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15 Things Chronic Illness Has Taught Me to Appreciate

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After being diagnosed with chronic illness I have a new appreciation for the little things in life; here are a few things I have learned to appreciate along this journey.

1. I appreciate walking. I know this sounds like something that everyone who has the ability to walk is thankful for. But I never really knew how much I appreciated being able to walk until I had to walk with chronic illness. Some days I have to use an assistive device to help me walk, but even those days are amazing. You see, there are some days where I can’t walk. Some days where I can’t even sit or stand. Some days it takes me multiple tries, tears and a nap on the kitchen floor to make it the 15 feet from the dishwasher to the couch. So, I’m truly thankful for the days I am able to walk across my home without falling over, or passing out, or having to nap.

2. I appreciate makeup. There are days when chronic illness consumes your life, and on days when I feel up to going out in public, I am thankful for makeup. I am thankful it is able to camouflage me into looking “normal,” and I am able to be in public without people commenting on my illness.

3. I appreciate cooking. I never cooked much before, but after developing food allergies it became essential. I love cooking and being able to make food I can eat without getting sick. There are some days I don’t have the energy or ability to cook, and it’s made me appreciate the days where I am able to even more.

4. I appreciate painting. I was never great at art growing up. But, it is a necessary escape for me now. I don’t always have the energy, and I might be in so much pain I can only paint for a few minutes, but when I finish a painting, the sense of pride I feel is amazing. It allows me to see what I am able to accomplish in my own time, and even though the process may have been painful, the outcome is beautiful.

5. I appreciate my pets. I know, I know, this is an obvious one. But, there is truly no feeling that compares to coming home from the hospital and having your animals curl up next to you and on top of you. I also appreciate the responsibility that comes along with my pets. Some days the only thing I am able to accomplish is filling up the food and water dishes. But, it still makes me feel like I have accomplished something. No matter how bad my day is or how my illness is affecting me, my animals don’t care, they don’t judge and they still love me. Some days when I am having particularly bad depression, or anxiety, or PTSD attacks, my pets are the only things that keep me grounded. I would truly be lost without them.

6. I appreciate writing. I never really liked to write before. But, now it is something I love to do. On days when I need to rest but I can’t shut my mind off, it gives me a productive outlet. It also allows me to freely express how I am truly feeling, when I may not yet be able to verbalize my thoughts and emotions.

7. I appreciate my primary care doctor. This is huge for me. I have had the same primary doctor for over 10 years and I truly don’t think I would be alive if it wasn’t for him. He has advocated for me and helped me switch doctors and specialists when I wasn’t being treated with compassion. He has called the hospital and ER doctors and told them to treat me, that I am not a drug-seeker, and that I truly do need help. He has helped me more than I could ever put into words and I know I am truly blessed to be able to have him for my doctor.

8. I appreciate a clean house. I have always loved having a clean and organized living space. But, now I appreciate it even more. There are days and sometimes even weeks where I can’t even vacuum my tiny apartment. So, on days where my house is in order, I am truly put at ease and am so appreciative for the ability and energy to clean.

9. I appreciate my bed. There are some days and weeks where I am bedridden, and having a clean comfortable bed is essential for me.

10. I appreciate my couch. On days where I am able to leave my bed but only able to make it to my couch, I especially appreciate having a comfortable couch.

11. I appreciate the gym. There are days where I can’t go to gym at all, and days where I push myself to go but can’t finish my reps and have to sit and rest, but I appreciate the gym so much. Even if it is the only place I am able to go to in a week, it’s still a good week. I have been able to gain some of my strength back, which has made a huge difference in some of my activities of daily living. It helps me clear my head, focus on something other than my struggles and helps improve my mood.

12. I appreciate my hot pack. It helps soothe my muscles, keeps me warm (my joints stiffen and swell when I am cold) and helps to relieve my migraines. I know it seems silly to appreciate something so small, but with chronic illness, the little things make such a huge difference.

13. I appreciate my friends. I have lost almost all of my friends since I became ill, so the two or three I have now are very loved. There are weeks where I go without any human contact (except for my husband), so having one or two people call or text me makes my whole day. I encourage you to call or text your chronic illness friends; I promise it will make their day. Just knowing they haven’t forgotten about you and they think about you and care how you’re doing makes a world of difference.

14. I appreciate Netflix. I know it sounds funny, but on days where I am in tears from the pain, hyper-focusing on TV shows allows me to “escape” for a little bit.

15. Last but not least, I appreciate my husband. There are weeks when he is truly the only human contact I have. There are weeks where he is my caretaker, and has to help me with my activities of daily living. I know it’s overwhelming for him some days, but I wouldn’t be able to even leave the house if it wasn’t for his help. So, I appreciate him more than words can say.

Sometimes this life is not easy, but I have learned to embrace and appreciate everything it has taught me. I have literally fought for everything I have, and I appreciate the struggles and the fights because they have taught me to appreciate the little things that otherwise may have gone unnoticed. I have developed a new life, new hobbies, learned what is important to focus my energy on and what things just need to be let go of. I have learned to never take a good day for granted, to celebrate life’s little blessings, and no matter how bad your day is, there’s always something to be thankful for.

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Thinkstock photo via Jupiterimages.

Originally published: October 26, 2017
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