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5 Skills You Learn Through Living With Chronic Illness

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I’ve written a children’s book! It’s taken me years but I’m finally at the stage to start seeking representation from an agent (wish me luck with that one, it’s an ultra competitive market).

Anyway, I have been horrified to find that some literary agents ask for your CV (resume). These two letters strike dread into my heart.

I haven’t touched my CV in years. It starts off well – high academic grades at school, a good degree from University and a year in London as a Business Research Analyst. But then come 12 blank years – 12 years where I’ve been housebound and largely bedbound struggling with ME/CFS.

“I’m such a failure!” I wail to my husband. He gives me a clop round the ears (not literally) and points out that, although I haven’t been at work, I’ve actually learned a lot during the past 12 years.

So, I put my thinking cap on, and it’s not hard to come up with the following skills that chronic illness warriors become pretty adept

1. Patience. Well, we sure have this in abundance. We are continually having to be patient: waiting to get through bad days, waiting for the symptoms to ease and (for those with ME/CFS) waiting, waiting, waiting for a time when we might actually get a little better.

And then there’s the patience we have to endure with every single task we want to do. You desperately need to wash your hair? You need to reply to that email? Sorry, but right now, you have to rest while the jobs pile up. (I’ve had to spread writing this article over a week even though it’s been spilling out of me, desperate to be written.)

2. Determination. Is there anyone out there more determined than those who have to endure chronic illness? We never give up. Ever. No matter what the day throws at us, we have to somehow keep our head above water, keep breathing , keep eating (even if that means spending all day in bed). We fight day in, day out. I call that amazing determination.

3. Empathy. Those with chronic illness can be pretty caring people! I guess we have the time to ask how others are and to listen. Plus we have gained insight into how difficult life can be so we’re better able to support friends going through difficult times themselves.

4. Delegation. Before falling ill, this was not something that came easily to me. I’m one of those people who like to be in control – of everything. But having ME, I’ve had to learn to let go. Tidying, shopping, making phone calls on my behalf, they all have to be done by my minion (a.k.a. my husband). And I have to accept that jobs might not be done in the same way or to the same standard I would do them because that’s what delegation is about.

5. Teamwork. No relationship can work without teamwork. It’s a never-ending journey of adapting around your partner with every new situation that arises. Throw chronic illness into the mix and you really learn what teamwork is all about. It goes without saying that it’s a been a bumpy ride at stages but my husband and I have gotten over any hurdles and become stronger each time. While he may do more than his fair share of the physical work in our team, he always reminds me that I play a vital role in our relationship in other ways.

Well, it looks like I do have quite a lot to fill my CV with after all. I best get to it… in a few days that is, after a lot of rest. Time to put my patience into practice.

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Getty Image by AdrianHancu

Originally published: January 29, 2018
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