The Mighty Logo

This Thanksgiving, I Am Grateful for My Journey With Chronic Illness

The most helpful emails in health
Browse our free newsletters

I had lofty ideas of what I wanted to write about today. I suppose I still like to think of myself as Sam on the West Wing, with a sharp wit and a powerful tongue that can whip up the best verbiage in a moment’s notice! Afterall, I was a professional writer before the traumatic brain injury that changed my life in 2011. I still have the talent in there somewhere, but accessing it isn’t always easy…especially on a day I am not feeling well.

I don’t know why I am not as sharp as I would like to be today – it could be the weather, over-exertion, a migraine or even medication changes (there have been a lot of adjustments as a result of my most recent flare). The truth is that I have no idea why I have brain fog today. I am simply aware that this is the contraction that accompanies expansion. Yesterday was a great day. I felt normal for the first time in a while, as I prepared mashed potatoes with my daughter for the very first time in anticipation of our Thanksgiving Feast! By bedtime, however, I felt a crawling in my skin and tingling in my legs. Did I overdo it? I don’t know. The only certainty at this moment is that rest is required. And although I have so much I want to express in writing, that’s not going to happen today. Perhaps I will paint my thoughts instead, as the language of color allows me to communicate when I am at a loss for words.

As I sit here, though, I am aware of a simple feeling that can so easily be expressed on this Thanksgiving… I am climbing back from an acute flare of an undiagnosed chronic illness combined with adrenal insufficiency and hypopituitarism, and I am deeply grateful.  I have come so far since this episode began in August. Even as I feel uncomfortable and fatigued today, I am filled with gratitude that that the acute pain has remained at bay (we weren’t sure it would hold as I peeled back the acute medications), that I was able to drive down to see my horse today (a huge accomplishment), that I felt normal for a little while yesterday (yes! normal!), that I am making huge progress (no matter how slow) and I am home with my loving family (so much laughter in this house).

woman smiling with her horse

Chronic illness brings life into perspective. As I continue to walk this healing journey, the rough patches help me to simplify the list of that which will make me “happy.” The result? I feel an almost continuous happiness and contentment even in the midst of struggle. My root of gratitude runs deep. This Thanksgiving, I am grateful for the journey.

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

Originally published: November 22, 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