Having a limiting, chronic illness sucks. Feeling awful most days, relying on others for help, frequent hospital trips, being disabled…. You get the idea. It sucks. It’s ok to get upset and have moments where you get down and angry about it, you really wouldn’t be human if you gracefully accepted the hand you’d been dealt with Saint-like understanding. But I’ve learnt that there are actually some positives to having a chronic illness.
1) My calm app told me that practicing monks sometimes pray for more suffering to be sent their way so they can truly notice the good in their lives. Massively extreme and stupid, nobody wants to suffer at all. But they do have a point. Being ill means that you appreciate the simple things more and you spend less time rushing from one thing to another. You have the chance to take a step back and notice what’s going on.
2) You’re able to recognise achievements you would have perhaps dismissed before. When everything’s a challenge, anything you do achieve makes you feel proud. You find it easier to see that everything doesn’t have to be perfect all the time and beat yourself up less when things don’t go to plan.
3) You work out how adaptable you really are. When you start having to accommodate dosing schedules, medical appointments and rest times, along with anything you physically can’t manage, you realise that you can adapt quite a lot to make things work. And when you can’t…:
4) You learn how to prioritise. You can’t do everything and you work out what’s important to you. You stop worrying about saying no to people and start saying yes to the things which matter to you.
5) You appreciate how clever the body is. Even if it is fighting against you, it’s still pretty clever. You put up with a lot more pain or symptoms than you realised you could before, and you find ways to look like you’re functioning normally despite your illness quirks. It’s quite impressive what you can actually deal with. Who needs to do stupid fitness challenges when getting out of bed feels like climbing Everest?!
6) You stop worrying about the small stuff. I listen to people stressing about stuff I used to worry and rant about and can’t believe I actually wasted my time and energy on it. Does it matter if someone gave you an odd look at work? Is a traffic jam that big a deal? Is being a size 8 the most important thing to worry about?
7) You learn who your real friends are. Lots of people say they’re there for you or that they’ll help out and only about 10% of those people actually show up when you do ‘let them know if you need anything’. But on the plus side, you really appreciate the friends who stick around a hell of a lot more than you would have done before, and you stop wasting time on ‘friends’ who don’t even want to pretend to care.
8) You work out what’s important in life. A job is just a job. A house is just a place you live. It’s not what you have physically in your possession which is important, it’s how you spend your time and who with. You live more in the present. I’ve recently discovered a love of cloud watching- you should try it!
9) You develop a pretty good sense of humour and a thick skin. If you don’t laugh about it, you’d spend all your time crying about it. So you start finding humour in things you wouldn’t before.
10) You get to learn all of this before it’s too late. Lots of people are going to realise that they spent most of their life worrying about stupid things, spending time doing trivial things and looking at life through their phone screen or via social media. You get to learn all this while you can still do something about it. (Although social media is great to help you feel connected when you can’t get out of bed!)