How Chronic Illness Affects How I Think About Life

I asked my healthy friends what they would like me to write about, curious to what would help them better understand the people in their lives who are dealing with chronic illness.

Well, I’ll start with the fact that I can’t speak for everyone. I can only speak for myself, but sometimes, others will relate to at least a few things when going through similar situations. So, this might shed some light. At the very least, it’s a starting point to form your questions and start understanding those in your life better – to start the discussion.

What my friends asked for was this…What are my daily thought processes? How does chronic pain and chronic illness affect how I think about my life and go about my life, each day?

At first I thought it’s not much different than a healthy person’s daily thought process. Then, I realized that’s not true.

My health affects every aspect of my life and every decision I make, whether I like it or not. It even affects my overall happiness, but not in the way you might think. I’m happier because of my chronic illness. Not because I’m in pain and sick, but because I appreciate everything a thousand times more with each difficult or terrifying health issue I get through. How much I appreciate the love I have around me, my friends, romance, beautiful flowers, the smell of the wind, the sound of a fountain, the scurrying of an ant, is intensified after every hurdle I get past.

I had no guarantee I’d get to see this today. Experience this. Breathe this. Be this loved. I had no guarantee that I’d be able to get out of the house today, so when I can, it is breathtaking. It is stunning. It is profound.

Music is a huge part of my soul, my passion, and the days when I am well enough to sing or play the piano and my ukulele, are joyous days. Days that revive my spirit and renew the essence of who I am.

Dinners out with my significant other and with friends, are so much more fun. The laughter is magnified, amplified in my heart, because I didn’t have to cancel going and my body is behaving enough for me to be there and soak in the awesomeness of these people who, for some reason, love me, exactly the way I am, and want to spend time with me.

Those are the good days, or even most days – even if I’m stuck inside, in pain. As I smell the fragrant air coming in through the windows, I smell memories. I smell the future. I smell life. The sun, streaming through the blinds, sings a melody with each dancing ray. These are lyrics that fill my heart.

On the really hard days, though, when it becomes too much and I’m extremely sick and in so much pain that I can’t move, sleep or function much at all, then chronic illness affects my thought processes in a different way. A way that I don’t like, but is important and real. When I feel so defeated. Anxious. Sad. Overwhelmed. Exhausted by my pain, my worries, my anxieties and fears. Drowning in pity and sorrow, “why me,” and tears.

But the “why me'”s aren’t as hard as the “why him?” It’s not fair to him. This man who loves me. Who has cared for me, stayed with me through times that would make many people break. Yet, not only has he handled them, he’s kept our love and happiness alive. Through all the pain and worry I see in his eyes, I also see love and beauty. He always makes me smile. But, I hate that I put him through this pain. He deserves only joy. Only love. Only goodness. But I also love and am so grateful, that he loves me enough to stay and more importantly he is glad he is staying. It’s so hard, though,  that my health, something I have no control over, can hurt us both so much. Hurt him so much. The man I love in a way I never knew possible.

So, my days and my thoughts are entirely formed by my experiences, my pain, my illness, my isolation, my anxieties, my fears, my joys, my gifts, my passions, my friendships and my loves. And I appreciate all of these things, even the difficult things, more than I would have if I were healthy. Of this I am 100 percent sure.

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