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10 Things and Chronic Illness: Lessons Learned from Sickness

September 2, 2015

1. There is a difference between surviving and living. Surviving is simple; you wake up and do what it takes to keep breathing until you go back to sleep. Living is something less definable and infinitely harder to accomplish. Living requires joy, purpose, or both. 

2. Some days, surviving is all you can expect. Some days, continuing to breathe is the hardest thing you can do. On these days, it helps to acknowledge the accomplishment rather than to berate yourself for all the things you didn’t do. 

3. Illness can forge strong bonds between people, but it is not an equal opportunity relationship builder. It tears apart as many friendships and relationships as it creates. 

4. Number three is not necessarily a bad thing. The relationships that make it through illness are the relationships you can count on. Kind of like those formed during war. 

5. Over time, you will find coping mechanisms that work for you and your illness. These may not be mechanisms that anyone else uses or even understands. You may feel the need to justify these methods. Don’t. You are a unique person with a unique body. What works for you is what works for you. Embrace whatever makes you feel better, and leave the negative comments behind. 

6. Very few things will get you through life with chronic illness like a supreme sense of gratitude. Appreciating the things and foods you can enjoy, the people who understand you, and the simple moments of contentment can go a long, long way in transforming mere survival into a life worth living. 

7. Being thankful can take its own toll. Some days, you’ll tire of being gracious and grateful and positive, especially if it is what others have come to expect of you. Some days, you’re going to want to be tired and upset and angry. Allow yourself to feel all your feelings – not just the positive ones. You can’t release what you refuse to face. Feel the negative, and then let it go. 

8. There are only a few things in life that make us truly question our core identities: chronic illness is one of them. Expect your confidence to take a beating, particularly at first. It’s going to take you time to figure out who you are if you aren’t healthy/well/productive/unstoppable/[fill in your adjective here].  

9. You are more than your strength, your physical fitness, your ability to accomplish a set number of things per day, or a particular set of goals. Whatever your illness has taken from you, you are more than that. You just have to figure out what the “more” is. This will take time. 

10. Learning to live takes time. Figuring out who you are, once you are no longer what you thought you were, takes time. Grant yourself the time. Go day by day. The rest will fall into place. 

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