New Year’s is the perfect time to reflect and congratulate yourself on all you’ve achieved this year. It can also be a time to set new goals.

We asked people in our Mighty community who live with chronic illnesses to share some of the resolutions they’re making this year. Whether it’s to take better care of yourself, to be more patient with those around you or to just take a moment to enjoy the good things in life, they’re all perfect resolutions.

Here are 24 New Year’s resolutions from people living with chronic illnesses:

1. “To forgive myself for the things I don’t have the energy or patience to get done.” — Rebecca A Graham

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2. “To be more mindful in living with the undiagnosed pieces of my chronic illness. I have to keep fighting. Even though we’re not 100 percent sure what I’m dealing with, I still have to live (well) with it.” — Jen Decker

3. “To find more peace in my life by valuing myself more and not allowing negative people to affect my mood.” — Sarah Jane Johns

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4. “My New Year’s resolutions include forcing myself to get out at least once a week to do ceramics so that I’m leaving the house for something besides kidney dialysis.” — Kelley Paterson

5. “To never let people get my spirit down and to answer their curious questions with compassion. Most people aren’t being mean, they just want to understand.” — Nikki Lynn Nichols

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6. “To accept that my body is going to respond how it wants to stress and the ups and downs of life… But to not let the ‘chronic crap’ control me.” — Kerry Hussey

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7. “To allow myself to rest during an off day instead of worrying about all the things I ‘should’ do.” — Lucy Clapham

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8. “To finally nail down a diagnosis!” — Emma Wozny

9. “To finally create a support network. Living with a chronic illness is so hard, but fighting it alone is worse.” — Syrena Clark

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10. “Managing my illness is just my normal. So my resolutions are just the normal stuff — lose weight, exercise, be helpful to the less fortunate.” — Vicki Gomes Petilli

11. “[To] have more ‘me time’ without feeling guilty for doing so.” — NIkki Slaght

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12. “To remember my husband suffers from my depression as well.” — Sally Chancellor Peters

13. “[To] not beat myself up when I can’t accomplish or do things healthy people do.” — Christina Chalgren

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14. “To try to let unnecessary things go.” — Sharon McKinney

15. “I don’t have to be Superwoman to everyone. I need to be kinder to my body. Saying ‘no’ is a good thing.” — Shannon Turner-Williford Nichols

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16. “To have a day, just one day, where I feel great — no pain, no mental anguish. To be able to be happy, to feel that happiness and to remember how I used to be, to find myself, the old me, even just for one day.” — Mari Smith-Roerig

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17. “I have interstitial cystitis. My New Year’s resolution is to learn to train for a marathon, which can be almost impossible with a bladder condition.” — Shanna Ni

18. “To learn that asking for help or accommodations is not a sign of weakness; it is a sign that I am fighting for my body and what it needs, and there is no shame in that.” — Sarah McGee

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19. “I’m going to try to not give a crap what judgmental people say, especially family who think they know what’s best for me.” — Janet Hall Bond

20. “[To] laugh all the time!” — Saba Ansari

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21. “To keep raising awareness about rare conditions and campaigning for treatments.” — Polly Moyer

22. “To sometimes just do the fun stuff first — the things that make you live instead of simply survive.” — Crystal Hamlin

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23. “To stop explaining myself to those who just do not get what I fight every day.” — Renee Slisky Musick

24. “To accept that life may be tough, but I am tougher.” — Hannah Helmers

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*Answers have been edited and shortened. 

Let us know your resolutions in the comments below.

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“Spoonies” is a nickname people who live with chronic illness sometimes use to identify themselves. The term originated in 2003 in a post on writer Christine Miserandino’s blog “But You Don’t Look Sick.” In “The Spoon Theory,” Miserandino used spoons as a way to explain how she has to budget her energy levels to carry out daily tasks.

The Mighty teamed up with the Counting My Spoons Facebook page to ask our readers who consider themselves Spoonies to fill in the blank in the following statement.

“You know you’re a Spoonie if ___.”

This is what they had to say.

1. “You wake up early in the morning just so you have extra time to give yourself enough pep talks to get out of bed and get moving.” — Christine Langager

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2. “Your friends want the school day to end so they can hang out and play games, but you want it to end so you can go home and sleep.” — Melanie Atzili

3. “Your pill box is bigger than your lunch box.” — Linda Boyce

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4. “You aspire to do five things on your to-do list and you only get one thing done.” — Canna Yamamoto

5. “You budget your energy to take a shower.” — Vicki Blank

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6. “You’re slowly getting your favorite books in audio versions too. Nothing is going to stop me from enjoying books, hand spasms/claw hands or not.” — Claire Elisabeth Flower

7. “Your hair hurts.” — Jackie M. Williams

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8. “You pick one significant activity to do on the weekends and plan everything else around your rest time.” — Jennifer McCollum

9. “You have more pajamas in your wardrobe than regular clothes.” — Melissa Cote

10. “You rest up for a week to go see a movie (fibro can’t stop a ‘Star Wars’ fan!)” — Jo Roberts

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11. You have to plan ‘extreme rest days’ in between days of activities.” — Karlien Crom

12. “Your supplement drawer looks like a Tetris game (for that matter, your supplements require their own drawer).” — Julie Ryan

13. “Your first response to the person helping you get up is ‘five more minutes please’ every day.” — Bee Maizell

14. “You have to choose between taking a shower or cooking dinner to preserve spoons.” — Hannah Waldron

15. “You just can’t bring yourself to explain even one more time why ‘getting to lay around’ isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.” — Elizabeth Rischar

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*Some answers have been edited for clarity and length.

How would you fill in the blank to “You know you’re a Spoonie if ___.” Let us know in the comments below.


Finals week is upon us, and attending college while chronically ill is probably one of the most challenging tasks I have ever faced in my 19 years. Some professors are accommodating and some are not. Some campuses are very accessible while others could use some improvements in that department. No matter what your challenge is during college, there is a way to work around it.

Here are a few tips I have learned from my first year and a half of college. Like me, you, too, will have to make mistakes and learn from them to see what works best for your situation.

You will have to learn to manage your time better than any of your peers. Not only do you have to worry about writing papers, participating in group projects and studying for exams, but you also have to juggle doctor’s appointments, physical therapy, picking up prescriptions and maybe even a hospital admission or two. By the time your first year of college is finished, you will have become the master of time management.

Take advantage of the days when you can concentrate to get assignments done and study for that upcoming psychology exam. Unlike other students, you don’t have the luxury of knowing how you are going to feel in the days leading up to the exam. If you are feeling particularly ill the night before an exam, you won’t be able to cram like other students, which would further tax your fragile body. Stress exacerbates any condition, but studying and having assignments done well in advance will reduce some of the natural stressors of college.

You might fail tests because of pain, brain fog or just feeling plain sick. I can promise that you will sometimes do less-than-stellar on an exam because you cannot concentrate. I can’t tell you how many times I have gone into an exam knowing the material, but because I was so distracted by pain, I couldn’t even interpret the questions. If this happens, try not to be too hard on yourself, as there probably isn’t much you could have done differently. This semester, I got a B+ instead of an A because my teacher would not let me make up a quiz I missed due to a hospitalization. Parents may get mad, but if you did your best (and hopefully passed!), that is all anyone could ever ask.

Sleep and relaxation time is not optional. For many college students, sleep is laughable, optional even. Some people can go days without sleep and function just fine. Chronically ill college students know better. No sleep equals increased pain and other symptoms. Sometimes you can’t sleep regardless. Even though you may be struggling to get through the day for whatever reason, everyone will expect you to do just as much, if not more, than other students.

Getting across campus on time can be quite taxing. I did not consider the geography of my college campus at all when I was considering schools. I strongly advise anyone whose mobility can be compromised in any way to study the landscape. If there are a bunch of steep hills, that is probably not the best campus for someone who has to use crutches and a wheelchair regularly like me. While the set-up of the school is important, do not let your condition be the sole factor in your decision-making process. If you have your heart set on a school for its outstanding academics, apply there. You can work out the logistical issues later.

There is always that one professor who doesn’t get it and insists on giving you a terrible time when you ask for reasonable accommodations. While the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a wonderful start to securing equal opportunities for those with disabilities, there are many loopholes that are often taken advantage of, which usually doesn’t end up working in your favor. You are your biggest advocate. When you start college, you should be the one requesting accommodations and attending the meetings through your school’s disabilities services department. It is OK to keep your parents in the loop, but they shouldn’t have to hold your hand through everything. Even with the help of the ADA and the disabilities office, I still managed to fail biology my first semester of my freshman year.

Another important tip: Just because a building has a ramp, does not mean that it is accessible. Many institutions have these obnoxiously steep and narrow ramps that are challenging to navigate in a wheelchair. Again, another loophole in the ADA. Check the accessibility of your classrooms before the first day to save yourself the stress and additional anxiety.

Because of their medications, it is not safe for many people with chronic illnesses to consume alcohol. Since this is considered a “rite of passage” in the college experience, many feel like they are missing out, but trust me, it is so not worth the liver damage and the chance of being caught for underage drinking. I promise it is possible to have fun in college without alcohol!

Last but not least, even though you are living with a chronic illness, you are also in the period of time that is supposed be the best four years of your life. You are no longer a child, but you do not yet have the full responsibilities of an adult. Remember, the pain of your body rebelling is for today, but the memories will last a lifetime. Life is too short and before you know it, these four years will have flown past. Get out there and live it up!

The Mighty is asking the following: What’s the hardest thing you deal with as someone with a chronic illness, and how do you face this? What advice and words of support would you offer someone facing the same thing? 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.


It’s 4:30 a.m. and I am sitting here watching my son, Isaiah, breathe. Just breathe. Because that’s about all we can do right now – just keep him breathing – which in some moments requires everything we’ve got.

With the Christmas episode of “Saving Hope” playing in the background and me misty-eyed like all “Christmas miracle” episodes make me this time of year, all of a sudden his oxygen levels dropped. I looked at his face, eyes wide open, flailing his arms in a seizure that scared me. He was fighting his BiPAP mask so hard that he couldn’t catch his breath, which turned into a scary seizure. For most people any seizure is scary, but just as parents know their child’s cries, we know his seizures.

This one scared me. I threw off his BiPAP mask and threw on a cannula as quickly as I could and scooped him up and just held him against me and told him he couldn’t do that. Tears welled up in my eyes and I remembered the fear — the fear that sits in the back of my mind every day but surfaces in moments like this. The fear that everything might not be OK and that this is real. I saw the fear in his eyes when he couldn’t breathe, and it was the same fear I felt in my whole body in that same instant.

He settled on my chest with his face nestled on my shoulder, close enough that I could kiss him, which turned into me kissing his cheek every few seconds. He quietly whimpered on my shoulder every few breaths he took, not a sound of pain but almost of confused relief — like he knew it would be OK. I am not sure my heart felt the same way because I cried.

I thought about the families that share that same fear. I thought about the hospital. I can name a million and one reasons why I don’t want to go to the hospital, and I am lucky enough to have the equipment I need and doctors that trust me to handle some of it on our own. But there are other families in hospitals right now facing that same fear. Families of chronically ill kids that won’t show the fear even though it’s always there, families that are lost and scared because of the situation they weren’t prepared for. Parents who are staying brave for their kids, and kids who are staying brave because they don’t want to worry their parents. Parents who are worrying anyway. And the unforgiving Christmas sentiment of being home for the holidays with family and friends, surrounding a tree with gifts and food.

The TV show was still playing on the laptop in the background. Christmas miracles were wrapping up, and I heard one of the characters say, “No act of kindness — no matter how small — is ever wasted.” I thought about all of the acts of kindness that have been done for us this year. To be honest, I can’t even begin to tell you about all of them because I don’t know half of them. I believe God moved silently behind closed doors for us so many times this year. And then there are the daily kindnesses. Now here we stand during the holiday season, and all my 8-year-old daughter can talk about is getting bears and books for kids in the hospital at Christmas. She says it’s because it isn’t fun to be there, especially on Christmas, and she just wants to give them a present to make them smile.

She’s a smart girl. I think as much as I try to hide the fear, she sees it and most likely feels it, too. And she has found a way to honor the Christmas spirit by turning that fear into something helpful for those families that also experience those same fears.

I am so proud of her but so scared that we are going to spend Christmas in the hospital. I am going to be here, by his side, holding my breath until he is breathing better on his own again. And maybe distracting myself from my own fears by helping my daughter alleviate hers with her act of kindness.

I would give anything this Christmas (and every Christmas) to be able to wipe the fear away, to take away the illnesses and replace them with health and prosperity. Until then, I am going to just get back to holding his head on my chest and watching him breathe.

Follow this journey on Living With Superman.

The Mighty is asking the following: Tell us one thing your loved ones might not know about your experience with disability, disease or mental illness during the holidays. What would you say to teach them? 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 Submit a Story page for more about our submission guidelines.


I’ve got good news and bad news for you. I’ll deliver the bad news first: You are about to become sick with a mysterious and debilitating illness. It will come on slowly at first with minor symptoms that you will dismiss. Then all of a sudden, life will feel like a twisted joke when you no longer have control over your own body.

Your life will change in every way when the illness starts taking things away from you. You will battle aggressively to try to control the disease. Most of your days will be spent managing your conditions and trying to hunt down the correct diagnoses. You will see 30 doctors and visit the Mayo Clinic before you turn 30 years old.

This battle will take many things away from you, but you will gain a tremendous amount in return — but I’ll get to that later.

More of the Bad News

You are about to lose a great deal. Some of your most basic freedoms will be taken away. You will experience periods of time where you won’t be able to use your hands or stand up. That means you will need help showering, dressing yourself, preparing food and eating. You will quit multiple jobs when they make your symptoms worse or do not allow you the time and flexibility to take care of yourself. You will lose your house because you will have to choose between spending an ungodly amount of money on healthcare and paying your mortgage. Worst of all, your disease will take your baby girl before you can even meet her.

You are going to give up so much. For a while, you will abandon dreams, simple pleasures and your creative side will starve. Forget about eating whatever you want. Your favorite foods will cause pain and suffering. You wont be able to party and dance the night away with your friends. Your dreams of holding a successful career will fall apart.

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You will throw in the towel on your classical voice studies because you simply cannot be on your feet long enough to rehearse or perform. Cooking is not an option when you can’t stand or hold a knife. The fashionista within will bow out because you won’t be able to wear whatever you want. You wont be able to travel or go out on the town due to budget constraints and the logistics of finding food/getting around.

You will be forced to think about things that never crossed your mind before. You will worry about your ability to physically and financially care for yourself and your family. Your whole day will be planned around finding a place to sit down and preserving the little energy you have. You will have awkward conversations with restaurant waiters about the menu and have tense discussions with human resources staffers about accommodations.

You will wonder, “How will I shop, prepare meals, clean my house or run errands?”

When you arrive at a social event you will worry, “Are there any seats for me to sit down and rest my feet?” and “Is there anything that I can eat at this party/restaurant that won’t make me sick?”

You will have to swallow your pride and rely on other people to do things you would rather do yourself. With much difficulty, you will leave your family and friends to move across country to a better climate.

Illness will affect your relationships. Friendships will suffer when you can’t do the things you used to do. Some people in your life wont be able to handle the changes in you or won’t try to understand. People will make all sorts of offensive and judgmental comments about your illness.

You will doubt yourself and ignore your early symptoms when your doctors and family members say your illness is all in your head.

The Good News

I know this all sounds horrible, but you will figure out how to find peace, joy and still manage to live boldly despite your limitations.

You will gain so much perspective and life experience.

You will develop enormous compassion for those suffering — especially those with invisible illnesses.

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You will meet wonderful and amazing people — those who are suffering along side you and those who want to help.

You will learn that relationships are precious and become better at developing and maintaining them.

You will learn priceless lessons on how to listen to your body and take care of yourself.

You will develop a “life is short” attitude and take advantage of your “good days.”

You won’t sweat the small stuff. It will feel liberating when you don’t have to worry about the “normal” stuff women worry about.

Even though you thought you had to give up your dream job, you will somehow end up with an amazing career doing creative things that you love like singing and writing.

You will turn this around and make yourself better. After much trial and error, you will learn how to talk to doctors in order to get them to actually listen. You will learn to become your own advocate, and you will fight tooth and nail to be heard.

Along the way, you will marry an amazing man who will support you and fight with you.

You will appreciate life simply because “I’m still here, damn it!”

My Advice to You

Trust your intuition. It’s easy to just assume you might be losing your mind when people don’t believe you and doctors won’t help. You know your body better than everybody else. When the pain starts, please don’t ignore it.

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Please know this illness isn’t your fault. Don’t listen to the people who say you’re not doing enough of “this” or you’re doing too much of “that.” You didn’t bring this upon yourself. Drop the people who don’t support you.

The people who say, “Everybody has aches and pains,” are kind of right. Thousands of other people are also falling ill, and that’s why you need to speak out for them.

Don’t rely on a single doctor to “fix” you. You’re going to feel better due to your own ferocious fighting, intuition, determined investigation, diligent self-care and a team of health care practitioners.

Enjoy your freedom while you still can.

Thank God for every day that you aren’t in pain and your feet don’t swell up.

Remember that you deserve a properly functioning body and you deserve to feel good.

Don’t be scared because you will have an amazing man at your side and God holding you up.

Follow this journey on Tricia Barendregt’s Facebook page.

The Mighty is asking the following: What’s one thing people might not know about your experience with disability and/or disease, and what would you say to teach them? 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.


Dear Friend With a Chronic and/or Invisible Illness,

Please know I am there to support you 100 percent. Although I may not always be able to be next to you physically, I am there in spirit. I, as a person of relatively good health, can’t fathom all the pain (physical and mental) you endure, but please know you have my utmost respect for how you power through life. You have to be one of the strongest people I know personally.

You have described to me countless times the pain you suffered while undergoing various procedures, treatments and infusions. Although I may never be able to fully remember the names of everything you go through, please know I try to empathize with your pain as much as possible.

I know I may come off as frustrated when you don’t respond to my texts, calls or messages as often as I would like, but please know that it sometimes stems from fear of what may be going on with you.

Please know I care deeply for you and your family. I know sometimes it may be overwhelming for you to fully understand what life is like for someone who has a family member or good friend with a life-altering illness, but try to remember that it’s because they care for you and love you. People have their own way of reacting to your medical emergencies, which means they may come off as rude or uncaring.

But most of all, I love you. I have the utmost respect for you. You are always on my mind and in my prayers.

Love,

A Dear Friend

Image via Thinkstock Images

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