How I've Grown as a Person Since My Lupus Diagnosis

Being chronically ill is a sort of perpetual upheaval in which unexpected physical changes are accompanied by a load of anger, confusion and fear. Yet, through all of that mess, my illness is also causing my perspective to shift on several levels and is helping me to grow in ways I would not have suspected. Above all, it is a process of learning, changing, discovering and finding reasons to be grateful.

Living More Fully

Having your health at stake forces you to develop a clearer sense of priorities – defining what matters to you and makes you happy and progressively drawing boundaries to keep away from the petty, toxic and unnecessary stuff. Your well-being climbs up to the top of your priorities.

You also become greedy for life, seeing it as a one-way ticket for a trip and wanting to make the most out of it. And because you abruptly realize that nothing can be taken for granted, you learn to savor the tiniest things and allow yourself to feel more deeply.

Redefining Relationships

As you are limited in physical and emotional energy, you instinctively distance yourself from people who are not worthy of your time. Besides, talking openly about your illness exposes the vulnerable, not-so-glamourous parts of you, and invites people to decide for themselves whether they can deal with that and how far they want to be involved with you or not. Progressively, your circle shrinks, and you are left with the ones who are ready to stick with you, who care for you and on whom you can rely.

And as you have this growing notion of how fragile life is, you’ll find yourself cherishing quality time with your loved ones, craving honest conversations, hugging more often and knowing how important it is to let others know how you feel about them.

Learning to Love Your Body

It might not function properly, and people may tell you that it doesn’t hold up to general beauty standards, but that body is a fighter: battling every day against an illness which doctors, scientists, researchers and all the brightest minds still struggle to understand. Even when it is exhausted, it refuses to give in to your disease, and that alone is enough to make it worthy of love.

Fragility Breeds Strength

Managing your disease requires you to be cautious about things which appear insignificant, such as avoiding the sun, not eating spicy food or making sure you don’t get bitten by insects. While this might leave you feeling frail and tiny, your illness will also make you disciplined, brave and resilient. And regardless of how often you think, “That’s too much,” or “I’ll never get used to that,” you’ll find unsuspected resources within yourself to deal with whatever lies ahead.

Being Your Own Advocate

Living with an illness which is unknown by many implies that you will have not only have to explain but also argue – making it a point to state what things are right for you and what makes you unwell, saying no when needed, hustling and changing things around to create more comfortable patterns in your environment, re-asserting the validity of what you feel when it is imperceptible to others and, too often, having to challenge negative assumptions about the way you live (“I am not just lazy – lupus fatigue is one of the most common symptoms…”). You will find yourself able to communicate your needs more clearly and have the opportunity to educate others about your condition.

This post originally appeared on With the Wolf.

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