The Perfect Thing My Doctor Said About My Life With Chronic Illness

My doctor sat at his desk facing his computer as he read through my chart and got updated on the various specialists I’d seen and the tests I’d had done since my last appointment with him.

He turned around and said, “So pretty much you’ve become a professional patient.”

It’s true. I’ve seen several new specialists lately and am waiting to see a few more. This is a good thing because it means that after years of trying to politely convince my doctors that there are other things going on, I’m finally getting somewhere. I don’t yet know exactly where that somewhere is, but I’m happy to be on my way all the same and I’m thankful for the understanding and committed doctors who are helping me get there.

But it’s still hard. I’m tired of waiting months for appointments to come up. I’m tired of playing trial and error with new medications. I’m tired of just not feeling well day in and day out. I expressed this frustration to my doctor, although I knew there was nothing he could do about it. What he told me, however, actually did help.

He said, “I know. But you’re doing a good job, and I think you’re handling everything really well.”

It was the perfect thing to say. There was no pressure on me to put on a brave face. There was no expectation that I should be upbeat and optimistic all the time. There was no dismissal with false hope or empty consolation.

Catherine Richardson giving a thumbs up

Instead, there was awareness of the “chronic” part of my chronic illness. There was permission to be realistic and an understanding that I was weary. But it was also good to know that even though it felt at times as if I were stuck in place, weighted down by my illness, I was actually still moving forward.

And because of all that, I also felt encouraged. I was doing a good job. I could keep doing that.

It was exactly what I needed to hear, and I can’t help but think that maybe you need to hear it, too.

So I want to tell you that you’re doing a good job.

Maybe, like me, you’re facing a chronic illness or disability. When you feel like you’re running around in circles searching for a diagnosis, you’re advocating for yourself. When you struggle through difficult treatments and procedures, you’re giving yourself a chance at a better future. And when you find yourself facing a feeding tube, a wheelchair or any other medical device, you’re working within your limitations to be as well as possible and live a life as full as possible. You’re doing a good job.

Maybe you love for and care for someone with a chronic illness or disability. When you’re breaking down the walls of your comfort zone in order to learn to care for your loved one, you’re working to accept your new normal. When you’re putting in hours of planning and preparation to help your loved one carry on with life as normally as possible, you’re proving that a challenging life can still be a meaningful one. When you set aside your exhaustion, pain and fear to help your loved one through those feelings of their own, you’re teaching them how to be resilient. You’re doing a good job.

We’ve all got something. It doesn’t even have to be illness or disability. We all have things in our lives that are hard.

Sometimes we get defeated. Sometimes we’re angry at our circumstances and feel sorry for ourselves. Sometimes we compare ourselves to others and get jealous of those who appear to have it easier. And that’s all OK, because other times our spirits triumph. Other times, we choose to laugh instead of cry and choose to be grateful for what we do have instead of feeling bitter about what we’ve lost. Other times, we reach out and take everything we’ve learned through our struggles to help someone else face their own.

We don’t have it all together all the time. We’re not supposed to. But we do what we can. We do our best.

So don’t be afraid to give yourself some credit and acknowledge your own strength. Don’t be afraid to give yourself the affirmation that you need. Whether you’re thriving or simply just surviving, you’re doing your best.

And you’re doing a good job.

Catherine Richardson holding sign that says you're doing a good job

Read more from this author on her blog, Finding My Miracle.

The Mighty is asking the following: What’s one unexpected source of comfort when it comes to your (or a loved one’s) disability and/or disease? If you’d like to participate, please send a blog post to [email protected] Please include a photo for the piece, a photo of yourself and 1-2 sentence bio. Check out our “Share Your Story” page for more about our submission guidelines.


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