I am not grateful for my chronic illnesses, nor will I ever be. They have made my life unbelievably difficult and I would exchange them for a healthier life in a heartbeat. However, since being chronically sick is my current reality, it helps to focus on what chronic illness has given me instead of what it’s taken from me.
My chronic illnesses have forced me to simplify my life, to excise anything that wasn’t necessary. During my two year journey with chronic illness I’ve experienced an onslaught of negative emotions and lifestyle changes. But every once in a while there’s a moment of clarity, some peace in this storm, and I realize how I have benefited from this situation.
Four things that chronic illness has given me:
I’ve never had a large network of friends to lean on when I was going through a tough time. I carried a lot of burdens by myself in my early adult life. But I’ve discovered that the chronic illness community is amazingly supportive. I’ve connected with chronic illness bloggers that understand what I’m going through. There are people online with my condition that are quick to answer my questions or comfort me. I’ve been welcomed with open arms in local support groups. I have never felt more supported or had more resources at my disposal, and I can thank my chronic illnesses for that.
The last job I held required me to work in a laboratory 40 – 42 hours a week. Depending on the traffic, I spent five to seven hours weekly commuting to that job. This means that I have reclaimed almost 50 hours of time each week. I almost never feel rushed or stressed because my schedule is overloaded. I rarely have too much to do. Sometimes I have to spend large chunks of my time visiting doctors or running other chronic illness related errands, but overall I am time wealthy. I have the luxury of spending a day in bed watching Netflix when I need to rest or chatting with a friend when I want to be social.
Chronic illness has given me a lot of time to spend the way I want to (within my abilities) and that is a gift that few people receive.
Now that I have this free time I get to choose what I want to do with it. While I enjoyed my life before chronic illness, I had never stopped to really evaluate what I wanted in life. My dreams and reality had been separate ever since I went to university on a military scholarship that was restrictive in what it allowed me to study. I was given about 10 majors to choose from and I picked the one that interested me the most (chemistry). I don’t know what field of study I would have chosen if I could have picked anything.
Once I got sick I started spending a lot of time at home thinking about what I love to do. Within the physical limitations of my illness, I could chose to do anything that I wanted. Having that kind of choice was incredibly freeing. Thanks to the support of my husband, I chose to pursue writing and photography. It wasn’t a choice born from financial need or limited options, instead I chose something I genuinely wanted. Now I’m happier than ever to get out of bed in the morning, although sometimes I can’t get out of bed.
I am no longer as concerned about what people expect of me, think of me, or want from me. This is partially because I’m too exhausted to care most of the time. Yet, despite my chronic fatigue, being freed from obligations and fear is a huge gift. I am no longer afraid to say no or find it difficult to say no. I know what my priorities are and I put them first. I’m not torn over how to divide up my time and energy because they are limited resources for me. They are like gold, so I only invest them in things that are worth it.
This kind of freedom makes me feel that, in some ways, chronic illness has given me my life back.
My chronic illnesses have served as a magnifying glass and a purifier; they’ve made me realize what is most important in my life. I am very thankful that chronic illness has given me more support, time, choices, and freedom. After all, it only seems fair that it give back a little after taking so much.
What has chronic illness given you?Four things that chronic illness has given me. #chronicillness Click To Tweet