What Chronic Illness Has Given Me. | Photo by Shereen via Flickr.

What Chronic Illness Has Given Me.

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:

 

Support.

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.

 

Time.

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.

 

Choices.

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.

 

Freedom.

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? 

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What Chronic Illness Has Given Me. | Photo by The Q Speaks via Flickr.

Photo by The Q Speaks licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0; above version modified by My Meena Life.

Featured photo by Shereen licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.

28 thoughts on “What Chronic Illness Has Given Me.

  1. This was a really powerful read for me. Although I would of course never wish chronic illness on anyone, I’m glad that there have been positives in your life as a result. It’s often hard for me to see the positive in situations like this (or even in much more manageable situations), so this was a nice reminder to me that there really can be a silver lining to almost anything. As always, I’m sending all the positive energy I can from Germany!

    1. I’m so glad to hear this, thank you Danielle! It can be hard for me to see the positive too, especially when the negatives are so present and overwhelming. But having some optimism helps me stay sane, I suppose. 🙂

  2. Hi Ava! I enjoyed this post and it got me thinking about the gifts chronic illness has given me. I'm somewhat newly unemployed and have really wrestled with guilt, feeling like I'm being selfish with my time. But man has it been a huge step for my health! It really seems like a lot of dealing with chronic illness is working through our negative thought patterns, so a little positivity goes a long way. Thanks for sharing!

    1. Thank you! I know it’s so hard to transition to unemployment but I’m glad it’s had such a positive effect on your health.

  3. I understand exactly where you are coming from. In some ways I'm healthier now – having a chronic illness has made me learn how to eat right, understand the importance of regular exercise, and helped me find some natural options that have greatly improved many areas of my life. Without RA, I don't know that I would have any of that knowledge.

  4. Great article – It is so hard to focus on the good things when you're ill and a lot of the time I just felt like dying. In hindsight I have learned so much from being ill and it has certainly made me a stronger person!

  5. This line right here : 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. BOOM.

  6. AWESOME! I ♥ articles that focus on the positive in persevering through chronic illness. Negativity is easy, being positive in spite of the pain…that's the 'higher road'. Well done!

  7. I know exactly what you mean about wanting to exchange your chronic life but still being able to recognise a few positives it has too. My main positive is a real change in my world view now and a new understanding for what is really important in life and what isn't. Giving up my job was hard but the more time that passes the more I realise there are new opportunities available to me that I wouldn't have had before. You are so right about the great support network that you get too, which is a real life-saver when you are dealing with the realisation that some people who you thought would be there for you when you needed them most aren't actually anywhere to be seen! Thank you for sharing such a positive post, it's really made me consider some additional things that I'm grateful for.

    1. Thank you, Natalie. I think we can really empathize with one another and I’m glad that you’ve had new experiences and a greater support network. Keep focusing on the positives whenever you can. 🙂

  8. Thank you so much for participating in our chronic pain & chronic illness link up party at The Unbroken Smile. I'm sure our community will love your article, thanks so much for sharing! Please join us again next week. ((Gentle Hugs))

  9. Nice work Ava – I agree completely. Freedom. Choices. Confidence. All things that I have experienced too. Funny how it took a chronic something or other to experience that!

    1. I know, I would have rather found those things another way, but I am grateful to have found them nonetheless! I’m glad you’ve experienced those feelings too!

  10. Really fantastic post! I definitely relate to this perspective – I'm never going to say that I'm glad I developed chronic illnesses, but I think it is much more helpful to focus on the silver linings. I share a lot of the same 'gifts' as you do. I would also add that I have a better relationship to myself. I was always the over-acheiver with the constant inner critic and now I am kinder to myself. I focus on what's helpful/unhelpful rather than must/shoulds. I feel like growing as a person is one way to make sure that this chronic illness struggle isn't in vain.

    1. What a great point! I practice more self-care and self-love now, too. I’m glad that you’ve had benefits from the overall hardship of chronic illness (you deserve that).

  11. I cannot tell you how much this meant to me. When I began to read it, I was skeptical…"Yes, but look at what it has taken away…" but by the end, I was uplifted and, while I am still working it through, it is changing my mindset. I am going to print this off so that I can refer back to it when I am feeling a little sorry for myself because of my chronic pain! So thank you, very much!!

  12. This is such a good post. Sometimes we are so in tune with what our health takes away from us, it is hard to see what we do have. Thanks for the reminder.

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