The Mighty Logo

10 Truths You Need to Hear When You're Newly Sick

The most helpful emails in health
Browse our free newsletters

When sickness began closing in on me, I felt guilty and conflicted about a lot of things, maybe even most things. It was as if I was drowning and unsure of who I was in light of these new circumstances. And what were the ground rules for these (crappy) new circumstances? Not knowing how to approach what was happening made it all the more distressing. Today, I’m sharing 10 things I wish would have known when I was newly sick.

1. Your work and your worth are separate. While this seems self-explanatory, it didn’t feel that way. It felt like if I could no longer work, I was no longer worthy of love. I didn’t realize how entangled the two had become for me.

2. It won’t always be this scary. Maybe it takes us a while to learn what we can really do. Maybe I’m just a scaredy-cat. Either way, those early days were some of the most frightening I’ve known. If today you’re shaking in your boots, know that, like Stella, you will get your groove back. It won’t always be as scary as it is today.

3. You didn’t do anything wrong. I know it seems like you must have for this to be happening, but listen — you didn’t. This isn’t a punishment. It’s not because you are a bad person, a faulty human being or a poor housekeeper. And yes, there are sometimes people who say things that leave you feeling like it is your fault. Be like Taylor Swift and shake it off. You didn’t choose this.

4. Someone will figure it out. In the beginning, this felt like a given. But over time, answers felt more like a pipe dream than anything else. Would they ever come? If you are one of the many who suffer without clear answers as to why — my heart breaks for you. I don’t know when it will happen, but please know I’m praying the right set of eyes find you and lead to the answers you’re searching for.

5. You don’t have to hide. You don’t have to “protect” everyone else from the horror of your illness. In fact, you will find the burden is a bit lighter if you let others bear some of it. There are people in your life who will love you just as much on the bad days as they do on the good.

6. This isn’t the end. Yes, life is going to require a “new normal.” Things aren’t going to look or always feel the same. But life is going to go on. There will still be much to celebrate, beautiful relationships and new adventures.

7. Forgive yourself. Let it go. All that pain and shame over not meeting your own expectations, all those feelings of self-loathing and hatred? Send them packing. You’ll have enough battles to fight. Beating yourself up shouldn’t be one of them. Lay the baseball bat down.

8. It won’t always be this lonely. You’ll find a tribe that understands you. Eventually, your world will include deep, rich meaningful relationships that are short on expectations. You won’t always let symptoms isolate and back you into a corner. Eventually, you’ll hear the cries of “Me, too!” and know you’re among friends.

9. Love is given, not earned. This is a hard lesson to learn. Now that your hands are tied, you may feel like no one will ever love you again. Worse, you may feel that’s the way it should be since you are now unworthy of love. This couldn’t be farther from the truth. You haven’t changed. Now is the perfect time to learn that love is given, not earned.

10. You can still be you. Illness doesn’t get to win. You can still chase your dreams, sing your song, leave your mark on the world. If may not look the way you thought it would, but you can do it, anyway.

What things have you learned along the way? What tips would you share?

We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.


Originally published: October 20, 2016
Want more of The Mighty?
You can find even more stories on our Home page. There, you’ll also find thoughts and questions by our community.
Take Me Home