When chronic illness leaves you feeling like a bruised and blackened banana

July 13, 2015


Sometimes I feel like my life with a chronic illness is a lot like a banana. Not in the superfood, power inducing, on-the-run snack, but in the bruised, blackened, and abandoned in the fruit bowl type of way.

Over the years we slowly begin to build up layers of identity around us. Career, social status, interests, health, beauty, fitness, tastes, etc…my list could keep going on. What this presents, if you will allow me, is the image of a perfectly formed banana. However, when chronic illness hits, in my case Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, you (and your identity) becomes damaged, bruised and blackened.

First to go is your healthy self. This is when that layer of protection around you known as ‘health’ is peeled back, a layer I had always just taken for granted. No longer are you a normal healthy individual doing everyday life, but a doctor traipsing, cure following and prescription popping patient. You are self-conscious, you are in pain, you are confused, you are feeling riddled with guilt, you are doubted by those around you, even those in the medical profession…and as one more doctor tells you that they can’t find anything wrong and maybe it is psychological, bruises begin to appear on your now unprotected body.

Then fitness, body image and self-esteem get peeled back. You’ve gained or lost weight, you’ve gone from training for marathons to being out of breath moving from your bed to the bathroom. You physically look sick, or if you have an invisible illness you look fine on the outer, but no one truly knows how awful you feel on the inside and how much make up was required to cover the bags under your eyes. You feel beaten and defeated. Bruise.

Any social life you once had gets stripped away, some suddenly as you enter the land of hibernation and Netflix, others slowly but surely as the illness progresses to months, and then years, and then more years. The extravert is now just a shadow of what it once was, and your social standing that you once wrapped tightly around you is gone, and along with it went all the fun in your life. Another bruise.

The layer of your identity found in your career disappears. No longer are you that successful, powerful, recognised, high achieving colleague. Any aspirations or goals you once had now gone as you struggle to hold down a part time job. Then even that disappears, along with financial stability, and you are feeling less and less of who you were. Bruise.

When you can no longer shop for yourself, clean your house, cook your own dinner, or live independently is when you feel like all of who you once were is gone. The perfect outward impression that you have presented to the world for years, has disappeared. You are now dependent entirely on others…your mother is even back doing your washing for you. Who you were and what you thought defined you has been stripped away. Bruise, bruise, bruise.

Then as the world moves on around you, as friends take promotions, get married, have babies, or travel the world, you begin to feel even more so like that last banana sitting in the fruit bowl, too damaged, bruised and blackened to now be eaten, just waiting to be thrown away…

However, the story doesn’t end there. Despite chronic illness stripping away everything you once held dearly. Despite it leaving you feeling blackened, bruised and useless. You slowly begin to realise that your identity hasn’t actually gone. Yes, it has changed, and it has shifted from what culture perceives your identity should be, but it is still there. You are you! You are an individual who is fearfully and wonderfully made. You are an awesome superfood that has purpose and hope. When you are beaten, blackened, bruised and feeling left behind, in the rawness and vulnerability, there is so much beauty in who you are, and so so so much hope. When you are in that place, you might not be able to see it, but anyone around you who takes a moment to consider it can see it shining through. You are an encouragement and an inspiration. You are abundantly greater and stronger than how you may feel your chronic illness has changed and left you. So keep on fighting…you are well and truly worth it.

And, really, when you think about it, it is the bruised and blackened bananas that without doubt make the best banana bread!

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3 comments

  1. I love the reference at the end to the best banana bread. It was what I was thinking as I read and was going to speak of it in the comments. Combine it with sour cream and you will have a super moist banana cake that is irresistible. God can and does use anyone and everyone who lets him be the centre of their lives. I came through 2 years of CFS some 15 years ago. There is light at the end of the tunnel. I have never reverted back to full steam as those years previously but I have been blessed to have my life back and a productive life serving God in a different way to what I envisioned. Now that we are retired, God is changing our direction again. Blessing and encouragement to you.

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  2. "Who you were and what you thought defined you has been stripped away." This is so totally true, you have hit the nail on the head about how it feels to have a chronic illness. Always there, just like your shadow. I've had CFS, anaemia, adrenal fatigue, vitamin D deficiency, sleep apnea & spondylo arthritis. Just like you I didn't work for a long time - self esteem is shattered when I can't feel/be productive. At the same time, it's been an eye opener, and also a spiritual awakening. I am much more in tune with my intuition. I have used it to decided whether or not to take a doctor's or nutritionist's advice, cos often they have been wrong. I have used it give up specific products from my diet which have reduced pain. I have had some success with herbal supplements. I have found that the true answers lie withing. I now realise that chronic illnesses are very complex & lie at a deep level in my energy system. , and after slowing improving, the next step for me was to see a Shaman. It has been the right decision, and after several years, I am feeling like there's light at then end of the tunnel. Bit by bit, I am healing and getting better and better. I truly truly wish the same for you.

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    1. feel blessed that my identity is in the lord Jesus and although agree with all of the blog,I find my strength in his. Spiritual strength. The world sees identity in a different way to the lord. I am his creation and he is working all things for my good although it really hurts. Jesus used Paul's illness to reach the Galations. I pray that he will use us too, if he chooses. Xx gentle hug. I know your pain. I lost a daughter that I was about to adopt.

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