This Thanksgiving, I Am Grateful for My Journey With Chronic Illness


I had lofty ideas of what I wanted to write about today. I suppose I still like to think of myself as Sam on the West Wing, with a sharp wit and a powerful tongue that can whip up the best verbiage in a moment’s notice! Afterall, I was a professional writer before the traumatic brain injury that changed my life in 2011. I still have the talent in there somewhere, but accessing it isn’t always easy…especially on a day I am not feeling well.

I don’t know why I am not as sharp as I would like to be today – it could be the weather, over-exertion, a migraine or even medication changes (there have been a lot of adjustments as a result of my most recent flare). The truth is that I have no idea why I have brain fog today. I am simply aware that this is the contraction that accompanies expansion. Yesterday was a great day. I felt normal for the first time in a while, as I prepared mashed potatoes with my daughter for the very first time in anticipation of our Thanksgiving Feast! By bedtime, however, I felt a crawling in my skin and tingling in my legs. Did I overdo it? I don’t know. The only certainty at this moment is that rest is required. And although I have so much I want to express in writing, that’s not going to happen today. Perhaps I will paint my thoughts instead, as the language of color allows me to communicate when I am at a loss for words.

As I sit here, though, I am aware of a simple feeling that can so easily be expressed on this Thanksgiving… I am climbing back from an acute flare of an undiagnosed chronic illness combined with adrenal insufficiency and hypopituitarism, and I am deeply grateful.  I have come so far since this episode began in August. Even as I feel uncomfortable and fatigued today, I am filled with gratitude that that the acute pain has remained at bay (we weren’t sure it would hold as I peeled back the acute medications), that I was able to drive down to see my horse today (a huge accomplishment), that I felt normal for a little while yesterday (yes! normal!), that I am making huge progress (no matter how slow) and I am home with my loving family (so much laughter in this house).

woman smiling with her horse

Chronic illness brings life into perspective. As I continue to walk this healing journey, the rough patches help me to simplify the list of that which will make me “happy.” The result? I feel an almost continuous happiness and contentment even in the midst of struggle. My root of gratitude runs deep. This Thanksgiving, I am grateful for the journey.

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