Living With A Chronic Condition

by Kelly · 13 comments

in Thoughts On Frugality

I wrote this post, comparing having a chronic medical condition to my efforts to live frugally, on July 3, 2008.

I have fibromyalgia; I was diagnosed when I was 20. Fibromyalgia is a chronic disorder and, without going into too much detail, I can describe my experience of it as fits and spurts of pain. I can go long periods of time without having an episode, but when the episodes kick in they can last for weeks or months.

I’m not complaining. I seem to have a mild-garden variety version of fibromyalgia, which is itself a mild-garden variety condition compared to the many worse illnesses one could be afflicted with. I only mention it because it seems to me that having any long-term chronic illness can be compared to living on the edge financially.

My experience of fibromyalgia has been, up until now, like this: I go months where I feel normal and I manage to put it out of my mind. Then one day, boom!, I wake up and my legs ache, or my back hurts, or my eyes are cloudy. At the moment it’s the thumb on my left hand. I don’t know how long this situation is going to last. I can take some prophylactic measures, such as ibuprofen, but that only gives me the impression I’m managing the situation. It doesn’t really help.

My experience of living on the edge financially has been, up until now, like this: I go months where I feel normal and I manage to put it out of my mind. Then one day, boom!, I wake up and get a larger than expected bill from the student loan folks, or the car window breaks, or the kids need to go to the doctor. At the moment it’s trying to figure out how to pay for a new bike for my son: รขโ€šยฌ80. I don’t know how long this situation is going to last. I can take some prophylactic measures, such as selling things on Ebay, but that only gives me the impression I’m managing the situation. It doesn’t really help.

The things that really do make an impact, both immediately and over the long term are life-style changes. It’s logical; if I can’t carry on ‘as-is’ then something has got to give. So I start drinking more water, checking my bank account online every morning, eating more balanced meals, creating a budget, eating at the same time every day, sticking to the afore-mentioned budget, getting light exercise or setting my goals in writing. Help helps as well. It’s hard to go it alone! Whether it be in real-life or online, a support community can be invaluable; that is one of the reasons I started writing Almost Frugal.

Having a chronic condition is not the end of the world, whether it’s medical or living on the edge financially. Some people are more affected than others, true, and we are the only ones who can truly judge to what degree that is. We are also the only ones, however, who can take that crucial first step towards managing that condition, with the goal of living healthy, wealthy lives- in every sense of the term.


1 Emma January 4, 2009

Kelly, what a great post! I know what a life with chronic condition is like and it takes a lot of discipline to maintain good health, the same with finances. One needs good habits to and perseverance for both keeping their health from deteriorating and for keeping their family out of debt (or at least at the same depth without sinking). You just need to keep reminding yourself what your goals are or – that’s good too – where you DON”T want to be a year from now. In my case the “don’t want to be” works even better.

Emma´s last blog post..Hair styles for babies and toddlers – girls’ cuts and hairdos

2 Lucie @ Unconventional Origins January 4, 2009

Kelly, I had no idea. I think your attitude is amazing and I am even more blown away by you than I was before.

I am very blessed to be in good health. SLB has some (painful) issues from sports injuries of his youth, but overall we are pretty healthy people. I think it is so important to be smart with your money if someone if your family has chronic illness – as a child by younger brother suffered from Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis (spelling?), and it nearly bankrupted my father and step mom getting him treatment.

Lucie @ Unconventional Origins´s last blog post..Mommies Need Their Friends (My Missing Piece)

3 Jason Kincade January 4, 2009

I arrived at your site via the Thesis Showcase Gallery. I love your header so much; I’ve been back several times just to admire it! This is my first time sampling your writing…it’s great too.

I can relate to your suffering (you do it with grace) as I’ve dealt with a long- term, life threatening illness and know how draining it can be. Finally, after years of going undiagnosed and two years of intensive chemical treatments, I’ve killed the beast! So, unlike you and others, I am fortunate in that I can put it behind me.
I wish you and everyone peace and wellness!

4 tiffanie January 4, 2009

I know the feeling. I was diagnosed with Behcet’s (a rare autoimmune disorder that causes inflammation throughout the whole body, leading to many things including horrible arthirtic-like symptoms). I’ve been on Vicodin every day for over a year now. It’s not fun.

tiffanie´s last blog post..donating made me feel happy

5 Amphritrite January 4, 2009


I grew up with a mother who had this disease, but also a few others, to include Lupus and Chronic Fatigue. There’s a good chance (as you probably well know) that both my sister and I will find ourselves in the same boat.

Growing up and watching someone go through these things is probably one of the most painful things to watch while sitting by, helpless to assist the person who is actually sick in a way that really matters.

So those of you faced with someone who does have a disease such as this, remember that the little things make a huge difference on those days that your loved one wakes up with aching joints and back pains. Even the little, annoying things like, “Please, can you hand me the remote?” when it’s a foot away means that the person doesn’t have to set a domino effect in motion and cause themselves grief. They probably feel pretty lame for asking, but if they’re asking, it’s important to pay attention, because they’re asking for your help.

6 The Digerati Life January 4, 2009

I have mild fibromyalgia too. I talk about it rather vaguely in my blog from time to time, because I’m not really sure what kind of malady I truly have — fibromyalgia is but a symptom. Probably general auto-immunity, maybe stress? But it’s improved greatly since I’ve readjusted my lifestyle.

Most of my expenses have been going to medical treatments, so I understand the financial analogy as well. Illness is the #1 reason for bankruptcy too, so our health is truly the most important thing we can preserve. Best of luck to you!

The Digerati Life´s last blog post..I Want To Work Smarter, Not Harder

7 Katie January 5, 2009

Hi, I'm new to your blog (following for the last month or so) and had to tell you this is an excellent post. Thanks!

8 Kelly January 5, 2009

Thanks Katie!

9 Vintage Mommy January 6, 2009

Hi Kelly, I think this is a very good analogy. I feel similarly about my quest for order and organization. Stumbled! ๐Ÿ™‚

Vintage Mommy´s last blog post..A Big Milestone and a Small Milestone

10 Abigail January 6, 2009


I am sorry to hear about the unpredictability of your condition. I have chronic fatigue, which I know can often come with fibromyalgia. One or two of my readers have it, as well. And while I know symptoms vary in each person, I have a vague (okay, very vague) idea of just how upsetting it can be.

I’m glad to know there are other frugal bloggers juggling debt reduction/thriftiness and chronic conditions. It definitely limits some of our options, doesn’t it?

There are times I read tips and hints and think, “Wow, that’s a great tip! But not for me.”

It’s actually why I started my blog. I wanted to talk about how to be frugal on a low-income/with unpredictable health. How do you get the cheapest stuff when some days it’s a miracle you leave your house?

I think it’s important that people realize you don’t have to be the Martha Stewart of frugality in order to be working toward debt elimination. Plenty of people are already living close to the bone and still have to find ways to cut down. And it is possible, if a slower process of debt repayment.

Anyway, enough ramblings. I hope you are able to continue to keep the worst symptoms at bay. It sounds like you are doing everything the smart way — monitoring your health and your symptoms, trying to live healthily and do what you can to keep yourself in relative good health. And, as you know, that’s practically a full-time job in itself!

Abigail´s last blog post..I warrant you’ll be wantin’ a warranty

11 CC January 8, 2009

My husband (SAHD) deals with chronic pain and it is HARD. I’d say that doctors and medicine are our 2nd highest expense each month (next to the mortgage). ๐Ÿ™

CC´s last blog post..Teaching Tuesday: My childhood favorite can still teach me things!

12 Kim Major Delaney January 8, 2009

I too have a chronic illness…a form of kidney disease that is autoimmune-related. Definitely know the highs and lows and I believe you summed it up perfectly. Have never read any of the frugal blogs that hit the nail on the head. Thanks so much for your insight! ๐Ÿ˜€

13 pam munro January 9, 2009

I, too, have a chronic condition – bipolar 2 (mostly down) plus allergies…

But I think we all have to just do what we can do! I try to maximize my efforts when up and well – and let go when I just can’t – Luckily my husband is in there with me. My goals have been downsized and I am grateful for my rent-controlled urban apartment and have no prospects of anything grander – and I try to be as disciplined as I can manage – but with mood swing, that’s another challenge – Keeping healthy has always been a priority for me – which ironically has been paying dividends as I age because so many of those healthy habits are engrained in me and I have never been able to abuse my health, as other “healthier” people have who are now paying the piper.

It’s just all life – and it certainly helps to stay as sane as possible about it all because dysfunction does NOT help!

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