6 Ways Chronic Illness Has Changed My Life for the Better


1. Having a chronic illness brings out the fighter in all of us. It forces us to be stronger than we ever knew we were — or thought we could be. We inspire others, and we inspire ourselves to keep fighting the good fight.

2. You have to grow up a lot when you have a chronic illness. You mature far beyond your years. It forces you to learn early how to appreciate the seemingly little things in life — like getting an IV on the first stick, being able to walk, breathing. Things our peers may take for granted, we realize are of tremendous value.

3. Being chronically ill can close a lot of doors. There’s no denying that. But it also opens a lot of very cool doors you may never have known existed. My life without chronic illness would be so completely different than it is now. If I didn’t have a chronic illness, I may not have discovered my love for horses, formal debate, ballroom dancing or gotten to know some of my closest friends (because chronic illness also teaches you a lot about friendship). I wouldn’t be writing this right now. In fact, I might not even know that I like writing. But here I am, writing yet another article, with six already published.

4. You meet some really cool people. I know a girl — yes, girl — as in, still under 18, who has traveled across the country to lobby the House and Senate. I was emailing researchers halfway across the country with possible genetic links that then launched studies when I was 14. I know someone who’s in school now to be a counselor for kids who are chronically ill — to be for others what she never had. I know a lot of pretty freaking awesome people. I wouldn’t know a lot of them without my chronic illness.

5. You develop a lot of new random interests when you’re chronically ill. For example, I’ve become very interested in the HLA-DRB1 gene (yes, this is the gene I sent emails about to researchers when I was 14). I’m now 16, and most of my peers probably don’t know this gene exists. I’ve got a diagram of the brain saved on my laptop so I can look at all the different areas and see what would be affected with different neurological conditions. If I wasn’t chronically ill, I might not even know what neurology means, let alone what the different areas are called and what they control. (Fun fact: the Pons acts as a bridge relaying messages between different parts of your brain and “pons” is the Latin word for bridge. This is probably the only way the year of Latin I took was actually helpful.) I’ve even considered some of these areas as possible career interests.

6. You can develop literally the best sense of humor ever and find a way to laugh about just about anything. Humor can be a huge defense mechanism and coping strategy, so many people who are chronically ill seriously know how to laugh. Don’t forget the sarcasm either. There’s often lots and lots of sarcasm. Because it’s just so much fun to get up at 7 a.m. for an IV stick to get a thing in your veins that burns like you wouldn’t believe and makes you go back to sleep. And by the time you wake up, you’re getting another medicine that’s giving you a serious headache and you feel like you’re going to vomit. What a blast!

Yes, that was all complete and total sarcasm, but that’s actually exactly what I did today. Except, I didn’t get up when I was supposed to because I woke up with temporary paralysis from a conversion reaction — but hey, that’s just extra fun!

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