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15 Things You're Awesome at Because You Have a Chronic Illness

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It’s easier to count up the things you can’t do than the things you can do, isn’t it? Those “disappointing” aspects of yourself always seem easier to access, especially when you have a chronic illness and are constantly feeling the weight of what you’ve lost or can no longer do like you used to. But here’s a more important truth: Your illness has also given you some pretty awesome qualities. Who else but a chronic warrior can amuse themselves in waiting rooms for hours? Or truly empathize with another person’s pain? Or give themselves injections and other medical treatments that might make others squeamish, without batting an eye?

There may be some things you’re not quite as “good at” anymore (let’s face it, you may not be the best at hitting the clubs until 3 a.m.), but there are some things you do better than many others around you, thanks to your chronic illness. We asked our Mighty community to share something they’re awesome at because of their illness. The responses they shared are both funny and heartwarming, and speak to the strength of every single person who lives with chronic illness. You all rock.

Here’s what our community shared:

1. Standing Up for Your Health

“Standing up for myself. I never used to stand up for myself. It’s not an easy thing to do, but you have to do it for your health. No one is going to do it for you. Just take a deep breath, and don’t be afraid to say ‘No.’ Only you know your limitations, and you need to be vocal about your needs and concerns. Your health depends on it.” — Rebecca J.

“Becoming my own advocate in the healthcare system. Not letting abnormal tests go unchecked, not taking medications I’m not comfortable with, always asking loads of questions with surgery consults and procedures and not being OK with no answers or reasons for symptoms and pain.” — Jodi N.

2. Napping

“Napping! I am a champion napper. I can doze off just about anywhere, anytime. I can nap for hours on end. My napping skills put babies and dogs to shame.” — Rachael D.

3. Being Kind and Empathetic to Others

“Empathy and kindness. I relate better now than before my pain, with people on opioids or using marijuana to help their own chronic pain, as well as supporting and helping them as I hope they would do for me.” — Camara B.

“One thing my illness has made me awesome at is being compassionate. Multiple sclerosis and fibro have made me look at life differently and how I treat people. Don’t take anyone for granted.” — Melissa H.

“Empathy! You never know the pain someone is hiding. I experience it firsthand. Never judge a book by its cover, or in chronic illness terms, never judge a person by their smile. Smiles can hide so much pain.” — Jordan H.

4. Finding Ways to Budget and Save Money

“Knowing how to stretch a dollar. I’ve always been good with money and a savvy bargain shopper, but after living on disability for 20 years… well, as my grandmother used to say, I can squeeze a nickel ’til the buffalo poops.” — Danielle D.

5. Planning

“Planning — if I want or need to do anything other than deal with my chronic medical conditions day to day, I have to be meticulous about planning. Planning rest before and after any activity/appointment. Planning how to space out activities/appointments so that I can prioritize the things I need to do, while still getting in a relaxing and fun activity on the occasional better days.” — Jenna M.

6. Figuring Out How to Avoid Crowds

“Avoiding crowds! It doesn’t matter where we are or how many people are there. I will always be able to either find the fastest way through it or a place to sit, even if I have to make my own.” — Katelynn N.

7. Feeding Yourself While Following Dietary Restrictions

“Cooking. After being diagnosed with celiac disease and having been told I couldn’t eat even a single crumb of the most commonly used grain in the US, I learned how to make everything from scratch and how to modify any recipe to suit the needs of myself or others.” — Stephanie P.

8. Taking Care of Your Body

“Eyedrops and anything to do with touching my eyes! I’ve had to use eyedrops morning and night for the past 12 years, before having to use them I couldn’t handle them or an optometrist appointment, now I could touch my whole eyeball to remove anything from my eyes.” — Melissa J.

“Drinking water. I never used to take drinking water seriously, at times I would take two days without water, then after my CKD diagnosis I learned to drink water and I’m good at it now.” — Mmapula T.

“Listening to my body. Before I ignored and did as I pleased anyway. If I try that now, I’m out of commission for days (minimum). I end up in a lot of pain with extreme fatigue and often sick which means missing RA meds. After so long I’ve learned when to say enough and rest, heading off getting run-down.” — Augie G.

“I can swallow eight pills at the same time so I got that going for me.” — Lori S.

9. Waiting

“Waiting patiently, I have become expert at this! Waiting in hospital waiting rooms to see my specialists, waiting patiently at the chemist for meds, waiting for the meds to work, waiting for the bus!” — Janey G.

10. Learning New Hobbies

“Crocheting. I taught myself to crochet so I make blankets for others. I taught myself other creative things like painting as I wanted to be creative and still feel like I have a lot to offer even though my body doesn’t cooperate.” — Acadia M.

“A silly one, but solving crime TV show plots. Every time I watch ‘Law and Order’ or ‘CSI’ I’m always the first to figure it out. I’ve spent so much time bed-bound binge-watching them that I now know every twist and turn a plot may have.” — Hannah C.

“I only took up crocheting because I was confined to a bed due to lupus. Turns out I am pretty good. I now design and sell my own patterns.” — Patricia H.

11. Doing Medical Research

“Research. When you have a chronic illness it becomes hard to trust the medical community, so if you’re like me, you learn everything you can about your lab results, imaging reports, etc.” — Alane P.

“I am awesome at finding valid research online. I am also awesome at passive-aggressively leaving poignant print-outs from The Mighty in my doctor’s office when I leave.” — Shannon W.

“Studying and research is the top of my list. Without them I would not have a diagnosis yet.” — Llana H.

12. Online Shopping

“Online shopping… I can find almost anything! It became necessary when the pain from pudendal neuralgia became too much for me to handle.” — Jeana H.

12. Enjoying the “Little Things” in Life

“Enjoying the most basic things like getting my nails done or just doing something I enjoy.” — Lidia M.

“I have learned that material things don’t matter. When you are young and healthy, you think that having a huge, expensive house, nice cars, expensive clothes make you happy… but they don’t. I now strive for simplicity and minimalism!” — Sandi J.

“Mostly, I’m happy. I’ve learned what’s important in life and how to be happy with what I have. I have more love and more joy in me now because I cherish everything I do have. I’m able to find joy wherever I go because I want to find it now.” — Shauna C.

13. Navigating Bureaucracy

“Navigating the medical and insurance industries to get things accomplished quickly. I could charge money and do it as a career.” — Jennifer G.

14. Being a Supportive Friend

“I’m awesome at looking after people – sometimes a little too much. My illness makes me need a lot more sleep than the average person, so I always encourage sleep and rest. Also just general looking after yourself stuff. I may not be able to be there physically but damn will I be there for you in most other ways.” — Tessa R.

“Empathy and active listening to others has meant I’ve become a good coach and can help others figure out how they can overcome life’s challenges.” — MistiColca R.

15. Being Strong and Resilient in the Face of Obstacles

“Resilience. I know that I can pick myself up time and time again after bouts of illness, with a smile on my face, a positive attitude and the determination to keep trying and never give up.” — Sally E.

“I’m stronger than I ever thought I could be in as much as I can withstand daily pain and still carry on.” — Annette B.

Originally published: June 15, 2018
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