10 Ways Chronic Illness Has Changed Me for the Better

I’ve been diagnosed with epilepsy, anxiety, pelvic floor dysfunction, a rare compression syndrome called nutcracker syndrome, pelvic congestion syndrome and I also have chronic pain.

I was first diagnosed with epilepsy when I was 15 years old and tacked on the other diagnoses within the past few years. Dealing with chronic illnesses can be unbelievably hard, frustrating and discouraging at times, but they’ve also made me who I am today. They’ve truly made me a better person. Here’s why:

1. I’m more patient. For numerous reasons. I’ve never had my license in my life and constantly have to rely on other people for transportation. Also being diagnosed with a rare syndrome (nutcracker syndrome), I had to see over 20 different doctors before I found a doctor who even remotely understood or knew how to treat what I had. Also, in dealing with chronic pain, I’ve had so many pharmacologic and non-pharmacologic treatments, including alternative treatments, that I’ve had to be patient with my body.

2. I’m more understanding. My diagnoses are basically all invisible. You would never know if you saw me that I had pain on a daily basis. I often get comments that I look healthy and good or that I’m too young to be sick. Those kinds of comments make me realize that you never know what’s going on with someone.

3. I have a voice. I’ve had doctors and nurses belittle me when it comes to both my epilepsy, my chronic pain and my rare syndrome. When I was young and first diagnosed I simply just ignored it, but now I don’t stand for it. I don’t allow a medical professional to treat me that way. I educate them and speak up and defend myself and force them to listen and if they refuse, I move on.

4. I’m more organized. When you have multiple chronic conditions you have to stay organized. You have to know when all your appointments are, stay on top of your medication regimen, etc.

5. I’m more educated. This doesn’t necessarily mean with school, but with researching my own diagnoses. In order to properly advocate for yourself you have to do your own research. You have to know what questions to ask and the pros and cons of each treatment.

6. I’m a better listener. I can talk and talk and talk all day long about my chronic illnesses, but I know people like me need to be heard and I’m there to listen and offer support when they need it.

7. I know my body better than anyone. When you have chronic illnesses you know when something is wrong before anyone else. You have to. You know when even the slightest thing is off. It’s almost like a super power.

8. I’m a better nurse. Along with being a frequent patient, I’m a nurse. Having chronic illnesses has made me a much better nurse. I never truly know exactly what my patients are going through, but with the experiences I’ve gone through I’m able to be more supportive and listen to and understand them more. I’m also able to look for subtle signs of pain that most people may not look for. It’s truly one of things I’m most grateful for.

9. I’m a better friend. Sure, sometimes I have to cancel plans because I’m not feeling well and the people who don’t understand or don’t support me may leave, but those aren’t the people I need in my life. However, having chronic illnesses has, like I mentioned before, made me a better listener and a better support system to the people in my life who need me emotionally. I’ve been through a lot and can offer a different perspective than most people can.

10. I’m stronger. We all feel discouraged at times. We all feel like we want to give up, but the fact is we don’t. We keep going, we keep fighting for ourselves and others and that makes us strong. Even on bad days, even when we break down…we still get back up.

Having chronic illnesses is like a roller coaster. It’s filled with bad days and good days and it’s a physical and mental assault on your body. However, on the bad days it sometimes can help to look at all the positive things it has brought to my life, how it has affected me as a whole person and made me better. For that I’m thankful.

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Thinkstock photo via Cofeee.

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