5 Positive Lessons I've Learned From Chronic Illness

Illness is one of the most challenging events you will ever experience in your life. It doesn’t discriminate and impacts all ages, races and genders. Each and every day can bring about something new, something unpredictable. Everyone’s body is different so no two people – even with the same illness – will experience the same journey. Illness really is an unpredictable journey full of peaks and troughs. A journey that can and does change your entire life. Instead of focusing on the negatives it may bring, I would like to highlight the five most important things illness has taught me.

1. It’s a time for personal growth.

My journey through illness – although ongoing – has been a time when I have discovered my true identity. I would have never anticipated just how much I would grow as a person whilst feeling like the world was passing me by. I have discovered new skills, new passions and new life goals. This has occurred mainly due to illness grinding my life to a complete halt and giving me the time to really look and evaluate it. I know I will be able to look back on this time not as a time of illness, but as the time in my life when I discovered my true place in this world.

2. Loving yourself is not selfish.

Sometimes the personal traits of loving yourself and being selfish can become confused and warped, leading some people to think that putting their own health and well-being first is a selfish act. This could not be further from the truth. To be the best you, you need to look after yourself both physically and mentally. If you look after yourself and are the best you can possibly be, then everybody will benefit from that. It seems perfectly logical but can take quite a while to master. Learning to take a step back, to slow down and to listen to your body are some of the best and most valuable skills you can possess.

3. The importance of living in the moment.

I was always one to cling on to the past and worry about the future. Whilst doing so I forgot to live in the here and now. Beauty is in the small details – blink and you will miss it. Ask yourself, how often do I walk down the street so caught up in my own thoughts that I fail to see the beauty that exists around me? This is a bad habit we are all victim to unfortunately. I myself (due to low energy levels) have had to adjust and slow down my pace of walking. Not only has this caused me to be a lot calmer, but I now see the true beauty that exists around me. For me personally this beauty exists in seeing the intricate detail and coloring of plants and flowers, feeling the warmth of the sunshine on my skin, seeing animals bringing joy to the lives of their owners, observing couples locked in a warm embrace and hearing the sound of laughter from children playing happily together. These are all things that can be taken for granted but are each important and beautiful in their own way.

4. The important things in life aren’t fame and fortune but beautiful memories.

As someone once said to me, if this very moment was your last, what would you be thinking about? Would it be the money in your bank account or the many pairs of shoes in your wardrobe? Although these things are nice, they aren’t what’s really important and valuable in life. I know all the beautiful memories I have of life, the faces of my loved ones and happy events detailed in beautiful color would be what was in my thoughts. Life is not all about trying to be the best at everything. It is enjoying what you have and who you have. No value can be put on warm hugs, happy tears and belly laughs. These memories are your true treasure.

5. It is OK not to feel OK.

Whether it is because of physical or mental illness, know it is OK not to feel OK. The important thing is to learn to listen to your mind and body and note how you are feeling at any given time. Mental and physical health exist in conjunction with one another. If one suffers, so will the other. I have learned through my own experiences to not be ashamed of how I am feeling or what I have gone through. The hardest words you can possibly say to another person are “please help me,” but once you do you will never regret it. From there on in, you are on a powerful journey of development and growth. You may fall along the way but the pain gets less and less as time goes on. You will see just how amazing you are and what true strength and beauty you possess inside. It will also teach you just how valuable and important your very existence is and you will experience true happiness again. I, too, have been there and I understand. I’ve been in the depths of despair, suffocating in the darkness unable to go on. I never thought I could experience happiness again, but I have. This happiness is much stronger and better than ever before. Even whilst battling illness I see the positives it has brought me. By experiencing everything I have, I am happy to admit I feel happy in my own skin and am proud of who I am and what I have achieved.

Follow this journey on A Paler Shade of Beauty.

We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.

Image via Thinkstock.

Find this story helpful? Share it with someone you care about.

Related to Chronic Illness

woman gazing longingly out her bedroom window

Transitioning From Adolescence to Adulthood with a Chronic Illness

No matter how old you are, it is dreadfully difficult to live with one or more chronic illnesses. The hardships we experience are far beyond the boundaries of what a healthy person could even try to understand. From the abundance of medications to the collection of medical specialists, we differ greatly from our healthy peers. As a person nearing the end [...]
single tree with all four changing seasons

When Change Is the Only Constant in Your Life With Chronic Illness

Several weeks ago, I was in the middle of a homework assignment and I came across this quote from the Greek philosopher, Heraclitus: “No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man.” I sat back in my computer chair, overwhelmed with clarity. Applied [...]
woman performing fabrics pose during dance class

What My Version of 'Fit' Looks Like as Someone With Chronic Illness

I’ve never been a particularly athletic person. Group sports always made me nervous, and I spent most of gym class in elementary and high school running away from whatever ball was flying my way. I found that even though I didn’t like sports, I still liked certain types of exercise. I fell in love with [...]
woman wearing a red dress with a bouquet

I Went to Prom Even Though My Medication Changed My Body

When I was 15 years old, my gastroenterologist put me on high-dose prednisone. 80 milligrams a day for six months, followed by a year and a half of slowly being weaned off a corticosteroid that is notorious for wreaking havoc with its side effects.  My body was no exception: Within two weeks of taking 26 [...]