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3 Ways Chronic Illness Has Changed Me for the Better

Chronic Illness is a heartless thief. Anyone who struggles with chronic illness or pain can attest to that.

I have rightfully devoted a lot of time to grieving, processing and writing about the things that my illness (amplified musculoskeletal
pain syndrome) has taken from me.

Allowing myself to feel the hardness of my illness is instrumental in my journey to accept my circumstances — a journey which I am very much still on. I had to allow the tears, letting them fall for the parts of my life that I have lost.

While I allow myself to acknowledge the thieving characteristics of my illness, I want to be careful not to give it more credit than it deserves. As hard and evil as chronic illness can be, it has undoubtedly given me unique opportunities to grow myself as a human being.

By recognizing the ways I’ve grown as a person through my illness, I take the power back from the thief and celebrate my own strength and resilience.

Here are three ways I want to celebrate myself and my journey to be a better person.


1. I am articulate.

My illness has given me countless opportunities to explain things to people. Whether I’m explaining symptoms to my doctors, feelings to my therapist, or struggles to a friend, I am no stranger to detailed explanation.

Sure, it can be frustrating. In fact, it usually is.

No matter how good at explaining things you are, there will always be people who don’t understand you because they are not you.

However, I have learned so much about the art of communication and explanation because of my illness. Language skills translate very positively into all aspects of my life, and I’m grateful for how my illness has grown my skills.


2. I am compassionate.

I have always attempted to be a compassionate person, but my bad skills regarding social cues and registering the emotions of other people always made that difficult for me. Instead of coming across as compassionate, I’m sure I have been perceived as an emotional bulldozer.

My illness has given me a new perspective about compassion regarding feelings and pain. I am more understanding, patient and thoughtful than I used to be. I can relate to, and sympathize with people better than I ever would have hoped for, and I am so grateful for that.

3. I appreciate little things.

My perspective about joy and happiness has completely shifted due to my illness. I decided to stop giving my circumstances the power over my joy.

When you don’t have much to smile about, you get pretty darn good at hunting for things that might ease the pain even just a little.

There’s something so whimsical and magical about stopping to appreciate the little things in life that make you smile.

Now, I smile when the wind blows my hair into my face.

Now, I smile when my coffee tastes just right.

Now, I smile when I feel the warm sun on my skin.

I’m grateful for how I’ve grown to appreciate the little things in life.

So, how will you celebrate you?

Your journey is unique to you. Please don’t do yourself the disservice of comparing journeys with me, or any other chronic illness fighter.

I just want you to know and recognize that you are growing.

Even if you don’t see it clearly, you are growing and your journey is worth celebrating.

Wherever you find yourself on your journey, I hope this encourages you to take the power back from the thief of chronic illness and claim it as your own. You are strong. Even though I may not know you personally, I am genuinely so proud of you.

Please let yourself grieve, but don’t you dare forget to celebrate your strength. After all you’ve fought through, you owe it to yourself to at least try.

Image Credits: Alathia Hayes

A version of this story originally appeared on alathiahayes.com.

Photo submitted by contributor.