When I Challenged Myself to Find the Positives in My Chronic Illnesses

When you face challenges from any kind of illness, it can be easy to become trapped in a tunnel where you only see the negative in everything. Your once happy memories are temporarily replaced with moments where you’ve found yourself alone and crying or angry and mad at the world for not having the answers to your current problems. I wanted to try to get myself out of that thought process, and I think it’s important for anyone battling health issues to do the same.

While I have been in a glass-half-empty mode lately, I challenged myself to think of ways my autoimmune issues have had any sort of positive impact on me. It wasn’t easy. You can always think of a million ways about why something is wrong or negative, but why is it so hard to see it the other way? I think it’s because we’re too hard on ourselves. We feel we have somehow done the wrong things, taken the wrong steps and caused ourselves to be in our current state.

Image of beach for Jamie Jasinski’s post
Photo by Jamie Jasinski

My diagnoses keep changing, and in my current state, I have Sjogren’s disease, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue and depression. Before I became sick, I was always an incredibly stressed person. I brought the stress on myself, since I was always wanted to be someone who never made mistakes and wanted to prove I could be successful with any task assigned to me. If something didn’t go exactly how it was supposed to, it basically turned my whole world upside down. I set expectations for myself, and if I didn’t achieve them in a certain amount of time that I had planned, I would worry and be so hard on myself.

Because of my illnesses, I have definitely seen a positive change in this part of my life. I unexpectedly became sick and could no longer work because my body wouldn’t allow me to. I have learned the more stress there is in my life, the worse my conditions will be. These factors have made me realize you can’t plan for everything. You have to take the good with the bad. You need to relax. Having a constant need to be on the go and never stopping to have time for yourself isn’t healthy. If you can’t do all that you set out to do, it’s OK. There’s always another day. You really begin to learn what matters and doesn’t matter in life when you are faced against big issues.

I’ve also been able to recognize a quality within myself I always knew was somewhere buried inside of me but had never shown itself so bravely before. During the times when I wanted to stop taking all of my medications and give up trying to fight my diseases because nothing was working for me, I managed to find this thing called strength within me. When I went through a rough time of not having insurance for a while and didn’t know how I was going to get through a few months without it, I found the strength to keep going and keep fighting. When my sad thoughts told me no one could relate to my problems, my strength helped me to find a way to shut that way of thinking off. Sometimes, you don’t know what amazing qualities you really have until you have grappled with the biggest challenges in your life.

Instead of thinking backwards, I try to set mini goals for myself in my current state now. It’s really important to accept your situation, no matter what it is, so you can move forward. While we all want to be cured and have no pain immediately, we must realize those things won’t happen overnight. A bunch of smaller accomplishments can ultimately add up into a big one. If you can find one medicine to take away a little bit of your pain, that’s a big deal! That’s one piece of the puzzle you’re on your way to solving. Getting sick has been able to give me the gift of how to think with ingenuity to say the least.

Probably the greatest thing I can say about how illness has changed me is that I love more greatly and with more appreciation. I see more beauty in life. Although my illness isn’t terminal, I’ve been struck by how quick being ill can take the abilities and things you took for granted away from you.

When I do get out to a store or to go to an event, I find myself taking mental images of things that make me happy and things I so often overlooked before. The colors of the trees changing, a moment with a child that made me smile, my boyfriend telling me I’m beautiful when all I see is a sick face. I have a yearning to be with those who mean a lot to me even more because I’ve realized they’ve helped me so much in this process. They keep me going; they make me happy.

I want everyone to challenge themselves to find the positive in your current situation. I promise you it will be hard, but it will be so rewarding to find there are things, even when you think they don’t exist.

Follow this journey on The Autoimmune Blues.

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