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What I Wish a 'Medical Fairy Godmother' Could Have Told Me About Chronic Illness

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I have been chronically ill for about four years now, so basically I have a bachelor’s degree in being sick. I would be lying if I said that the first year of being sick was a cakewalk. I wish I had a medical fairy godmother to show me how to handle all that comes with your body shutting down. I’m still learning, but here are some things I think she might have said. So if you’re at the beginning of your health issues, this article is for you. Here are things I wish I would’ve known all those years ago.

1. Not every doctor will be a good fit for you.

I could write a novel filled with doctor horror stories. One of them even had his medical license revoked — yikes! If you have an appointment and feel like they dismiss your pain, you do not need to put up with that. Maybe they are super compassionate but aren’t competent in your illness or willing to search for a diagnosis. It’s OK to move on then too. Just like any profession, not all doctors are top notch. It is totally worth it for you to keep searching until you find a doctor that listens and provides treatment you are confident about.

2. Your relationships are probably going to change, and that’s not your fault.

Friend, you are going through something so difficult that it can be hard for some people to even hear about it. Unfortunately when someone is uncomfortable they can react and respond in pretty harsh ways. Don’t take this personally. If someone can’t handle being close with someone who is sick, that is on them, not you. You may realize that you had some fair weather friends. But you’ll also come to find you have some pretty amazing people in your life. On another note, be as patient and grace-filled as you can. Those close to you are learning how to handle your illness too.

3. Your hobbies and pastimes might have to look different.

Snuggling up with a good book is my favorite thing to do. However sometimes the nausea and pain I am experiencing are so severe looking at words on a page isn’t possible. On those days I opt for an audiobook! This is a small change, but when you’re sick there often isn’t anything illness doesn’t touch. Maybe instead of going out to the movies that night you have a Netflix night in and make some stove top popcorn. You’ll learn to adapt, so there is always an option for joy no matter how you feel. Which leads me to my next point…

4. You can still lead a beautiful and fulfilling life with chronic illness!

I was devastated when I had to give up my career as a social worker because of my illness. I thought I would no longer be able to live out my passions. While there was an adjustment period, I can say now that I love the life I live. It sounds super cliché but being grateful for what you have can lead you through the dark tunnel of chronic illness. I can still love and serve people the way I did when I worked full time. Your career or lack thereof does not define the ways you can express who you are and the gifts you’ve been given. I am sick, but I still have a loving marriage, a small business and a passion for loving others.

Obviously these four bullet points aren’t going to be the only things you need to know to get through chronic illness, but they are basic things you can apply to your journey. All healing looks different. Just know you have one person rooting for you and I think you are so strong.

Getty image by Ken Benner.

Originally published: August 27, 2019
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