The All-Singing, All-Dancing Illness Pit Jamboree

It's an unflattering time for all of us! Pull up a chair, kiddo.

Posted Jul 28, 2014

I haven’t been very prolific on this here blog because I keep getting knocked back into my Illness Pit. It’s dark in the pit and there are spiders. It’s not a great environment in which to write, and sometimes a rock falls on me or I get a spider bite and have to deal with that. The pit sucks.

I think I keep expecting to get out of the pit and stay out of the pit, but after about two years of being a full-time invalid (I use that term both backhandedly and lovingly), I’m slowly coming to accept that my options right now are “in the pit” and “next to the pit." If I wait until I’m next to the pit, I may never get any writing done. Also, when I’m next to the pit I’m busy doing impossibly selfish stuff like “seeing friends” and “being a human,” and don’t want to type on the Internet. I know, right? How dare I?

My Eldest Child-Overachiever brain keeps trying to push me to print only things that are capital p-Profound, and capital r-Resonant. Sometimes I fear that the finished product is perhaps a little too capital-t True and not, well, unhinged enough. Personally, I’d love to claim I’m polished and pulled together at all times, but we all know that’s a farce. My car is littered with candy wrappers and when I can’t find a bra, I look in my kitchen. If I have anything to impart to the Internet, it’s that you can be sick, suffering, miserable, and also mine your misery for your own entertainment.

I’ve been afraid to write from any dark places for fear that it would feel too navel-gazey and bore everyone. I’ve also been afraid to admit those dark places, because then the public might find out that I don’t have the answers. But spoiler: I really don’t. Because another spoiler: answers don’t exist. Also, Santa Claus was your dad and your dog didn’t really go live on a farm upstate. 

The day-to-day slog of chronic illness is not glamorous or even minimally interesting. It is, however, true and honest. Some days are just numb hours piled together. Some days are wall-to-wall pain. Some days are fine. You can’t predict these days, nor can you muscle yourself out of the bad ones when they happen. They’re a fact of illness, and they have to be acknowledged.

It’s tempting to soften dark things with an optimism chaser, and I’m extremely guilty. When a friend asks me how I’m doing, I’ll say, “oh, ups and downs, but I’m doing better today!” Am I really? Maybe not, but I don’t want to bum everyone out, man. 

This is a promise to write more often, even when I’m feeling shaky and vulnerable. Ultimately, our illnesses are unique effing snowflakes, so my experience will be different from yours, which is different from that guy’s over there. It’s important to remember there are no capital-a Answers, only commiseration. The best connections come from a place of vulnerability. So, hello from the pit. Grab a rolled-up newspaper and don’t mind the spiders.

They can smell fear.


Caitlin Caven writes the blog "Better Living Through Snark" on being young and chronically ill. You can read her other miscellaneous writings at .

(Spelunking child photo via Sebastian Barré's flickr.)

About the Author

Caitlin Caven is a writer and editor who has had Crohn's disease since the age of 10.

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