Chronic Illness: Generational Effects

At the tender age of 12 the doctor told me that my mom had only two months to live. It was news that I couldn’t fully process at that age, maybe it sent me spiraling into a state of shock. I don’t know, but luckily, my mom was tough as nails, and I didn’t have to process it completely because she miraculously ended up living another 20 years. Prior to her illness she chose to treat her body in ways I wouldn’t, she was a drinker, and yet…her symptoms then and my symptoms now seem very similar and I don’t drink alcohol. It’s for that reason that I believe she was misdiagnosed due to her lifestyle and had actually suffered from undiagnosed MECFS. I think the alcohol was likely to deal with the pain. This post isn’t about that so much as it’s about the effect chronic illness has had through the generations of my life. Since my son is grown I don’t really discuss the dynamic here, but today I’d like to.

Learning that my mom was sick was terrifying, I spent the next 20 years walking on egg shells around her. Never knowing when we’d share our final words. Every time the phone rang after 9pm my first thought was ‘oh no my mom’. I suppose in some ways I cherished the time we did have together even more so, but in reflection, not nearly enough. My colorful, funny, beautiful, incredibly intelligent, and seemingly clairvoyant mom was losing a battle and I couldn’t help her. I watched her body fail her, I watched her fade away. I watched helplessly. I called her doctor, I pleaded for answers. My heart broke for 20 years, but that heartbreak was nothing compared to when I finally said goodbye 16 years ago. She was my compass, and without her I’ve been adrift.

“When you know better you do better.” ~ Maya Angelou

The quote, When you know better you do better, has always resonated with me. I’ve tried to emulate it in my life and it’s because of that there’s no way I would ever intentionally put my son through the emotional turmoil I’d been through with my mom’s illness. When my son turned 18, almost five years ago now, I’d been sick less than one week. He’d just graduated high school and the world was sitting before him for the taking. As my illness progressed, that world sitting before him started to dwindle. Not only that but the longer we went with unanswered questions, the more my fears started to grow, but so did his. It wasn’t just my life that turned upside down, it was his life too. He went from having a mom, who paid all the bills, and handled all the things, to a mom who needed to be driven to doctor’s appointments, who could no longer grocery shop, walk the dog, or deep clean, who no longer was able to pay bills, and all of this with no other blood relatives around to help. Every other week while I sat in therapy dealing with the jolting reality of this awful illness, he sat in the car waiting for me, and I can’t help but think it was him who should have been in there too, just as much as me. He had to step up and take over the car payment, my car, a car way out of his price range that ended up needing thousands of dollars in repairs. But he did it, he handled it all in stride, he took me to the appointments and spoke up when I needed defending, for years he worked swing shifts, so he could be around during midday, he dutifully did everything that was asked of him. And heartbreakingly, it shows.

He’s 22 now and has the shoulder weight of a middle-aged man. He’s now working a full-time job, a part-time job, and another side job to pay for his food and bills. He was going to school too but it all became too much, and he decided to delay school. One of hardest parts right now is knowing that he’s not happy, he’s having health issues of his own, and in a roundabout way, as much as I tried to avoid making him feel as I did with my mom, it’s my fault. You can say oh it’s not your fault, and I know it’s not my fault I got sick, but as a mom who is supposed to protect your child I’ve sorely missed the mark. Instead of protecting him this illness has thrown him into the thick of an experience that’s filled with unfairness. As any mom with MECFS knows, one of our worst fears is that our child will get it too, and I’m terrified for him. His heart hurts, I can see it on him. He’s angry, his mom is sick, and it’s terrifying. The world feels incredibly cruel. He deserves better than this. What am I saying? He didn’t deserve ANY of this. I know my mom withheld things so as not to concern me, but I don’t do that with him, I’m honest, but factual. The doctors keep saying you have this illness, or that condition, but it won’t kill you, so we find comfort in that. We have to. You see I know his heart is breaking still, and neither he nor I can fix it, I know because I’ve been there with my own mom, and I know there are no answers to make it better, but as a mom…I just want to make it all better, and I can’t.

So, with that, if you are the type of person to pray or send energy or good vibes or light, my son and everyone else’s child that has had to endure this illness alongside their parent could use your thoughts right now. My son is a neat person, incredibly smart with a big heart, and the best sense of humor. Honestly, he’s hilarious! He’s the kind of person that gives water bottles to homeless people on hot days and sweatshirts off his back on cold ones. Often I think I want to get better more for him than for me. He deserves to live a carefree life, we all do.

My son doesn’t like it when I post unapproved photos on social media but this one has been approved. It was 20 years ago, the first time he put his little toes in the ocean. He was two. 🙂


Thank you for stopping by today for a read. A few more doodles below. Hug your loved ones, they need it, especially the quiet ones who don’t ask.


33 thoughts on “Chronic Illness: Generational Effects

  1. your post resinated with me in ways that words fail for me to properly convey. tears run down my face………I have not only put my kids through this, I passed all of my issues onto them. people tell me the same thing, “it’s not your fault” but it is. I didn’t know………..but now I watch as, at times, this horror story unfolds.
    Please know that your words are a gift……… get it, I am so sorry that you understand, but it is oddly comforting to know that someone feels the same way that most people could only fear of knowing.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. For some reason WordPress doesn’t notify me when you comment 😐 So I apologize for not responding sooner. My heart hurts for you.💔 I know there aren’t words to make it better so I’m sending you big hugs and hoping beyond all hopes that this weekend is peaceful for you and your family💙🌻

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thank you so much for letting me know, I have now heard this from a few people so i guess i need to contact WP.
        Thank you so very much for listening and letting me vent………..sometimes it takes the pressure off. Bless you for your kindness.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. I relate to a lot of this as well, wishing I could have been and could now be more present for my children and seeing some of my same struggles be passed on to them now breaks my heart. You and your son and all children with parents affected by illnesses have my prayers. Thank you for sharing your heart and your lovely drawings

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Mishka you are strong enough and smart enough to make the most of the cards you have been dealt. In a roundabout way having your disease, your mom’s and your son’s brings you a closeness than many families ever reach. (please remember I am always the one trying to find the light in all the darkness) I wish nothing but the best for you and your son!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I’m so sorry, both that your mum struggled with her own illness (and likely misdiagnosis) and that you had to worry the way you did as a child and onwards. I can only imagine how heartbreaking it would have been to see her get ill and to feel helpless.

    I’m not a mother and I can’t begin to imagine the situation you were in with your son, especially not wanting to repeat history. Yes, a mother should protect their children. But you can only do so much and in the ways that it counts, you were there, you are there, and he wouldn’t be there for you if he didn’t want to be. You’re telling him the truth and sharing in ways that can’t be easy for you to do. You got dealt a crap hand and so did he. But you’re also lucky for having such a thoughtful, caring, courageous and smart son. And he’s lucky for having such a loving, compassionate mother who would move the stars for him if she could. From all of this, you’ve both learned to deal with whatever life throws at you, to grow stronger, to be more considerate and empathic, to value family and love, all things that were borne from difficult circumstances when dealing with your ill health.

    I won’t say more as I don’t want to be pushy and I don’t want to sound like I don’t ‘get it’ because I don’t have my own children. But I just wanted to let you know I hear you, that it breaks my heart because it makes me think ‘what if you were my mum’ and I’d hate to think you felt that way because I’d want to be there for every minute of it regardless. Sending hugs  ♥

    Caz xx

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You always leave the sweetest comments. I’m not saying that either, you really do. Your words are incredibly insightful and thought provoking. Chronic illness has so many dynamics, and heavily impacts loved ones. I’m all brain foggy today but I wanted to say thank you for your compassion 💙

      Liked by 1 person

  5. You have raised a very responsible & loving young man there Mishka!

    You have done motherhood with your son well & it must be such a blessing & comfort to you! He is wearing his manhood well in working hard to provide for his loved one!

    Over the years, since his passing, I often wondered what my only son Benjamin would have been like as a man, especially when I see other mother’s with their adult sons…something I will not experience in this life.

    Our loved ones do get affected by our chronic health issues Mishka without question…as we do with their chronic health conditions but we don’t see that as their fault… I do understand your heart cry though. ♥
    Chronic illness & it’s effects upon those around us dear friend is not our fault. It is what it is…& completely out of our control.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Jennifer, for sharing your wisdom and also your heart. I appreciate your kindness.🌸 You’re words are true as I never blamed my own mother for her illness. When you’re in the thick of it sometimes it’s difficult to remember, as you say, it is what it is, and it’s not our fault. Hoping you and yours have a lovely weekend 🌻

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Aww Mishka. I’m so sorry. This is heartbreaking. This stupid disease has a lot to answer for. I’m so sorry your son is struggling with his health and is experiencing some unhappiness. I can imagine how much you want to be able to make everything better and protect him from it all, as I would be the same. You offer so much love, understanding, honesty and support to him though, and they are the most important things. Sending lots of healing thoughts and positive vibes to both of you. Wishing for better times ahead for you 🌸

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Emma🌸 You think the older they get the less they’ll need protecting but it just doesn’t seem so quite yet. Thank you for the compassion.💕 I saw you ventured out and meant to comment that orange blossoms are one of my favorite, favorite scents!! What a lovely adventure. Hoping your weekend is a peaceful one.🌻

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Oh Mishka, my heart is breaking for you and your son. As the mother of a grown son myself, I completely understand the agony of watching our children go through tough times, especially when we wonder if we could have/should have done something different.

    I hope you can see, though, that you have done a wonderful job raising him. If not, he wouldn’t be the loving, smart, funny, and from the sound of it, wonderful young man that he is. You absolutely can’t help that you became ill, and no matter how much we’d like to, we can never protect our children from everything. All we can do is love them the best we know how, do what we can, and not place blame where it shouldn’t be placed (i.e. on ourselves). As Caz said, you two have grown together because of everything you’ve been through.

    I’ll be praying for you and your son daily, sweet friend. Sending love and hugs your way.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Terri, for your compassion and your prayers. 🌸 I can see through your words that you get it. Most of us try our absolute best to make sure our children get the best start and it’s really challenging to know we’re impeding that in any way. But he is a stronger person because of it, as I’m sure your son is too. Thank you again for sharing your thoughts and your kindness, it means a lot to me. Hoping your weekend is peacefully relaxing 💜

      Liked by 1 person

  8. I can relate to your guilt, I have 4 children ( 3 grown 1 young teen) on top of all of these illnesses I am an amputee so my children had to grow up adapting to my physical limitations as a mom and then a sick mom.

    It’s not your fault, I just about killed myself trying to be sick and “still a mom” “still a wife” my children on our Dr request where tested for my hashimotos as I was really young and he was afraid it was hereditary, thank goodness the 2 oldest are ok as of now.

    I know nothing I or most will say will ease you 100% but know my understanding and thoughts are with you, remember you are doing your best anymore and you may not be here for him at all, its those words I remind myself almost daily.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much for sharing your experiences. I really think it helps others to know they aren’t alone on an island in the chronic illness world. Your words are filled with wisdom and experience. Truly hoping things get easier for you in the future but I also know how important it is to take things day by day. So with that I’ll say I’m hoping today is best as can be for you and your family. You’ve been through so much it seems like it’s time for a peaceful season🌸💙


  9. Wow, that touched me deeply. My “mother” actually died of pancreatic cancer on my 14th birthday, & to this day I am still trying to process the whole thing. You see that same day I found out she was not my mother but my grandmother. My biologically mother was who I grew up as my sister, & my “father” was her step father, was my step grandfather. He was my daddy to me❤. My biological father I didn’t meet until I was 17. I’m planning on posting about this soon in more detail because I & the doctors feel that’s when PTSD & depression started for me. So I plan on sharing that journey. I’m happy you had those 20 extra years with you mom.❤. A true blessing.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Thank you for sharing this honest and heart-wrenching post. I’m trying to write a book about this and a few generations of my family. it’s one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. Your words really hit home. I’ll be thinking of you both.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for your comment and kindness. It’s heart wrenching to write about as it’s simply too close to home. I’d love to read your book when you’ve released it. So many of us sit on this without a word but I think it also helps to put it out there so others know they aren’t alone. Hoping today is kind to you 🌻


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