Some of you may have noticed that last Friday came and went without my usual Facing Forward feature. The reason is that I've decided it is finally time to retire the series and move on to something else (mainly my work on the new Mamas Facing Forward website!!)
But before I move on completely, I wanted to take a minute to reflect back on the last two and a half years spent interviewing individuals living with various chronic illnesses. The Facing Forward series was intended to share the lives of people living with invisible chronic illnesses. In addition to spreading awareness, I wanted to help all of us see how we are similar and how we are different - and to remind everyone to keep moving forward, because none of us are alone!
Since my very first interview published on March 8, 2015 (my own!), the series has featured over 100 other individuals living with invisible chronic illnesses - as well as a handful of caregivers for children or spouses living with chronic illnesses. These individuals represented more than 110 different diseases and conditions, including (but not at all limited to): ankylosing spondylitis (AS), Celiac disease, COPD, Ehlers Danlos syndrome, endometriosis, fibromyalgia, Hashimotos thyroiditis, HIV, juvenile idiopathic arthritis (JIA), lupus (SLE), lyme disease, myalgic encephalopathy (ME, formerly known as chronic fatigue syndrome or CFS), postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome (POTS), psoriasis, psoriatic arthritis, Raynaud’s disease, rheumatoid arthritis (RA), scleroderma, Sjogren’s syndrome, Type 1 diabetes, Type 2 diabetes, and ulcerative colitis. The series also touched on many co-morbid conditions that are often present with chronic illness, such as anxiety, depression, or issues with sleep.
Despite the fact that more than 100 different people answered the same set of questions, I think what surprised me most were the underlying themes of how we all we all work to keep facing forward, in spite of whatever our personal health issues may be. While most of us agree that it is important to give recognition to feelings of grief or depression, we also tend to make a real effort to focus on the positive aspects of life and practice gratitude, mindfulness, and thankfulness as much as we can. Our families, spouses, children, friends, pets, and loved ones also help us face each new day.
Many of us also find support by connecting with others who are living with the same or similar illnesses - as well as personally benefiting from advocacy work and providing much-needed support to each other. It is absolutely no easy task to keep facing forward every single day while living with a chronic illness, but I think the overall lesson to be learned here is that we are stronger if we work together - lending a hand to those of us who are struggling more at any given time.
To everyone who participated in this series over the last two and a half years, I want to offer my most heartfelt thanks for helping to share the importance of continuing to face forward!!