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8 Things I Have Learned by Being Chronically Ill

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This came to me one night, because if I think about it, being chronically ill is hard in more ways than I had imagined. There more than the obvious hardships caused by being sick.

One of my doctors recently said something along the lines of how doctors never 100 percent know what their patients are doing outside of the hospital. Meaning, they do not always know the small struggles occurring at places such as school, or work.  He said that when someone is chronically ill, they have to have a true strength to deal with all of this and learn a lot from it. Because of this, spoonies are pretty much able to live double lives – one being as a patient, and another as a human being. From all of this, I have been able to learn some valuable lessons. These lessons others may learn as well without having a chronic illness, but when you learn them due to a chronic illness, they may because of very different reasons.

1. I learned how to stand up for myself. Now, you may be thinking to yourself, that a lot of people have had that lesson. Whether it be standing up to a playground bully, or speaking your mind, many have to learn this lesson. However, I learned this in doctor’s offices, demanding treatment for example. I was standing up for my body, no matter how broken it is. Not taking “no” for an answer. I had to learn how to advocate for myself, because my life really does depend on it.

2. I learned how to deal with people. Between clinic visits and hospital stays, there are too many people to remember. However, I have to learn how to interact with all of these people. If I don’t, I can and will run into problems later. There are some people I just click with. This is when I reach that understanding, and everything seems alright for the moment. Other times, I want nothing more than for that person to leave the room.

3. I learned how to appreciate the little things. I learned how to appreciate things like being able to sit still and not jerk constantly. I learned how amazing it is to be able to close the door when I go to the bathroom, instead of keeping it halfway open so the various wires can be let in.

The fresh air after I leave the hospital. Real food, and being able to eat it without being sick. I appreciate the moments when I feel “normal” and do not have to worry about my symptoms.

4. I learned how to let people help me. While chronically ill, I need to put your trust in those around me. This ranges from asking someone to grab something for me, to when I actually put my life in their hands. I have to know that they will be there for me, and that can be beyond terrifying.

5. I learned how to be honest. Instead of covering up my symptoms, I learned that it is OK to let others in. I learned that if they truly care about me, that they will not judge me. That they will sit with me when I am sick, and talk with me when I need someone to listen. When I have a new symptom or side effect, I do not have to keep it to yourself, and I can tell someone who will help me.

6 I learned who my true friends are. I think that in the midst of my chronic illness, it takes a toll on everyone around me. If they do not have a chronic illness themselves, it can be hard for them to understand what is happening to me. Some may become distant, but others are absolutely amazing – they are the ones who stand next to you through everything. They are the ones that know more about me than my own family, and are always there to take care of me if needed. Either in person, or in spirit, these friends are the ones who are by my side, no matter what.

7. I learned about family. I learned that there are times when family is always going to be there for you. I had family sit next to me in the ER, in the hospital room, in clinics, and in doctor’s offices. They are the ones who stand up for me no matter what, and are the ones who are on my side. However, there are also some family members that are not up for the challenge. They do not know how to deal with the fact that I am not “normal,” and it impacts our relationship.

8. I learned how to accept myself. When I am showing symptoms, I get odd looks. People do not understand why I have a service dog, why I am limping, why I am wearing a beanie, or why I am twitching, etc. From this, the only thing I can really do is keep my head up. I can answer questions, or talk back, but at the same time, I need to accept who I truly am. I need to be comfortable in my own skin, and once I’ve done that, I am unstoppable.

9. I learned how to smile. I learned how you have to laugh, because other times I are going to cry. If I can find one small good thing in your day, it can make all the difference. I would rather be laughing than crying any day. That’s why here in the medical dorm we always try to spend our time smiling and laughing. Even on a bad day, there are still ways to make us laugh.

10. I learned that it is OK to have a bad day. I learned that there are days when I just cannot get out of bed. There are times when I need to take a step back, as hard as that can be. It sounds annoying and cheesy, but without the bad days, I cannot totally accept the truth.

Being chronically ill shapes me as a person, whether I like it or not. I may wish that I can be totally separate from my diagnosis, but it is still a part of me. From this, I can draw strength. I do not have to be the person with (insert diagnosis here), I can be the person who does all of these amazing things.

I believe in you.

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Thinkstock Image By: Oinegue

Originally published: May 15, 2017
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