No one who knows me in real life would every call me an optimist. I consider myself a realist which means if something is positive, yay! However, I’m not going to pretend something is awesome when it’s not. Which is why I tend to shy away from “my illness is totally empowering” “my life is all sunshine and rainbows despite my illness” and “being positive will cure you” kinds of blog posts. With that said, chronic illness isn’t all bad all the time so I figured it was time for my annual “life doesn’t suck completely in every way when you have a chronic illness” post. So here’s why I think having a chronic illness makes you awesome:
You get out of bed every day even though your body fights you every step of the way
If you have a chronic illness you are really a super hero. Just think about it, you have super natural powers just because you function with a body that has totally different functions that a healthy person’s. This is one of the biggest battles that you fight when you have a chronic illness. There’s no words to describe how hard it is to wake up and to immediately feel crushing pain and exhaustion. Healthy people may experience sleepiness when woken up, but when you have a chronic illness you can wake up feeling like a healthy person would feel after running a marathon (aka like you got run over by a truck). And yet we get out of bed day in and day out. This is a superhuman amount of strength.
You’ve learned to prioritize what’s most important
When you have a chronic illness you have a limited amount of spoons, so you are constantly weighing your options and making choices. At the end of the day you quickly learn that the most important parts of life are you, your family, and your friends, everything else is just extra.
You are more compassionate towards people that are sick
I have a confession to make. Before I got sick I use to judge people with chronic illness. I didn’t understand why they couldn’t just try harder or do better. Then I got sick and it all made sense. Of course people can’t just try harder, it just makes things worse! Now that I’m aware of this I’m significantly more understanding when people are sick. Even if they have an acute illness and not a chronic one, I know what it’s like to be physically miserable and I want to be able to emotionally support anyone who needs it.
You’re constantly aware of the presence of invisible illness
That person who parks in handicapped parking but looks able bodied could very well have an invisible illness. There’s no need to stick a nasty note on their windshield because who knows what they are dealing with. I’ve even started extending compassion to people who leave grocery carts in the middle of a parking space thanks to a discussion in a chronic illness group where people shared how hard it was for them to take the extra step to return the cart. Of course some of the people who do this are just lazy, but since I don’t know the difference I choose to believe it’s because they have an invisible illness and they just need a little bit of help.
You value the little things in life
It can be very difficult to watch people go on with their regular lives while you’re left on the sidelines, but feeling sorry for yourself gets old fairly quickly. With chronic illness you have to learn to enjoy the little things such as a beautiful sunny day, the birds chirping, talking with a friend, a rainbow in the sky, laughter, and love. This isn’t something that comes easy, but it does come after lots of practice.
So no, things are not all sunshine and roses when you have a chronic illness, but on a good day I will admit that having a chronic illness makes me awesome.