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19 Remarkable Things to Know About People With Chronic Illnesses

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Living with a chronic illness is tough — tougher than many people realize. You’re forced to make difficult decisions regarding your health, work with countless doctors and medical professionals to coordinate your care, and manage everyday aspects of life like finances and friendships — all while experiencing the physical symptoms of your illness. But through these challenges, people with chronic illnesses may find they’ve gained strengths like patience, assertiveness and empathy for others going through difficult times.

We asked our Mighty community to share what strengths they’ve gained through living with a chronic illness. There’s no denying it: people with chronic health conditions face sometimes devastating challenges — but out of their experiences can come these remarkable qualities anyone should be proud of.

Here’s what our community told us:

1. “I’ve learned how to say no to people because of my illness. This was always a struggle for me, but now I have no choice. I’ve learned to stand up for myself to protect myself from over-exhaustion.”

2. “I’m a better person and don’t judge others based on first sights. I learned it’s important to be there for each other and tell others what they mean to us.”

3. “Patience. I’ve never been a patient man, but after chronic illness I had no choice but to develop it. It’s still a work in progress, but there is certainly progress to be seen.”

4. “I have learned it is OK to ask for help and rely on others. It made me respect life and the little things a lot more, taught me compassion, sympathy, and empathy, and to look at things from another’s perspective.”

5. “My biggest strength has been learning I can’t always control my health or ailing body but can control the way I choose to live my life with chronic pain!”

6. “I’ve gained the ability to create new dreams and passions out of almost nothing. Over the years, I’ve had so many dreams shattered into a million pieces because of my health problems. It hurts to watch everyone pass you by, and it’s a struggle to accept you may never reach your full potential. There’s always something to get passionate about and work towards; even if it’s small, there’s significance in everything.”

7. “I’ve learned who my ‘true’ family and friends are! The ones who truly care are still around, the others no where to be found! I’ve also learned to not be judgmental of others’ health. Everyone has their own battles and deal with them differently.”

8. “Perspective and self-love. I’ve never felt like I was physically beautiful and nitpicked my flaws constantly. Being sick has shown me how trivial those concerns were in the grand scheme of things. I learned to love myself for all I am capable of and learned the measure of my own integrity, resilience, and determination. At this point, who cares if my eyebrows are on fleek or not? I’m busy living.”

9. “I’ve learned to believe in myself more. I was told to quit year 11 and 12 because I was too sick and I wouldn’t graduate, but I knew I could do it. Despite everyone telling me no, I still strived for my dream. I now defeated all the odds and graduated high school with better grades than most people I know, and I’m studying at university. I knew I could do it, and when people doubt me I push even harder. My illness isn’t me, and I am a badass-accomplishing-machine!”

10. “Having rheumatoid arthritis (RA) has taught me to be strong and fight not only for myself but for others. I was the girl afraid to speak up in class, but with RA, I find myself advocating on the state and federal level, facilitating support groups, and helping others navigate the disease process. It has taught me I can accomplish anything I set my mind and my heart to, even when my body wants to say no.”

11. “I’ve learned everyone has a story I know nothing about, so be kind, gentle, encouraging, and forgiving.”

12. “I have learned to be much more assertive. Having spent six years attempting to find a diagnosis, I have had to challenge doctors and specialists to get the testing and referrals I need when they insisted my illness was caused by anxiety. Today I have a diagnosis of primary immunodeficiency because I challenged their opinions and fought to get the answers I needed and knew had to be out there.”

13. “It’s OK to share my story. I used to keep my illnesses (mostly) a secret, but becoming more vocal has not only helped me feel better but I have learned it also gives others courage to tell theirs too, and that’s really important as well.”

14. “I have learned there is always something I can do. I was a very active person and I lost that with my illness. So I taught myself how to draw, crochet, make crafts, make homemade cleaning products, etc. I can give them away and see someone smile. I am blessed, as I have a good partner who reminds daily I am still capable of achieving dreams.”

15. “Empathy… true empathy. I know what it’s like to struggle, to lose hope, lose dreams, go through illness, be let down, lose friends and family, and so much more. Without my illness I wouldn’t have the depth of empathy I feel for others going through tough situations.”

16. “My sense of humor has come a long way – I used to struggle with the ‘why me?’ but learning to accept it and see the funny really helped.”

17. “I can better articulate and express myself (medically and otherwise) because of presenting at advocacy events and medical conferences.”

18. “I have always said the best (and perhaps one of the few good) things to come out of me having the illnesses and disabilities I have is I can use my experiences to help other people not feel so alone in theirs.”

19. “I have learned to stay calm. I definitely feel better if I can feel my heartbeat and slow my breathing. This has gotten me through since I had brain surgery three years ago.”

19 Remarkable Things to Know About People With Chronic Illnesses

Originally published: March 20, 2017
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