It’s hard to think of anything positive about chronic illness. It causes pain and shame, and can take our lives away. But, as I look back on the last decade since chronic pain became part of my life, I can see positives as well as negatives. Yes, I lost a few years of my life, yes I had a lot of pain, I’ve experienced a lot of shame, and it hurt, and it scared me and scarred me. But, I learned a lot, I came out the other side a better person (at least I think so). No, the chronic illness isn’t gone, it never will be – it’s chronic. But, I’ve learned to live with it largely as a result of what I’ve learned from chronic illness.
6 Things Chronic Illness Has Taught Me
1 . To be patient – there’s a reason they call us patients. I may have gone into illness an impatient person who got frustrated at having to wait. Waiting was never something I did well. As I’ve aged I’ve become more patient but it really wasn’t until I was faced with chronic illness and no choice but to wait that I learned to be more patient.
I’m still not the most patient person on the planet by any means but I have learned to wait, to delay things when needed, to understand that all things come in due time, not necessarily on my schedule but when they should.
2 . To get organized – Prior to chronic illness I was not the most organized person. It amazes me how often now I hear someone tell me that I’m organized. I was the girl who hated lists, and had no need for spreadsheets. I could remember what I needed to do and procrastinate it to the last minute and still get it done. Not with chronic illness.
Chronic illness doesn’t allow for disorganization. Chronic illness causes disorganized thinking so we have to compensate by learning to organize everything around us. I keep lists for everything. I have to do lists and shopping lists and more to do lists. I’ve even learned to love spreadsheets.Chronic illness has forced me to get organized. I've got to compensate for my disorganized brain. Click To Tweet
3 . To plan ahead – Procrastination is just something I don’t do anymore. Instead, I plan ahead. I look ahead. I was once the girl who would put off an assignment until the day before it was due. Now, I’m the girl who starts an assignment the day it is given to me and sometimes even turns it in early. The early part doesn’t happen a lot but it does happen, and that never would have happened before chronic illness.
Living with chronic illness means that I never know how I’m going to feel later. I can’t wait till the last minute to do something because I might not be able to do it. But, if I start the task early it will be done and I won’t have to worry. (Less worry = less stress = less symptoms).
Being a #Spoonie means getting things done early = less worry = less stress = less symptoms. Click To Tweet
4 . To practice self-care – I remember before I got sick I was taking some business coaching and my coach kept focusing on how important self-care was, about how important it was that I take some “me time” each day to just unwind and be alone and think. I’ve always loved taking a bath at night and she suggested that was a good way for me to get some “me time.” It never quite worked out back then but after I got sick and learned that Epsom salt in a bath was great for pain, it became a nightly ritual. Over time, self-care became even more important to my life and I found more and more ways to make sure that I was doing what’s best for my body.
Selfcare is such an essential part of living. #selfcaremvmt Click To Tweet
5 . To chill out – I was pretty high strung before chronic illness. Learning to chill out and not take things so seriously was not something that came easy to me, but it’s something that chronic illness taught me. I used to get so annoyed at the smallest things – those towels aren’t folded right, you need to do it this way. Over time, I learned to just be happy that others are doing the task and it’s less on my plate. I’ve learned to just let things go, and not get stressed over situations around me. I’m kind of amazed at how much I can shrug off now and how I can stay calm even when dealing with stressful situations.So often we let little things that don't matter turn into such a big deal when they shouldn't. Click To Tweet
6 . To communicate – When I first got sick I didn’t want to talk about how I felt and it was all I could think about so talking seemed pointless. It took a lot for me to learn just how important it is not just for me, but for those around me, that I’m open and honest about how I’m feeling and what I need. Learning to communicate my needs has made such a huge difference in all of my relationships, and as a result it’s made a difference in how I feel because I’m better able to have my needs met.
It’s strange to say that I’m thankful for my chronic illness. Fibromyalgia sucks, TMJ sucks, migraines suck, Endo sucks, but when it’s all said and done I am thankful for all that my chronic illnesses have taught me. I’m not thankful for the pain, but I’m thankful for what I’ve learned through the pain. I’m not thankful that I had to live with these illnesses, but I’m thankful that in doing so I have become a better person.