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5 Ways My Chronic Illness Has Made Me a Better Human Being

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Let’s not sugarcoat it — dealing with any sort of chronic condition can really suck. No one particularly enjoys dealing with challenges in any form. But I have come to a point in my life where I recognize the health issues I’ve had to face helped me grow and become a better human being. In the hardest moments, I’d always ask these big, lofty questions

  • Why is this happening to me?
  • What is the point of this?
  • Why has God put this in my path?

But as I look back at my adolescence and the last couple of years, I realize dealing with a chronic illness has deepened the compassion and empathy I feel for others. I understand what’s truly important in life. Here are five ways my chronic illness has made me a better human being:

1. Humility: Illness is quite humbling.

Seeing a nurse walk through the ER halls with a basin of your bodily fluids to take for testing is humbling. Being an adult and having to wake up your parents in the middle of the night because you need help or a ride to the ER is humbling. Being in a place of vulnerability where you rely on the expertise and assistance of others is humbling. The truth is, anyone can get sick at any point. Illness doesn’t discriminate. And that’s why I try so hard not to judge my fellow human beings. I have no idea what they could be dealing with on a daily basis. I’ve come to realize people are the way they are and act they way they do for good reason.

2. Gratitude: Illness has made me grateful for the big things and the little things.

I appreciate being able to eat most foods I want to because there was a time when that wasn’t the case. I may not be able to eat those same meals in the future. I appreciate my parents for their abiding support and understanding. I honestly don’t know what I would do without them. I’m thankful I have connected with others dealing with invisible illness because they have taught me about true strength, perseverance and that being a good friend really can make a difference. Most importantly, I’m grateful for the good days.

3. Courage: Illness doesn’t care about your fears.

It didn’t care my two biggest fears were a solo hospital stay and surgery with general anesthesia. Dealing with an anxiety disorder most of my life, I feel like I haven’t always been a terribly courageous person. But knowing I overcame two of my biggest fears made me feel brave. In those quiet moments alone in my hospital room…that’s probably the bravest I’ve ever felt.

4. Authenticity: With an illness, things get real pretty quickly.

As much as you may have wanted to look cute, that ambulance crew is going to see your messed-up hair and ratty pajamas. In comparison to the pain you’re feeling, minute details like that don’t matter. Some people think illnesses should be kept private, but I’ve come to realize that sharing your challenges with others is one of the most authentic things you can do. I am not ashamed. If someone out there feels less alone because I shared my story, that is absolutely what I will to continue to do. Living an authentic life is important to me. Life is too short to be anything but real.

5. Compassion: When you experience a hardship for yourself, I think it makes you much more empathetic towards suffering of any kind.

My heart breaks for anyone who is in pain. I feel it in my heart. I’ve been there. There’s a saying, “You don’t get it, till you’ve got it.” That’s true in my case. The more challenges I face, the more I get it. Living with a loving heart and sharing it with others is something I can do, no matter how I’m feeling.

Dealing with illness sucks, but I know I wouldn’t be the person I am today if it wasn’t part of my path. Whatever I face in the future will teach me something. And because of it, I will somehow grow.

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Originally published: September 29, 2015
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