Dear Chronic Illness Warriors: Here Are 5 Signs You're Stronger Than You Think

While it might appear strange to those outside of our world looking in, when you have a chronic illness it is easy to feel weak when you can’t do what you once could. Take a pounding from your body enough days in a row and before you know it, you might find yourself questioning your own strength. But everyone around you can see your grit. Today, I think you might recognize yourself in these five signs you’re stronger than you think.

1. You’re still here.

There’s been ample opportunity to call it, to throw in the towel, declare it all “too much,” and yet you don’t. Every day your feet hit the floor, and you go at it again. Oh, I’m sure you make plenty of morbid jokes about quitting, changing your name, your job, your identity and moving to Guam, but you don’t. Not only are you still physically present but also you’re still emotionally engaged. You’re still fighting. Yes, you stop and take a breath, you come up for air, but you always go back to the fight. What’s my play here? Do I remind you that you’re one tough dude? Do I tell you strength oozes from your pores? You pick. The truth is you’re tougher than you like to give yourself credit for because you’re afraid it might run out one day. Let’s not worry about that. Let’s just celebrate the incredible tenacity you’ve demonstrated every single day of this journey thus far, OK?

2. You help others.

How do I know this? I’ve seen your strength. I’ve witnessed it all over the internet. I’ve seen it in waiting rooms, in parking lots, in daily interactions. You’re sitting next to me, waiting to find out if the cancer has returned. When I can’t figure out why my phone won’t accept the office Wi-Fi password, you see my disproportionate response to this. You understand I’m responding to something unseen. You take my phone and seamlessly log me on, hand my phone back to me as you get up and open the door for the woman struggling to get her mobility device through the door. She’s having a hard time during this first week of her treatments, so you coach her through, giving her the link to your blog, where you respond to thousands of hurting women weekly, even when you’re hurting. You want your pain to help others. You carry a silent strength with you wherever you go.

3. You share your story.

Not one to overwhelm people or create drama for the sake of drama, you try to tell your story in pieces whenever possible. You know, having lived it, it can be a lot to process. You also know, having lived it, if you can make it through, so can others. So you share your story, but only the pieces the person sitting in front of you needs to hear at that moment. After all, it’s about them, not you. You don’t have a need to be seen, but you do have a deep desire to meet others where they are and walk with them to the other side. So you tell your story in pieces. You invest it in the beautiful world around you because strength adorns you.

4. You listen.

In a world where everyone fights to be heard, you listen. You really listen. You hear what hearts are saying. You know it’s something different entirely than nodding your head until the other party stops talking so you can make your point. Furthermore, you don’t always respond. You hear the difference between honest requests for dialogue and a need to be right, a desperate need to be needed or to fix you. You’ve perfected the ability to listen to someone else’s rant about how your pain is your fault without railing against them. In fact, you can listen, hear their pain and know they’re not ready to hear the truth. You have the strength to speak and the strength to be silent. You are a warrior.

5. You love.

It’s no secret your heart has been broken. Your body has betrayed you. People have betrayed you. You’ve not let this convince you all of life or humanity are unworthy of love. Just the opposite, you’ve learned love heals. You live and you love to the fullest when all of your history is trying to convince you not to. Perhaps the darkness in the world knows the strength of your love. You see through hardness and send your love as your ambassador. Maybe you often feel weak. And yet, day by day, your strength is changing the world and raising up an army of warriors behind you.

Don’t quit.

A version of this post originally appeared on Chronically Whole.

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Thinkstock photo via jelenahinic.

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