When I was 23 years old I became chronically ill. Now, 7 years later, as a 30 year old woman, (who still is chronically ill) I can finally look at chronic illness as something that, even though it sucks, has taught me amazing life lessons. And yes how cringy as it sounds, made me a better person.
I went through a lot dealing with chronic illness. It took the doctors over 3 years to find the right diagnosis. And in the meantime I was not taken seriously, was told that it was not real and much more. Until finally they did diagnose me.
It didn’t happen magically, I just always knew there was something wrong. And I trusted my instinct, and I was right. After I got diagnosed with multiple health issues, I felt anger and sadness. Why did it took so long? Would my life have been different if they found the issues earlier?
The feeling of anger and sadness consumed me. It did not make me a nicer person. Luckily after a few years I began to slowly accept it and try to make the most of life. And here I am, writing an article about the life lessons I learned from chronic illness. I hope it will give you hope, if you too are struggling with chronic illness.
Life lessons I learned from chronic illness
1. Life will end
Don’t be afraid your life will end, be afraid it will never begin –
Henry David Thoreau
I can hear you thinking. Why did you needed chronic illness to teach you that you will die one day, that’s like basic knowledge of life. I agree. It is.
But knowing that people die, and knowing you will die. It is a whole different feeling.
Of course I know life will end, I just never really gave it much thought. Who really does at 23 years old? Even when you are healthy, life can be over just like that. It is so fragile. And it is freaking scary! Life is scary! I hate it sometimes how scary it is, I really do.
But you know what is scarier? Not having lived when you die. And that is the first lesson I learned. I will die, you will die. It is scary, but it is reality, I don’t want it to happen, but it will happen. I am not going to sugarcoat this, when I went through this lesson, it was so hard. It gave me the feeling my life had no meaning, because it will end. But I had that wrong.
My life has meaning. Because it will end.
2. The most important life lesson when dealing with chronic illness: nothing is more important than your health
A lot of us take our good health for granted. I don’t blame you. I used to do that too. I think it is normal to do. Why worry about something you never had to think about?
Well, I am telling you now, appreciate it when you do have good health. Know it is not something that you should take for granted, ever. Take good care of yourself, you only have one body.
3. You are stronger than you think
Chronic illness taught me that I am STRONG. And so are you!
I used to look at certain situations that people were in and think “oh, I don’t know how she/he does it, I could never”. Well, guess what, you could. You can. If you really have to, you can do so much more than you now think you can handle.
4. Life is messy and unfair
Some people have luck, some people don’t. It is that simple. Life is cruel, hard, messy and unfair.
Do not think I am bitter, I am not, I am just realistic. If you don’t think life is unfair, explain to me how you think it is fair that some people have so much money that they have no idea how to spend it all, while some people die of hunger?
Now, I don’t want you to feel guilty if you are on the good side of life. Be happy that you are, enjoy it. Just realize that you have it good. And try to give back where you can, so others can have it good too.
Being chronically ill really made me appreciate all that I do have, instead of always looking at what I don’t have. Of course I have dreams and ambitions, but I am also trying to be happy with my life how it is right now.
5. Self-care is not selfish
I really learned that it is crucial that I take good care of myself. It is okay to say no, it is okay to do nothing.
For me, I struggled with this the most. Funny isn’t it, how it can be so hard to take care of yourself, while you would think it would come naturally. It doesn’t for me. It is something I really have to stay focused on.
In the end. I am the most important person in my life. Without me, I have no life, no friends, no family. Without me, I have nothing. And I don’t want nothing.
6. A positive mindset is the way to go, but don’t turn it into toxic positivity
Positivity will bring you much more than negativity. Do you have any idea how draining it is to be negative? I do!
I used to be a negative thinker. Glass half empty instead of half full. Guess what it brought me? Absolutely nothing. It only made me feel worse than I already did.
How did I turn it around? By realizing that being negative drained my energy, energy I couldn’t miss. So I became more positive over time. And it takes work, especially when it is not your natural state of mind. Some people are just born positive, and some aren’t.
I do still struggle with it. I tend to overthink a lot. However, no matter how dark and deep my thoughts can go, I always get myself positive again. And it is such a good feeling to be positive.
But, be aware. Don’t turn your positivity into toxic positivity
How can positivity be toxic? Very easy. Let me give you a few examples.
- Only good vibes!
- Just think more positive
- Don’t worry, you’ll be fine
- Just smile
- At least it is not worse
With saying these things, you are downgrading how the other person is feeling. Now I know that most people do not mean to spread toxic positivity, so don’t feel guilty about it if you do. Just be aware of it. Only when you are aware of something you can change it.
7. You can’t control life, you can’t control your chronic illness, you can only control your attitude
Hi, my name is Marissa and I am a control freak.
Do you also always want to control everything? Does it give you a sense of calmness? Well… I am sorry, but you can’t control life. Trying to control things only provides you of a fake sense of control. It is not real.
The moment I realized that. Panic.
And then after some time I finally realized, okay I can’t control life, but I can control myself. I can control how I react to things. I can control how I deal with things.
And I got my sense of control back, just a more realistic one.
8. Appreciate the little things in life
It’s a cliché, but so true. And I really learned doing this thanks to being chronically ill.
When your life stops having the big events. You need to focus on the smaller things more. I had to. To stay sane. And I did.
- I love it when it rains
- I love it when my cats plays together
- I love it when my cats come cuddle with me
- I love it when I take a long hot shower
- I love it when I see kids play outside and they laugh
- I love it when I see my friends and family
- I love it when I take a car ride
- I love a walk in nature
I appreciate those things so much more than when I wasn’t chronically ill.
9. Trust yourself
If I hadn’t trusted myself and my own feelings, I have no idea where I would be right now. All I know is that it wouldn’t have been pretty. Yes, that is scary.
However, even though it could have ended very bad for me, it didn’t. I listened to my inner feelings, my instinct. I pushed through when doctors didn’t take me seriously. I had to be heard.
I fought for myself. I fought for my life.
It really showed me that I can rely on myself. I know my body and mind the best. Even when I sometimes doubt myself, deep down I know that I shouldn’t.
So if you doubt your own feelings. STOP! Trust that you know yourself, trust that you know your body. Trust yourself.
10. Show yourself some compassion, dealing with chronic illness is not easy
Oh boy. How kind do you speak to yourself?
I am still learning to be kinder to myself. Since I am always listening, it is important that I am. Same goes for you. You should be proud of what you can you do instead of what you can’t do. And watch the way you speak to yourself. Show yourself some love.
Treat yourself as you would treat your best friend. You are doing all that you can, and that is enough.
You are enough.
I am enough.
What are the life lessons you have learned struggling with chronic illness?
I would love to hear from you! What are the most important life lessons you learned from chronic illness? Let’s share and inspire and help each other.
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*This post contains only my opinion and personal experience, please read the disclaimer for more information.