1) You care less what others think of you.
- In high school, perhaps the most self-conscious, image-obsessed stage of most people’s lives, I had the good fortune to not give a crap. Quite frankly, I had bigger problems than what so-and-so thought of me, how cool I was or how many friends I had–instead I worried about infections, medical tests, doctor’s appointments and injuries. I worried they wouldn’t let me graduate because of how many days of school I missed. I worried about missing another game and letting my team down. I certainly didn’t worry about making people like me. Being sick gave me a broader perspective.
2) You find your own source of strength and confidence.
- Even though I have an awesome support system from my family and a few good friends, ultimately it’s my illness. I’m the one who has to deal with it every day. I’m the one who has to make the call that I have another infection. I’m the one who has to stick the needles in each week. When you have a chronic illness it’s sink or swim–and that unlocks strength and endurance that you didn’t know you had.
3) You value independence.
- One of the hardest aspects of chronic illness is that it can take away some or all of your independence. Having to depend on other people and feel like you are a burden, that really smarts. But that just makes you all the more determined to do what you can yourself and value whatever independence you are able to achieve.
4) You learn how to prioritize.
- With limited spoons (or chocolate ), you have to choose carefully how to spend them. In my own life that has helped me clarify what is most important. One of my favorite quotes is: “When you cannot do what you have always done, then you only do what matters most.” -Robert D. Hales
5) You learn to go with the flow.
- Like I talked about last week, chronic illness is crazy unpredictable. You have to accept that you aren’t in control and adjust minute by minute, day by day.
6) You realize earlier what is most important.
- I’m 22. So what is usually most important to 22-year-olds? I’m so out of touch that I’m really not sure… What I do know is what actually matters in life–working hard, helping others, striving each day to become more than you were yesterday, aaannndddd chocolate. Of course.
7) You are more grateful for little things.
- Do you ever stop and think “HOLY CRAP THIS FOOD IS SO GOOD I’M SO GRATEFUL I GET TO EAT IT!” I do. All the time. Before gastroparesis came into my life I never thought to be grateful for something as mundane and everyday as being able to eat.
8) You are always working towards something.
- No matter how sick you are with a chronic illness there’s always a goal in mind. Whether it’s getting healthy, getting stronger, living as long as you can, or just getting through the day, you are constantly fighting for something. That gives you a warrior mentality.
9) You see people for who they really are.
- It’s incredibly valuable to know those who will stick with you through thick and thin, through week after week of cancelled plans, through grumpy pain days and break downs. Being sick reveals those who are most important in your life.
10) You empathize with others better.
- I’m not naturally a super empathetic person (my Myers-Briggs type is INTJ), but my own suffering has softened me to the suffering of others. I understand better how they feel. That understanding leads me to want to help them. My experiences with sickness and pain enable me to connect with others in a way I never could have before.
11) You become an endurance master.
- Living with chronic illness is dealing with constant setbacks and discomfort. It is unrelenting, so you develop incredible endurance just to be able to live each day–you have to.