he will know I’m not well. He will say, “I can tell you’re sick, Mommy. Your voice sounds funny”.
Back when I first became sick, I learned how to force feeling well and acting well because I believed that if I pretended that I was healthy, I would become healthy. Now after being sick 20 years, I know that thinking myself well is only making me more exhausted and sicker some days because it takes a lot of energy to try and be like the person I am when I feel well. I can’t seem to stop doing it, however. I think it’s because when I am having a really bad day and it’s noticeable to others, I don’t like the attention. I don’t like hearing that I look bad, tired, sick, exhausted and all of the other comments that I get.
Even around my family (parents, in-laws, etc.) I will try to hide how I feel a lot of the time when I am around them. I will turn on the smiling face, try to crack a few jokes while the whole time I just want to be in bed because my body is screaming for me to go there. When I know that I am too bad off to be able to fake it, I just stay away. I know it’s hard for them to understand and none of them possibly can because they don’t live in my body.
I guess another reason I feel like I have to be something I’m not physically feeling up to being is because it’s really hard for me to let people in – even those closest to me. It’s something I really struggle with and have struggled with ever since I became ill.
Personality changes because of chronic illness affect our daily lives and relationships with family and friends. How have you learned how to cope with your Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde times? Let me know in the comments!