Why I'm Thankful for My Chronic Illnesses This Thanksgiving

“I am thankful for my family.”

“I am thankful for my friends.”

These are normal answers to the question: “What are you thankful for this Thanksgiving?” Most people answer it as quickly as they can without much thought. They throw out the answers everyone else wants to hear. When considering this question for myself, I realized that this year I am thankful for my chronic illnesses.

Truthfully, my joints ache and dislocate from my Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, my heart flips between tachycardic and normal due to postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome (POTS), my stomach wants to throw up any food because of gastrointestinal issues and I am in so much pain I would do anything to distract myself.

Pushing past the bad, though, there is a light in the dark. There are amazing opportunities that my illnesses have given me. Without my conditions, I wouldn’t have my buddy, Gabi, my current friends, my supportive boyfriend, my sign language, my honors classes and, most importantly, my writing. 

One of my favorite quotes talks about having to break to let the light through, and I believe that this is very true in my case. I had to break down mentally, emotionally and physically to finally see the good in my situation and to find my happiness. There are days when I am so upset about my illness that I feel like I hate my life, but then I realize that hate is only on a surface level. Beneath the veil, I have an amazing life, and I am extremely happy. I do believe I might be happier now than I ever was as a healthy teenager. 

I’ll admit it took awhile to get to this point. It’s still difficult to see the good on my bad days, but I did find my happiness. I’m not here to inspire you or to tell you that it will get better because I know most of us won’t. But I am here to say that you can still be happy despite your challenges. 

This Thanksgiving, assess your situation. Look at the good, the bad and the ugly and figure out what you are thankful for. Go beyond the surface-level answer of “my family” or “my friends” and consider your true happiness. You may be surprised what you find. 

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