10 Songs for Tough Days With Chronic Illness


These are some of the many songs I use to help me cope and get through tough days with chronic illnesses:

1. “Liability” by Lorde

“So they pull back, make other plans. I understand, I’m a liability. I’m a little much for everyone.”

This is a song I use when I need a good cry. It’s been listened to on repeat, especially when I have to cancel plans, when I have to say no, or I don’t get invited at all because everyone assumes I will say no anyway. Even though I know my friends would never call me a liability, it doesn’t stop me from feeling that way. Even if I’m able to go out, our whole dynamic changes. Everyone is worried if I’m tired or standing too much, which is amazing because they care, but somewhere in my mind I wonder when they will get tired of it.

2. “Pompeii” by Bastille

“How am I going to be an optimist about this?”

This song has made me laugh, made me cry and made me scream in anger while questioning how I’m going to move forward into the positive. It’s hard to be sick, but it’s even harder realizing you have to move forward with the knowledge you aren’t going to get better. In fact, it feels like the “walls keep tumbling down.” When you have one chronic illness, you are more likely to get others, so you keep experiencing that heartbreak. This song has been a true gift to pick myself up again.

3. “You Don’t Know About Me” by Ella Vos

“This is my body. This is my war.”

This song was written as an ode to women’s rights, but I think it works well as a chronic illness fight song. A lot of people have opinions on what is best for you, about what you should or should not be doing. Sometimes you just want to push them all away, even if they are trying to help, because nobody really understands how hard you are trying.

4. “Lights and Buzz” by Jack’s Mannequin

“Streets look the same but nothing’s as it was.”

This song is amazing after you’ve had a long day at the doctor’s office or a trip to the emergency room. It was written after the lead singer was finished with his cancer treatment, so it’s written by someone who knows what it’s like when your body turns against you, but things have to keep moving forward. This song fills up that empty feeling I get when I walk away from an appointment and have to wait for more bad news. It makes me remember I’m alive and no matter what, I can be part of the happiness even if life isn’t turning out as I imagined.

5. “Don’t Let Me Down” by Joy Williams

“Crashing, hit a wall. Right now I need a miracle.”

This is a cover of the original by The Chainsmokers and Daya. This is just a pure, stripped down version of a song with lyrics that are good to wallow in. As a chronic illness warrior you can’t be expected not to wallow sometimes and this song is a desperate plea.

6. “White Flag” by Sabrina Carpenter

“Palms out, want to beg for luck but I’m way too proud never giving up.”

Honestly, it was extremely difficult to pick one lyric to quote. With other lyrics like “never win if you never lose,” and “I’m up late on the telephone and I’m all alone with the dial tone.” This song has been one of my favorite “sick anthems.” I use it to remind me it is OK to let yourself sink into the melancholy of it all. The chorus in fact chants to let yourself feel all the sadness and harshness, but not to let it take over your life, which can be hard to do when you’re in chronic pain.

“I’ll throw the white flag of surrender. Knock me down but not forever. Just for now.”

7. “Her Diamonds” by Rob Thomas

“She says, ‘What the hell I just can’t win for losing.’ Then she lays back down.”

This is one of those clichés songs that almost everyone has on their chronically ill playlist. But it’s for a very good reason. Rob Thomas wrote this song talking about his wife’s autoimmune disease. It perfectly captures both sides of the story. He focuses on her feelings and her pain, and how those things make him feel helpless. I know for myself I have a great support system and I know my family, especially my mom, has probably looked on me with the same eyes as Rob looks at his wife on her really bad days. This song just really gets the struggle many of us go through. It feels like it was written about me and it’s nice to feel understood.

8. “Good Morning” by Bleachers

“One foot out and I know the weight is coming because I left by the bed last night.”

This song is a little bit of humor and true feelings. Mornings can be a very hard time for most people with a chronic illness. This song to me is about being between two worlds, one sick and one healthy. I like how the sad and lost lyrics are paired with such upbeat music. I just feel like it holds a sense of irony that is similar to the irony that can be found with having an invisible illness. I also want to throw this lyric in, “Everybody moving around like nothing had changed but something had changed in me.” After getting your diagnosis it’s sort of surreal because you are relieved to have answers, but now that you know it’s not going away, you have to start adapting and let go of the before when you were “healthy.” This song is good for those early stages of, “What is my life now?”

9. “Just Hold On by Steve” Aoki and Louis Tomlinson

“What do you want them to say when you’re gone? That you gave up or you kept going on.”

This song is a bit cliché, but it’s inspiring because it honestly helps to listen to those sometimes. The human experience can be super cliché and this song poses some good questions to think about. It’s one of those songs that inspires you to find your inner strength with questions, “What do you do when a chapter ends? Do you close the book and never read it again?” Letting go of a pain-free life filled with hope now feels like turning to an old chapter in a book. As much as you want to, you can’t go back because the story arc moves you forward. I listen to this song when I lose perspective.

10. “Bring On The Rain” by Jo Dee Messina, featuring Tim McGraw

“It’s almost like the hard times circle round.”

This song has really seen me through a lot. Through my earliest diagnosis of degenerative disc disease and having a stomach issue it took my whole life for someone to identify, to getting the news about my autoimmune disease. Just when I start getting used to one diagnosis, another thing pops up and is a whole different issue. But like in this song, getting a new diagnosis is just a lost battle, it’s not the war. It might get me down, but I will find a way to pick myself up and fight on.

I hope you can use some of these in your playlist, and please share with me some of your favorites.

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Thinkstock Image By: HARR120N

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