amber rahim

Chronic illness: the parts we don't talk about

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I’m sorry, but I can’t see you

Trigger warning: in this post I talk about suicide and depression.

It’s been 3 years. When I got the text, it really threw me. I haven’t been able to sleep since.

Dearest W, I can’t believe it was so long ago when it still hurts so badly. In the first few days or weeks after you did it, I was still in a daze. I don’t think I really understood what had happened. Seeing you in hospital afterwards, well, those images I can’t get out of my head. But you are at home now, have been for a really long time. You’ve even grown so tall. But I can’t see you.

And although I live in another country, and we don’t come over very often, that’s not the reason why I don’t come in and at least say hi.

And it’s not because you can’t say anything back.

It’s not because you might not even know that I am there.

And it’s not the 24 hours nursing care you have that gives little privacy.

Those are all the things I tell myself to explain why I don’t come in to say hi.


You see, I’m terrified. I’m scared that this could happen to me one day too.


The lat time I saw you conscious, there was a look in your eyes that I also cannot forget: despair. Pain. Abject…. absence of good feelings. I remember saying to J that I wondered if you were ok, but something deep inside me recognised that look, and ran away from it. I’ve been there. That place where you just want it all to stop. Just stop. Everything.

I regret so much that I didn’t hug you in that moment. I don’t think it would have made a difference to your plans. But perhaps for a moment you would have felt something.

So W, maybe you are wondering why I can’t see you. When I recognise it and I know what it’s like when you can’t ask for what you need. When I know how even the smallest gesture can change your world. Why do I not come in to see you?

Well, my reasons are selfish. It hurts too much.

  1. When I see you, I remember my darkest days and I don’t want to remember them.
  2. The future for me is not bright, and you remind me what I am fighting against. And I really don’t want to see that either. My depression is linked to my other illnesses. My endometriosis and resultant IBS mean that I have inflammation in my body all the time. Did you know that inflammation and depression are linked? I didn’t know that either. Before.
  3. My illness is progressive. It’s a slow but steady march. Increased Endo, increased pain and inflammation, increased negative thoughts and apathy.
  4. When I get close to your door, there is a part of me that shrivels up and hides. I think it’s my courage. And it gets replaced with a middle aged, overly polite British person and suddenly I’m all “Ooh, best not disturb them. Don’t want to make any trouble”. And I am overcome with an inexplicable urge to pop to the loo instead.

This time last year I was in a much better place. Radically changing my diet, lifestyle, everything, was working. I’m still careful about what I eat, I’m exercising, business is going well, I’m socialising, and I colour in my colouring books (art therapy). All the good things I need to do to not lose my mind. Yet I’m losing it anyway. So I’m running away from the most powerful feeling I’ve experienced in my life: the apathy. I don’t want to go back to that place. and I’m sorry, but that’s where I go when I see you, or even think about you.

This is not the legacy you wanted, and believe me, it is not your legacy. This is all on me. This is all my weakness, my fear, my thoughts.And I’m so sorry for the truly awful thing of looking at you and seeing only me.

One day, I’ll be able to look at you and see you. See. You. I’m working on it and I don’t know when I will get there but when I do, I’ll come in and say hi.


Note: please don’t leave any comments on how to treat my Endo. I know what I need. And what I don’t have yet, I’m trying to get. It’s just hard to find. And I’m not suicidal. I just wanted to point that out to reassure anyone who is worried, but also to make a point: we can be in a dark place and talk about our dark thoughts. And we need to be able to do this without worrying about getting weird looks afterwards or being put under safe watch. That’s not the place I’m in. In fact, we need to be able to talk openly about this side of life. That’s why I’ve shared this today. This is just what I am carrying. You do not need to take it over and carry it for me. Please, just witness it. Just let me share, knowing that someone has heard.


The balancing act of chronic illness

So if you’ve been following my blog you know that I am the queen of “give it time” and “fight for help”.

Waiting for your child’s health to become stable, for them to start eating, to stop vomiting…. it takes a multidimensional approach and time.

And sometimes, you just need to get in the doctors face and say “enough”. Now you need to listen to me and do something about the vomiting, not eating, etc.

It’s a balancing act and it requires a lot of strength, patience, and fortitude.

Well, it turns out that I’m pretty good at doing that for my daughter, but not so good for myself.

My endometriosis, IBS, and depression got really bad a couple of years ago and I took action. I tackled the IBS which helped the depression (did you know that there is a link between inflammation and depression? Well that’s were my depression was coming from and I changed my diet to reduce inflammation en voila, I felt physically and mentally better).

The diet change for the IBS has also alleviated some of my endometriosis pain. It’s brought it back from constant and excruciating, to just pain most of the time and manageable (manageable for someone whose just so glad not to be in pain everyday).

Which means that for the gynaecologist I saw in Jan, I am no long “sick enough” for them to offer anything other than pain ills and contraception.

Nice. I’m contraindicated for both. Thanks Mr and Mrs Specialist. How is that I understand my illness and medical records better than you?

So I’m currently caught in this other type of balancing act:

  1. If you help yourself, you are no longer sick enough for the doctors to help you

  2. If you don’t help yourself in every way you can, then you are in a lot of pain

How do I find that sweet spot between

being seen as ill enough for the doctors to actually do something


not being in excruciating pain?

LIE. Just lie about it.

That’s another balancing act for people with chronic illness:

Truth versus Honesty

So at my next appointment I’m going to describe how it used to be. Pretend that I still have it. Because endometriosis is a progressive illness, and it creates inflammation in the body.

The truth is, I need help. But honestly, it’s not as bad as it was.

But as I wait, I can feel it getting worse. Both the physical pain and my mental state.

And do you know the worst thing about depression? It robs you of your will to do something to help yourself.

Actually, this is the worst thing: you start to feel worse. You are also quickly losing the capacity to take action and help yourself. You feel the darkness coming and you do nothing.

Well, I’m not doing “nothing”. For starters, I’m writing about it. Writing really helps me to get clear about what’s going on in my head, in my body, in my soul. It’s a way for me to figure out what to do next. So now I know. Lie my pants of and make the doctors help me.




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When gluten free rocks #glutenfreeadventures

I’m not going to lie. I do spend too much time thinking that being gluten free sucks, especially when I add in the low FODMAP diet too.

The health benefits are great but man, I miss cheese on toast. And gluten free bread just isn’t bread.

And honey, the manna from heaven, wreaks havoc with my body. White sugar? The evil of our time. Now that I can have.

Makes no sense (said in Eddie Izzard style).

And then I’ll have a day like to today when I hit the jackpot.

raspberries with sweetened condensed milk


This I can have.

Gluten free rocks.

Ps, yes I did eat a bowl, have a foodgasm, then write this post. But what’s a post without a picture? Now I have to eat a second bowl. Oh how I suffer for my art.

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This is the thought that I am working on this week. If you are anything like me, you totally believe it of others but somehow when it comes to you… it’s no longer a conviction but something you would like to believe.

So believe with me. I am worthy.







Invisible Scars

A year ago today I got the message.

Alone in my bed, late at night, crying in devastation at the loss. My mind and heart shying away from the awful truth, not wanting to accept it.

My brother-in-law found my nephew, his 17 year old son, hanging from a tree in their back garden.

I still can’t think of it without crying: that you were in so much pain, so taken by this terrible illness.

You have been irrevocably changed, unable to talk, unable to do so many things.

And we have all been changed too. Something inside of us has broken and will never get fixed. Not because of what you did, but because of your pain.

We may get on with our lives, laugh, make plans for the future, but this will always be there: that cut deep into our heart and soul. We miss you.



If you are affected by this in anyway, talk to someone. Tell them your reaction to this story, share your feelings, your thoughts.