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Why I Choose to Be Realistic When Talking About My Illnesses

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Being positive can be uplifting and helpful. In essence it is turning your mindset towards the bright side of life rather than pondering the difficulties in life. With chronic illness, difficulties are an everyday occurrence. It doesn’t help to dwell on these difficulties.


I can be positive about people, situations and experiences. That means I look for the good in people and I can see the good in experiences or situations. I can have gratitude for all that is special and ongoing in my life despite the sadness that comes with the acceptance of being chronically ill. I try not to be super critical of people and experiences as this just drags me down. I am fairly optimistic. Being positive, though, is not akin to wearing “rose-colored glasses.”

It is much more important for me to be realistic. By this I mean I do have to acknowledge, daily, that I have struggles. The difference between being realistic and being positive became apparent when a friend made a comment about what I posted on social media. She said, “I think you would feel better if you practiced being more positive about your illness. If you didn’t write so much about being sick.”

This comment was made as an attempt to help me rather than as a negative criticism, but it did upset me. It also set me to thinking. I thought about why I needed to make comments describing my feelings and how I was physically.

I have come to the realization that I need to be honest. Honest with myself and honest with my friends and family. This honesty is essential for me, even if it causes friends and family to be uncomfortable. I am just describing my reality. This really matters to me. I actually need to express what my life is like and not hide it away. My illness is chronic. I think it is the “chronic-ness” that people don’t get!

My illness is not like what most of my family and friends experience. If it was acute, like the flu, I would be able to think positively because I would know the sickness would end and was curable. But my illness won’t end; there isn’t a cure. I can’t make it go away. I can’t change my circumstances. I didn’t cause this illness to happen to me.

All I can do is manage it to the best of my ability on any particular day. I cannot think of anything really positive about my illness. Can anyone with chronic illness honestly say there are good, positive things about the illness? I doubt it! My illness is scary, it is debilitating, it has caused huge and significant changes in my life. None of these factors are wonderful. I do have time to myself now, which I didn’t have before chronic illness came into my life, because there are days when I can’t do anything, but who on earth would choose this?

I have accepted my illness and how my life is. My ability to manage my illness changes from day to day. Some days it is easy, some days it is tough. Some days I handle it fairly positively, some days I don’t. But I will not beat myself up for the days when I can’t be positive.

It’s like this. If I make myself be positive it would be a total denial of my reality. And I prefer to live in the real world. Chronic illness actually has turned my life upside down. It is debilitating. I can’t always see a silver lining. I don’t dwell on it, I don’t luxuriate in self-pity. I don’t ask “why me?” But I have discovered I really do need to acknowledge my true feelings and the physical impacts. They are real. I can’t sugarcoat them. My friend was wrong. I need to be honest.

So I will choose positivity but will also choose to be real. I will do as many of the things that are known to help such as:

  • Getting sufficient rest
  • Eating in a healthy way
  • Using mindfulness techniques
  • Doing things I enjoy and having goals
  • Practicing gratitude
  • Helping others
  • Listening to music I like
  • Treating myself when I need a lift
  • Being kind to myself
  • Trying not to impose expectations on myself
  • Removing toxic or negative people from my life
  • Not apologizing for my health and my limitations
  • Asking for and accepting help
  • Following medical advice.

But when I am ill, I will speak the reality. I will keep myself grounded and not pretend life is a basket of roses even if that makes others uncomfortable. It’s OK to not be positive when things are dreadful. I am going to continue to describe and communicate my reality.

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Thinkstock photo via Jupiterimages.

Originally published: August 15, 2017
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