A water color illustration of a woman with brown hair.

Everyone knows what it’s like to feel as if they are being pulled in different directions. The notion of struggling to meet all the commitments and pressures associated with appearances and possessions can be difficult to fathom while most of humanity is crying out in fear, anger and sorrow. All is happening so fast.

Where does that leave us chronic illness dragon tamers, who must face chronic illness each and every day?

I personally can’t help but feel disconnected with world events. I see, I empathize but I am on the sidelines…in my recliner or in bed.

And yet, part of me wants so badly to belong. I miss too many things to count, like friends, outings, traveling, wearing real clothes (instead of the soft kind). I miss going to the theater, to the movies. I miss getting a massage every now and then, doing yoga and riding horses. And every mother knows how much our children and grandchildren mean to us. I miss mine. I miss showing up for birthdays and showers, and shopping with my girls. I am painfully aware of all the missing out… this is hardest when I say no to an event, even a small one, because my body simply won’t permit me to leave the house.

On the other hand, I want to be left alone. I don’t want too many phone calls or emails, and I don’t want company over because I am forced to spend my limited amount of energy on the chronic illness dragon taming… managing the illness 24/7. Then there are the ins and outs of daily life to deal with as best I can. I really don’t want to socialize. Really, I don’t. But the fact remains that I miss being in the world and so sometimes, I say yes. I put on a smile, a little make-up and my best stretch clothes and just go for it, hoping that my body will hold up for that occasion when I can feel almost normal for a little while.

In every single one of life’s events, we are called to make a decision based on what is dear to us and what is doable. We are constantly pulled in two directions: one is a matter of surviving and the other, a matter of living. You can’t have one without the other. It’s a balancing act that we can accept over time.

The sooner we learn to stop, to look deeper and really listen from within: only one direction becomes clear. There is no struggle if we become aware, truly present in this one moment. It is here that emerges a knowing that each of us is a drop in the cosmic ocean that is life, and that everything is connected. It is here that our heart is at peace, and where the healing goes on.

Follow this journey on Marianne Granger.

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Thinkstock Image By: bruniewska


Life with chronic illness is so much more than just the physical symptoms. Fighting to make it through each day can take a huge toll on your mental and emotional health. It’s incredibly difficult to keep “powering through” some days when you know this illness will never go away. Feelings of depression, frustration and hopelessness are unfortunately all too common in the chronic illness community. (If you feel this way, know you are not alone.)

During National Suicide Prevention Week (September 10-16), it is especially important to not only raise awareness about how those with chronic illness are affected by suicidal thoughts, but to also celebrate the beautiful parts of life — the reasons people have to always keep fighting.

We asked our Mighty community to share what encourages them to keep going when living with chronic illness makes them feel hopeless. Their answers are beautiful, and we hope they give you hope, too.

Here’s what our community shared with us:

1. “Knowing the next ‘good day’ could be just around the bend. There are a ton of promising treatments coming down the line soon for a lot of chronic illnesses. Also knowing I’m not alone and have plenty of spoonies to sympathize with. And Netflix. Lots of Netflix.” – Katherine R.

2. “My doctor’s unwavering determination to find an answer, and then give me back the quality of life I didn’t even realize I had lost over the years. He fights for me when I don’t feel like I can fight for myself.” – Jill A.

3. “Burlesque dancing – it has been my reality escape for a few years now.” – Joanne B.

4. “My besties, my friends, my family, organizations I volunteer with and knowing there are others out there who are like me and we need help. I will keep up the fight because together we can all make a difference. I care [for] and support all who live with chronic pain.” – Judith F. I.

5. “My girls. They have so much compassion and understanding for such little people! When I feel my illnesses make me a bad mom they remind me of all the ways it’s made them better and me. It’s not easy, but they are my inspiration. They are my fight. They fuel my fire to get up and push through.” – Jessica U.

6. “Music. Don’t know where I would be without it.” – Phoebe D.

7. “My television shows. I have to know what happens next week. They keep me going when nothing else does.” – Liberty W.

8. “Jesus. Reading scripture. Praying. My God has all the hope I need that my life with diseases and pain is not without purpose, greater than I can comprehend.” – Kathryn A.

9. “My sheer stubbornness. I refuse to let my diseases beat me!” – Jessica R.

10. “I might have to wait a long time, but medical progress will come. I’m not even 30 years old yet and my conditions aren’t [terminal]. I’m going to be living with these for a long time and eventually medicine will find ways to help me or maybe even cure me. Could be sooner than I think.” – Jessica S.

11. “My overwhelming curiosity of the natural world.” – Hannah D.

12. “Sheer competitiveness. I refuse to let anything beat me, including my own body. Some days it might win a battle, but I will win the war.” – Morgan D.

13. “My husband. He’s the reason I smile, the good in my life when all I feel is pain… I keep going for the moments when I can make him smile. It’s the least I can do after all he does to support me physically, emotionally and financially. Even if the bad days far outnumber the good, those good moments with him are worth so much more.” – Kerry W.

14. “Keeping my promises to my rescued dogs and cats to give them a safe and loving home for the rest of their lives.” – Kemmeth R. W.

15. “What encourages me to keep fighting the hopelessness I am surrounded by day in and day out is becoming an Independent Beauty Consultant. It gets me excited for my future with the disease.” – Alane P.

16. “My son. Any time I feel like giving up, I know I have to keep fighting because he needs me. He literally saved my life.” – Jim T.

17. “Antidepressants. Just being honest. I have a great husband and great kid and yet it wasn’t enough to get me out of the hole of despair of being sick almost every day for over a year. It’s a lot to face and I refuse to be ashamed. I am proud of the person I can be with my antidepressants.” – Jacqueline B.

18. “My niece Shug. Since I started raising her there is nothing I won’t endure to see her smile every day. Every day is hell inside and I still wear a smile most of the day because she is with me. I don’t know how I got along for years without her. Giving up will never be a thought again.” – Brittany A.

19. “Everyone who ever says something negative about me and my chronic illnesses. I may not be able to do much, but I can prove them wrong, and that’s all the motivation I need to keep going.” – Bonnie P.

20. “My wife – she comes first in all things… Her happiness is my happiness.” – Johnathan M.

21. “Spiritual perspective – that I am being guided, I am not in control. Practicing mindfulness and self-compassion.” – Karen W. N.

22. “My chronic illness friends who draw hope and inspiration from me as well as my passion to advocate for others. I have a unique opportunity to reach various target audiences as a doctor and rare disease patient.” – Brandi S.

23. “[I hope] that one day I may get new lungs.” – Nat C.

24. “My passion for henna. I’m a henna artist who loves, loves doing henna and just learning about it all. The henna community is extremely supportive too.” – Aneeta K. N.

25. “The start of a new day always fills me with fresh hope – that and seemingly eternal optimism, no matter what! But when things have been really tough, we pack our bags and head away for a few days of nature and solitude, a reminder of how amazing the world is.” – Lisa K.

26. “My fur babies – they give me a reason to get up every day and I know they love me unconditionally no matter how I look, or if I have to cancel plans, they’re always there. And they just make me happy. They turn a crappy day into a good day.” – Janelle F.

27. “My crochet. It means so much to me, and working on long-term projects means I can always give myself something to focus on.” – Erika D. B.

28. “Knowing I will be going back to school soon.” – Jennifer T.

29. “I try to focus on the good days. I remember the days when I have felt pretty OK, or at least better, and try to remember my symptoms tend to ebb and flow, so though today, this week, this month, may have been awful, I will probably have an ebb in my symptoms soon and not feel this bad forever.” – Alicia T.

30. “Knowing there is purpose in my pain. This experience may help others in their fight. I fight for them, for all of us.” – Emily N.

31. ”’The best is yet to come.’ Life in general is what encourages me. There’s so much to see, experience and live for. I’ve been through hard times of despair, depression and feelings of hopelessness, only to come out on the other side smiling and laughing.” – Effie K.

32. “My writing. I write about chronically ill characters. It helps me strive to bring awareness and give hope to others.” – Morgan S. R.

33. “Not every day is bad; I look for the little things – like the joy I feel working with our leadership students. It’s small and minute, but so precious. Those moments are worth living for.” – Carolyn H.

34. “This chronic pain page on FB. It is my support group! I love them so dearly! Hugs.” – Judy A.

35. “I keep looking for a way to smile, even when I feel like crying. It can be a child laughing, an old couple holding hands or even a bird trying to catch a bug. Yes, I have days when it’s all too much but I have to just say to myself that tomorrow will be better and I have hope I will find a cure one day.” – Melissa W.

36. “My grandson. I want to watch him grow up. I cannot give up!” – Michelle N.

37. “Maybe it’s funny, but my cat. She needs me for playing, eating, etc. but when I can’t get up from my bed she lays next to me. Quietly. She just looks into my eyes and looks like she understands me and she can feels my pain. Her eyes looks like tells me: I understand you, no problem, it’s OK. Tomorrow will be there for cleaning, playing, washing dishes, etc.” – Brigó N.

38. “My creative pursuits. I’m a writer, photographer, artist. It’s my coping mechanism.” – Courtney S.

39. “I stop, take a breath and remember this is just one moment in one day. It’s not about tomorrow, the next day or the rest of my life. I focus on what I can do to make things better in that moment, accept what I can’t and just focus on getting through that one moment. And then the next…” – Lisa A.

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.

If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, the Trevor Project at 1-866-488-7386 or text “START” to 741-741.

I have some chronic illnesses that doctors haven’t figured out yet. I’m extremely exhausted all the time, I have muscle weakness and lot of pain, especially in my legs. The cane I was using wasn’t working well enough and I had to use motorized carts anytime I went out to a store.

A few weeks ago I got a four-wheel walker and it’s changed my life. I can walk a lot more, be more independent! It’s great!! Instead of my mom having to help me get up or help support me as I walk, I can use my walker. I can go outside more, and am more likely to be able to fix myself a snack. It’s awesome!

woman sitting on her four-wheel walker

I may only be 21, but this walker has made a huge difference in my life. I’m able to be a little more independent which makes a huge difference.

If you have any struggles similar to mine or even different than mine and think a mobility aid (cane, walker, etc.) may help you, go for it. Your age doesn’t matter because age is just a number anyways. If you’re younger like me, that doesn’t make you any less worthy. It could have the possibility to change your life and that’s so much more important than others thinking you’re “weird” or give you weird looks.

This post originally appeared on Spoonie Life.

We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.

If you live with chronic illness, you’re probably no stranger to hospital stays, whether they last for a few hours or a few weeks. Being in the hospital is not a fun experience. It can be stressful, lonely and, quite frankly, boring to lie in bed for hours on end.

However, those of us who are “frequent fliers” at the hospital have learned over time how to prepare and what to bring to make the stay as comfortable as possible. There have been times I went in for what I naively thought would be a “quick trip,” only to be stuck in a hospital room for hours. My phone died, I grew cold and hungry and literally had nothing to do except talk to myself or count the dots on the ceiling. Needless to say, I’ve learned my lesson; now I never go to the doctor without a backpack full of supplies.

Many others with chronic illness have similar hospital “go bags” they keep packed at all times in case of an emergency. The items we pack range from fun to practical, but all are important for maintaining physical and mental well-being during the stay.

To help you prepare for a comfortable hospital stay, we asked our Mighty community to share which items they find essential to keep in their hospital bag. Here are their recommendations.

Just so you know, we’ve selected these links to make shopping easier for you. We do not receive any funds from purchases you make.

1. Water

camelbak water bottle

Although hospitals should provide you with water, it can be helpful to bring your own supply or even a large, reusable bottle to make sure you always have plenty on hand.

Joanne Shabazian told us she plans to bring water with her for her next hospital stay. “It’s sometimes hard to find a nurse who is not too busy to refill the water pitcher,” she said.

Buy the water bottle above for $13.95 on Amazon.

2. Soft Blanket

pink fuzzy blanket

Hospital bedding is often not the comfiest. Try bringing along your favorite fuzzy blanket to keep you warm and help you feel cozy.

“My blanket. Yes, I’m 31 and still need my blanket. I’ve had it since I was born. It’s still in amazing condition and it helps calm my issues. Doesn’t matter if it’s a migraine, hurt feelings, upset stomach, pain, full body itch… It helps,” said Nicole Ludwig.

Jessi Mathews Rush added, “I have a photo blanket with family and friends that I always make sure makes it to the hospital. That way I can always be wrapped in something positive.”

Buy the blanket above for $28.99 on Amazon.

3. Adult Coloring Book

adult coloring book designs

If you need a way to keep your hands occupied during a long hospital stay, there are many adult coloring books out there that can be a fun and creative way for you to pass the time and relieve some stress.

“[I bring] coloring books – once I’ve had pain relief and it’s kicked in, I will generally do a little bit at a time,” wrote Rhiannon Buley.

Buy the coloring book above for $4.99 on Amazon.

4. Health Notebook

health and medical history notebook

If you use a notebook to organize and store all your medical information, chances are you probably bring this with you most places anyway. But regardless of whether you keep this info in a notebook, file folders or an app on your phone, it’s critical to have with you at the hospital. That way, all your medical history, emergency contacts, current medications, doctors’ phone numbers, etc. are all readily available for the hospital staff to reference while treating you.

Ern Lee told us, “I always bring my health notebook explaining my rare condition. The front page is a cover letter written by my primary specialist. It’s worded so that someone with no medical knowledge can understand it with pages of tests, visits, and diagnoses that follow. It saves me time and frustration.”

Buy the notebook above for $21.90 on Amazon.

5. Facial Wipes

burts bees facial cleansing towelettes

If you want to quickly freshen up without having to take a shower (which can be an ordeal if you’re hooked up to IVs, monitors, etc.), having some cleansing wipes on hand might be a good idea. You don’t even have to get out of bed to use them. Even though it’s a small thing, feeling fresh and clean can be a mood-booster.

Karen D. Tippie said, “Face cleaning wipes, or, if you’re not particular, baby wipes. Sometimes your skin just needs freshening up.”

Buy the towelettes above for $4.67 on Amazon.

6. Mini Fan

honeywell mini fan

Whether you tend to feel hot and stuffy in your hospital room or just need some white noise, a small portable fan might be a good item to carry with you for your next stay.

Kayla Kaiser wrote, “I have found [a miniature fan] helps block out a lot of the outside hospital noise so you can get some sleep and is now a hospital essential for me.”

Buy the fan above for $11.88 on Amazon.

7. (Disposable) Underwear

pack of disposable underwear

Bringing along extra underwear to the hospital with you is a must. There’s no quicker way to feel icky than realizing you’ve run out of clean undies. My personal rule of thumb, whether I’m going to the hospital or on a trip, is to bring at least twice as many pairs as you think you’ll need. It never hurts to be over-prepared in this department.

Liliana Cook recommends taking a pack of disposable underwear. “Don’t bring home dirty undergarments from a dirty hospital!”

Buy the pack of underwear above (5-ct) for $9.99 on Amazon.

8. USB Extension Cable (for Chargers)

usb extension cable

For many of us, phones are a lifeline to the outside world and can be a source of entertainment, distraction and communication – as long as they stay charged. In case there’s not an outlet right next to your bed, consider bringing a extension cord to make sure your phone (as well as all your other electronic devices) stay charged.

Jessica Jacklin-Neerenberg said she always brings her phone charger and an extension cord. “They put outlets in the weirdest places sometimes!”

Natasha Douglas added, “My long phone charger. There is never a close [power outlet] and I’m usually too tired and unable to concentrate to focus on a book or movie, so it’s basic things on my phone.”

Buy the extension cable above for $5.69 on Amazon.

9. Chapstick

cherry chapstick

Hospitals can be cool and dry, and the last thing you need to worry about while being treated for serious health concerns is dry and cracked lips. Throw some chapstick or lip balm in your bag just in case.

Jenn L. Bullock wrote, “Chapstick… [My] lips get sorry and cracked in there.”

Buy the chapstick above for $3.99 on Amazon.

10. Medication

portable pill organizer

Although we may think of hospitals as being stocked with medications, there’s always the chance they won’t have the specific medication or dosages you require on hand. You may want to bring along several days’ or even weeks’ worth of your medication (ideally in their original bottles/packaging with copies of the prescription/dosages) just in case. (Note: Talk to your local hospital about their policies about bringing in your own medication.)

“My medication! Some of my meds they don’t supply at the hospitals. Also when they’re going through what you take and the dosing, when you’re on a lot it’s easy to forget. So much easier and safer to look at the actual bottle to know the dosing of your medication. Some of my most important medications they do not have at the hospital!” said Cassidy Schod.

Shelley Christine Amos added, “Next time I go I will make sure I take my own meds. Unbelievable the number of medications the hospital pharmacy doesn’t have. And if they say they have ordered it and it is coming… something always gets lost.”

Buy the pill organizer above for $12.99 on Amazon.

11. Stuffed Animal

aromatherapy and hot/cold therapy purple stuffed animal

No one is ever too old for a stuffed animal. Hospitals can be dreary, stressful and scary at times, and there is no shame in bringing along your favorite stuffed animal to keep you company and make you feel at home. Some, such as the one shown above, are even made with aromatherapy and can be microwaved/frozen to provide hot/cold therapy.

Savannah Pittsley wrote, “[I bring] my therapy bear. It is a bear that can be used hot or cold or room temperature. It is on the heavy side but it also has good smelling stuff in that helps me relax.”

Meghan Lee added, “A stuffed animal. May sound cheesy but gives me something to hold onto from home.”

Buy the stuffed animal above for $24.95 on Amazon.

12. HDMI Cable

hdmi cable

If you’re bringing along your laptop and plan to watch TV shows or movies to pass the time, consider packing an HDMI cable. If there’s a TV in your hospital room, you can hook up your laptop and watch on the big screen.

Endotwins recommended, “[Bring an] HDMI cord so you can watch Netflix on the big TV!”

Buy the cable above for $6.99 on Amazon.

13. Dry Shampoo

suave dry shampoo

If you struggle with pain and fatigue, washing your hair can be difficult on an average day at home. But if you’re in the hospital, this can become an even tougher task to complete. Pack some dry shampoo in your bag so your hair stays clean and you feel fresh.

Brandi Stewart recommends bringing along some dry shampoo as well as a no-rinse body wash.

Buy the dry shampoo above for $4.73 on Amazon.

14. Ear Plugs

quiet sound ear plugs

Between the beeping of monitors, people talking in the hall and nurses coming in to check on you every few hours, hospitals can be noisy. If you want to tune it all out so you can get some rest or avoid sensory overload, consider investing in a good pair of ear plugs.

Kathy Duke Richie wrote, “I’m going to say earplugs. I never get any rest when I’m there. That damn intercom and people walking in and out. Sheesh!”

Buy the ear plugs above for $6.98 on Amazon.

15. Snacks

insulated cooler

Hospital food isn’t always the tastiest, and if you have specific dietary restrictions or requirements, it may not be easy to track down food that is safe for you to eat. Pack some of your favorite snacks and meals to hold you over and keep you nourished.

Joanne Shabazian wrote, “Next time I go I will bring water and snacks. Several times I missed meals in the hospital due to procedures or delayed discharge.”

Pam Greenhill said she brings her own food. “Hospitals tend to look at you funny when you tell them you are vegan and gluten-free, even if it’s for medical reasons.”

Buy the insulated cooler above for $17.99 on Amazon.

16. Pajama Bottoms

pink and blue pajama bottoms

While practical, hospital gowns are not the best at covering up our backsides, and they tend to be very drab. Bring along a pair of soft, warm pajama pants to keep you feeling cozy and covered. (Note: Ask your attending doctor/nurse first if you are allowed to wear pajama bottoms or other clothing.)

Elisabeth Wheeler recommended bringing comfy PJ pants. “You want to be covered when they have you walk the halls.”

Meaghan Kate said she brings pajamas that are IV-friendly as well as a robe.

Buy the pajama bottoms above for $17.99 on Amazon.

17. Eye Mask

eye mask

Similar to ear plugs, an eye mask can be a great way to block out the harsh hospital lights so you can reduce sensory input and get some rest.

Jenn Landon wrote, ” I always pack an eye mask so I can sleep despite the blinking lights of monitors and lights of nurses checking on me.”

Jill Fuersich makes sure to bring both ear plugs and an eye mask. “Hospitals can be so bright and noisy – it’s nice to have a way to escape that (especially since loud noises and bright lights can trigger migraines).”

Buy the eye mask above for $9.99 on Amazon.

18. E-Reader


Books are a great way to pass the time in the hospital. If you’re like me and know you’ll go through several in one stay, an e-reader can be a great way to load up on books without adding weight or taking up too much space in your bag.

Karen D. Tippie wrote, “Kindle/e-reader and lots of books loaded and ready to go. There are many sites you can use to find free or discounted books (Freebooksy, Bookbub, etc.).”

Tiffany Leonard said, “If I have my games, books, music and Netflix to keep me occupied, then I don’t feel as anxious.”

Buy the Kindle above for $79.99 on Amazon.

19. Fuzzy Socks

pink, black and white fuzzy socks

always get cold in the hospital, and the first thing to freeze are my toes. Pack a pair of fuzzy socks or two to help you stay warm and bring some fun colors/patterns to the room.

“My socks! It sounds silly but my husband bought me socks with colorful fruits on them just before I had an emergency procedure done. They bring me a sense of peace every time I visit the hospital now,” said Nadell Knee.

Cheyenne DeSpain added that she brings socks as well as gloves for when the hospital is freezing.

Buy the socks above for $6.99 on Amazon.

20. Pillow

pillow that says 'you got this'

For many, bringing along your own pillow(s) is a necessity for hospital stays. The pillows provided by the hospital so often just don’t cut it and can be very uncomfortable or even exacerbate pain conditions. Bring along whichever pillows will help make your stay more comfortable.

Makenzie Elizabeth McDowell wrote, “When I was hospitalized I took my favorite pillow. It made it easier for me to sleep.”

Stephanie Murchison added, “A small travel-size pillow to support my neck or any other part of my body. Hospitals like to be stingy on giving out pillows and some don’t give a pillow at all.”

Buy the pillow above for $7.99 on Amazon.

21. Rubber Sandals

turquoise rubber sandal

Rubber sandals or flip-flops might not be the comfiest pair of shoes, but they can really come in handy at the hospital if you need to quickly slip your shoes on or off to walk around. They are also great to wear in the bathroom/shower as they can get wet and be washed and dried easily.

Sheryl Chan wrote, “Always a pair of rubber slippers. Easy to slip on to go anywhere in a jiffy, and also to wear in the shower.”

Buy the sandals above for $11.99 on Amazon.

22. Lotion

bath & body works relaxing lotion

If the hospital air makes your skin feel dry, bring along your favorite lotion to keep you moisturized and smelling good. A lotion with soothing fragrances or essential oils can also be helpful for relaxation.

Kathy A. Zabliski told us, “[I bring] my favorite fragranced lotion. It always makes me feel so much better. When [I am] in bed and wearing those hospital gowns, having the nurse rub my back with my favorite fragrance makes me feel ‘human.'”

Jessica Jacklin Neerenberg added that she brings lotion and lip balm because the air in hospitals can be very dry.

Buy the lotion above for $12.47 on Amazon.

23. External Hard Drive

external hard drive

Watching movies or TV shows on your computer can be a great distraction at the hospital. However, if you know you’ll be there a while and have limited storage space on your computer, try loading some movies onto an external hard drive or flash drive to make sure you’ve got enough content to get you through.

“I bring my external hard drive which is loaded with over 500 of my favorite movies and TV shows and plug it in to my laptop. That is all I need to get me through the boring hospital stays,” said Ryan Thompson.

Buy the hard drive above for $23.99 on Amazon.

24. Toiletries Bag

toiletries bag

Similar to a toiletry bag with travel-size containers you might pack for a trip, having a toiletry bag packed with small bottles of shampoo, conditioner and lotion as well as other necessities like deodorant, toothbrush and toothpaste is a great thing to have prepared in case of a hospital stay.

Cassidy Schod said, “I have a whole hospital bag that’s a duffel bag packed, with the face wash I want, toothbrush and toothpaste, deodorant, even a razor!”

Jessi Fox recommended bringing travel-size toiletries in brands you like. Lisa Prins noted that she brings her own soap because she is allergic to the soap provided by the hospital.

Buy the toiletries bag above for $9.99 on Amazon.

My body is what it is at the moment. Finding acceptance, even love, for this swollen and unrecognizable body is downright bold in a culture that fears extra weight – perhaps more than we fear illness.

I already have several conditions that challenge my body, including adrenal insufficiency, dysautonomia, migraine, and hypopituitarism… with an anorexic history. And now I’m dealing with something undiagnosed so I’m on steroids for acute pain, which means extra swelling. So be it!

I’ve decided to love and embrace my body. Over the last week, I bought new clothes that fit. When I wear them, I feel cute! But more importantly, I feel enthusiastic about getting dressed because the outfits are comfortable and just my size.

When it feels difficult to love my cushingoid cheeks, swollen neck and protruding stomach… I’m daring to love all of me. Even when I feel judged and misunderstood, I’m daring to give myself the love I used to crave from others. And when I feel unlovable, or afraid that people will walk away, I’m choosing to turn away from isolation and allow the love of friends and family into my vulnerable heart.

Through love and vulnerability I have found a bedrock of strength. And truthfully, I feel deeply loved – maybe even the most loved I’ve ever felt in my life.

We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.

I have wanted to write this piece for a while now, but as always, procrastination got the best of me. This time however, I’m glad it did. Its been a constant in and out of hospitals these last two years, with plenty of healing and some unfortunate reverse healing.

When it’s a constant whirl of grey walls and IV pump beeps, it is a struggle to keep your spirits up and stay positive. You hear horror stories of abuse and negligence associated with all hospitals, both big and small, more so now than ever. Social media advancements shed light on these happenings but rarely highlight the extra step nurses usually take to guarantee maximum strength.

I think society has forgotten the comfort and care nurses excel at. Are all nurses perfect 100 percent of the time? No. Are you? No. Nurses have an extremely hard job and work long shifts without breaks, food, drinks, checking in on their own families, or using the bathroom. This is not meant to demean or negate the harder experiences some may have had, but I am blessed enough to say that I have always had wonderful nursing and zero complaints. Some have been better than others, but I like to believe I caught them on an off night, and that says a lot with my infinite office visits, tests, ER trips, and hospital stays throughout several different hospitals from New York to Maryland, small towns to big cities.

To stand out amongst all the good, you must excel, and these following nurses did just that and more.

During one of my longest hospital stays, I met a truly remarkable nurse. I was on her unit for a week before being transferred to a different unit, to my dismay. I have trouble with change in the medical world. Once I am comfortable with a floor and know the unit, I do not like to change.

“Unbelievable!” was her first word to me when she got the call that out of all her patients, I was the one bed management had chosen to transfer. She had a gentle touch and a sweet laugh. She knew how to minimize pain without heavy narcotics or babying me. Most importantly, she took her time with patients and everything was, “Oh, it’s no problem!” making you feel as if you are the only patient on the entire floor. She truly was one of the most hands-on nurses I have ever had during my week stay.

Her strength was advocating for patients. For example, I had come up from having an nasogastric tube placed and she took one look and me, one look at the tube, and immediately knew something was wrong. She knew that this was not going to work for nutrition and immediately got on the phone with the doctors. Through my tears and vomiting episodes she helped me stay clean and calm, assuring me everything was being done to have it removed. She kept on top of everything, never forgot one small thing and followed up without you even having to ask.

On more than one occasion we got talking and she spoke of her family and life in another country, and the hardships of life. She talked of her family and of my own. She got to know me as a person, not a patient. She laughed with me and at one point cried with me. She truly cared.

Part of my anxiety makes me constantly worry that I am burdening someone or asking too much, to which she always quickly shut down. I looked forward to her shifts knowing she would bring comfort and peace of mind, which truly helps in the healing process.

One of my most recent hospital stays proved that sometimes laughter is the best medicine. It was an outpatient surgery and I only had her that one day I was there, yet she made a huge impact. Due to the short nature of time, she didn’t really know who I was or most of my health history, but she comforted patients with laughter and distraction.

For anyone who has ever had surgery, you know how painful waking up can be. With this nurse, tears quickly turned into laughter. And, before I knew it, she was done with what she had come in to do and the worst part was over without having known it even started. Any nurse that can completely distract you from the first few hours of post-op pain deserves a gold star.

I have had nurses laugh when they get intestinal juice on them from working with my J-tube, instead of being disgusted and making a big deal out of it, which would have in turn made me feel bad. I have had nurses make it their goal to convince me to go into nursing as they believe in me and the impact I could make when I doubt myself. I have had nurses take unwanted news and turn the perspective around or convince me I do not need to worry. If I do need to worry, they worry with me.

There was a time I stayed on a floor that was very restrictive to visitors outside of certain hours and phones were to be turned off during various hours. I had to have an EKG done which came back abnormal and was rushed for an echocardiogram. Then I anxiously waited for a cardiac specialist to come consult. When the news came back good, she seemed happier than I was, giving me a high-five, and a phone for me to call my parents to relieve their worries as well. Other workers on the floor did not agree with my special privilege to use the phone, however she wasn’t hearing anything of it.

Once I even had a nurse (who did not know me) who realized I had not eaten in over 24 hours due to a procedure. The nurse went out of their way, tracked down my doctor, having him change my status from “nothing by mouth” so I could have dinner. He wanted to ensure that I did not have to wait until the following morning when patient meals opened again. He found himself with only 12 minutes to do all of this, and ended with one minute to spare. I never saw him again after I was taken out of recovery and back to my unit.

The impact nurses have on the healing process is remarkable and cannot be duplicated. Please remember they are human too. Always thank a nurse, they are key to your care!

Originally shared on I Had a Good Day.

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