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How Chronic Illness Has Changed My Life for the Better

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I could easily list all the negative aspects of living my life with chronic illnesses but I don’t like to focus on this too much. You may think there are no positive aspects to living with chronic illnesses but there are, and I want to tell you how they have changed me as a person.

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I live with three chronic conditions that have a big impact on my life: Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, Hashimoto’s thyroiditis and myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome. These conditions impact me physically by causing pain (nerve pain, muscle spasms and headaches), fatigue, dizziness and weakness along with many other symptoms. The pain is constant and often severe and the fatigue is very debilitating. It has stopped me from doing a lot of things in my life. It caused me to miss a lot of school when I was younger and has interfered with my career and dreams. So it may surprise you to know that I feel there have been a number of positive aspects to being unwell.

Recently I saw an article on chronic illness titled “What would you do tomorrow if you were suddenly cured?” This made me think about how I would answer that question. If I woke up tomorrow and was physically able to do anything, I would take my dogs for a long walk. I would watch them having fun, enjoy being outside in the air, walk for miles and enjoy nature. It is impossible to describe how happy this would make me. When simple tasks are hard to accomplish, you don’t take anything for granted. I appreciate everything I do have. I have a wonderful family and partner, a house I love, my gorgeous dogs and supportive friends. I don’t worry about little things like how I look or what people think of me like I used to as my ill health has allowed me to focus on what is important in my life.

I have also gained life skills and values that I most likely would not have if I had not been forced to make some changes in my life due to illness. Developing Hashimoto’s thyroiditis and ME at 29 years old made me realize my stress levels in day-to-day life were far too high and severely affecting my health. I began trying to find out more on how to reduce stress and worry in my life, I stopped comparing myself to others and I learned to be happy with myself. I started by learning how to meditate and practice mindfulness. Through easy daily practices I learned to live in the moment, practice self-compassion and take care of myself better in the process. This benefitted me hugely and I am grateful that I was forced to make these changes.

When I was off work for a long period, I found it extremely difficult as I enjoy being busy and learning new skills. As I was recovering slowly, I taught myself to draw with the help of a book. This took my mind off the pain I was in and I found it very therapeutic. I also began writing about my experiences to raise awareness of the conditions I struggle with and to hopefully provide support to others in a similar position. This gave me a sense of achievement and was crucial in my recovery process.

As ridiculous as it may sound to some, I wouldn’t change my life at all. I wouldn’t wish to be a “normal, healthy” person and I have no regrets. What I have learned throughout the last few years has changed my life for the better and made me a stronger person. Now it is time for me to create new dreams and ambitions and find a way within my limitations to make these a reality. Don’t ever give up hope and don’t ever stop believing in yourself. Believe in compassion, honesty and love. Believe in your dreams and your ability to achieve them.

Be unafraid. Be proud. Be yourself.

Thinkstock photo via Zoonar RF.

Originally published: March 10, 2017
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