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Who I Choose to Be With My Chronic Illness

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I think this is an important question.

Who do I want to be?

As someone with a chronic illness and chronic pain, who do I want to be?

Do I want to be someone who complains about how unfair life is? Who not only complains, but lives life with a tainted lens, seeing rudeness and ignorance in every poorly relayed response to my needs or illness?

There will be people who are purposefully rude. There will also be people who are simply ignorant of exactly what struggles I face. Who just need to be informed. There will be people who say or do the wrong thing, but have good intentions and did not mean to cause hurt.

All of this will exist. But how I interpret it is part of the key to my happiness.

It’s all about perception. I can choose how to perceive and respond, and make the world a better place while making my life easier.

For the rude person who is intentionally nasty… I walk away. I won’t waste my precious energy trying to change them, trying to fight them or constantly replaying how they hurt me. I just walk away and look forward to the more positive things I will encounter throughout the day. My life is too important to waste on that. Confronting it one on one usually doesn’t achieve anything. If it is an important cause to me, I choose to spread awareness on a larger scale. I’ll write about it. I’ll join groups who address it.

For the ignorant person, who truly just doesn’t understand… I take the time to kindly explain. Helping just one person understand chronic illness better will have a ripple effect. Showing kindness and being informative, vulnerable and truthful will make a difference in this world. A difference that will ultimately help me and others in the future.

For the person who happens to say or do the wrong thing, unintentionally, and didn’t mean it that way… I give them grace. They are trying. No one is perfect and, just as I have my personal, unique struggles, they have theirs as well. Just as my illness may be invisible, their life struggles are also not written all over their face for the world to see. So I practice grace. Being loving. Looking past the mistake to see the intent.

A fairy with blue wings, sitting behind a flower. Drawn by the writer.

I have been, at times, a victim of poor treatment, of ableism. But I can have that happen without it affecting my inner world or my happiness. Without it affecting  how I perceive the world. I’ve dipped my toe into the victim role, and it’s like all of the emotional nerves become super sensitive, and any small little thing can become an enormous hurt. I chose to take my toe out of the water.

That’s not how I want to live. That’s not who I want to be. I think that the majority of people are so busy and entrenched in their own pain, their own stressors, their own difficulties, that it is unreasonable to expect they will always act appropriately in every situation. Even if, in their hearts, they are good people, it is unfair to expect perfection.

As much as I want others to treat me with respect and see that I have an invisible illness, see when I’m  hurting or struggling, I need to remember that every person I meet is likely also struggling. Either with health, relationships, finances, addiction, or any other thing.

If I want others to be understanding of what they can not easily see, I think I need to give that in return. Give the benefit of the doubt. And if the person is truly being nasty, they aren’t worth my time. But I truly believe that most people are simply being human. Making mistakes in how they deal with a difficult or unknown situation is common.

Grace goes a long way. Educating goes a long way. Forgiveness goes a long way. Not just for them, but for me.

Life is happier when I’m willing to see the good and the potential for good – the potential for growth. Life is bleak when I’m constantly preparing myself for pain, and seeing only the hurtful scars on the surface. When looking ahead, purposefully searching for the next hurtful act, I will definitely find something hurtful and I will miss all the beauty.

I’ve heard that we always travel towards what our eyes are focussed on. It’s much more enjoyable to be headed towards happiness. Peace.

My answer to the question, “Who do I want to be?” is: someone who is moving forward, with her eyes on happiness and love. Giving out what I hope to receive in return. Information. Understanding. Kindness. Forgiveness. And grace. Most of all, grace.

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Originally published: August 4, 2017
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