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How People With Chronic Illness 'Stay Strong' (and It's Not Because 'We Have to')

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As a person with a few chronic illnesses, I have often been asked the same questions — questions I am sure most with chronic illness have been asked.

“How do you do it? How do you stay strong after all you have been through?”

There is a saying, “I am strong because I have no other choice.” Up until recently, I loved this saying, I had it as my phone background for the longest time, even. Then, a few months ago, I met a new friend, we get along great and I love her so much, but she is blessed with a healthy life. (Thankfully!!) This, as many of you know, however, leaves open the door for those lovely questions, to which I responded with my usual, “I have no other choice.”

A few days went by and for some reason, I kept replaying this conversation in my head … and then it dawned on me. That response could not be more wrong!

“I have no other choice.”

Think about that for a minute. Now, do you see what is wrong with it? We have another choice. We can just give up; we make the conscious decision every, single day to keep fighting. We wake up every day fully aware of the physical misery that is to come, and we make the choice to tackle it head-on.

I think this says a lot about us spoonies, I think we all need to remember just how strong we are. If there is one thing I have learned in my decade of illness, it is to never give up. We have a perseverance not everyone has, we have a drive to live not everyone has. While chronic illness is awful, it does also come with upsides as well. The friends you meet are simply the strongest, most amazing people ever. The struggles we face give us a new appreciation for life many do not have because many of us, even if only temporary, have lost the ability to do typical everyday tasks like shower or eat. After I had my peripherally inserted central catheter (PICC) line removed, I took a hot shower for over an hour just loving that I could finally enjoy something so simple, something others take for granted, and that I used to.

I believe it is a combination of all of this that allows us to consistently show a strength we didn’t even know we had, and tackle each new day while never giving up. So, the next time someone asks you how you do it, remember you do it because you are a strong, fierce warrior!

Unsplash image by Julian Hochgesang

Originally published: February 27, 2021
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