The Mighty Logo

Why My Chronic Illnesses Help Me Live a Better Life

The most helpful emails in health
Browse our free newsletters

Finding a better life through chronic illness. Say what? Can those two things coexist? For me, they do.

• What is Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome?
• What Are Common Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome Symptoms?

It’s been two years since my wheels came off quite spectacularly. It’s been two years of major body and life discovery. Not only about this health condition and what it now means for my life but also how, unbeknowns to me, this it had been working its magic in the background prepping me for my big fall.

It had been there all along waiting for its special moment to shine.

I have Ehlers-Danlos syndrome hypermobility type, a genetic something that is relatively common but quite under diagnosed and a secondary condition, dysautonomia, that is quite common and underdiagnosed also.

I have particular issues keeping my blood up due to lax connective tissues. As a result, I have developed quite the adrenaline response to it.

I have developed what you might describe as an adrenaline dependency and a body that has become hooked on the high.

An “up” type of person in a body that has become increasingly worn out by its adrenaline antics as it’s aged.

Perhaps a body where the intersection with life in the 21st century was always destined to fail?

I crashed two years ago when my adrenaline engine revved full throttle non-stop after a period of work stress and then overexposure to heat.

Heat and I don’t mix. It dilates my already lax blood vessels and throws my body into complete panic. I know that now.

Sitting or standing for long periods doesn’t bode well either. The impact of gravity causes too much of that blood stuff to sink.

And doing anything revvy causes my adrenaline to overcharge. So cardio exercise, talking a lot and any form of work stress is now a no go.

I have been consumed by “go” all my life. Go out. Go do. Go work myself silly. I was hooked.

Now I find “stop” is my new mantra.

There’s a lot about this body that I know now.

Everything I do these days, despite my somewhat loud genetic make-up, has to be gentle.

Stopping is working.

My body and mind are now in a more relaxed place. I’ve buffered myself against the extremes that set off my symptoms.

I live my life with mindful restraint.

And with stopping comes a massive realization.

What I hadn’t realized with all the “go” was that I was missing out on so much of the richness that is life.

Stopping has enabled so much.

Stillness, quiet, the gentle fulfillment that comes in the space of doing nothing, the calmness that comes with slow, the space to reconnect with those that matter, the self assurance, the self esteem. Many things, in fact.

And stopping has enabled me the time to tune into this complicated body of mine. To work out what it likes, what it doesn’t, what situations nurture me, which ones don’t.

There’s something magical about knowing so much about yourself.

Two years might sound like a long time. In some ways it is. But not when you consider that it’s been time to get my life back. Two years of discovery and a renewed sense of worth.

My body has shown me the way to a life better lived.

I’ve now got a life. A “real me” kind of life.

That’s time well spent, I’d say.

Thinkstock image by: kieferpix

Originally published: February 21, 2017
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