It can be hard to find gratitude when you get thrown curve balls that knock you off your feet. It can be hard to find light when you’re facing your darkest hours. But then there comes a glimmer of hope, an unexpected delight, and a renewed appreciation for all life has to offer.
Navigating chronic illness is definitely a rollercoaster, but there have been so many gifts amongst my hardest lessons that you don’t need a chronic illness to benefit from.
Letting go of what others think
This is one I’m still working through some days, and something we all can struggle with – sick or not. With chronic illness, it’s especially sensitive – most of our conditions are invisible. We hear the phrase “you don’t look sick” often and continually feel the need to justify our illnesses or what is needed for our healing, or even worse – feel like we have to explain our good days.
But honestly – no one knows what it’s like to be in your shoes and walk your path. They can’t understand your struggles or triumphs. They don’t know what you’ve been through, tried, or researched. So take it all with a grain of salt. And take a big inhale of self-assurance and exhale the hold of other’s thoughts or expectations. You’ll feel much lighter when you’re not held down by the weight of others.
Putting your needs first
Simply put, I’ve learned to say no. As an introvert and lifelong homebody, I have always been drained by a busy schedule. There have been times in my life, though, where my calendar and commitments fill up, despite my best efforts otherwise. I know I’m not alone in that!
As I’ve gotten older, but especially through balancing my illnesses, I’ve learned just how important it is to put your needs first. It’s also so important to speak up about what you need. I used to be so reserved with this, but my illnesses have actually empowered me to be more clear.
You cannot pour from an empty cup. So say no to stretching yourself thin and yes to more time making sure you are taken care of.
Cultivating an abundance of compassion
If you know me at all, you know I’m a super compassionate person. I truly have so much love in my heart for all beings. But having two chronic invisible illnesses has really taken that to a new level. You never know what someone is going through, so let’s ease up on judgements. That person waiting for the elevator, using handicap parking, or wearing sunglasses indoors – those could all be ways they are supporting a condition. And bottom line, it’s not up to us to judge what others need. Sure, some people can take advantage, but why not give people the benefit of the doubt?
Not being defined by the illness
This one’s tough. Whether you’re in the thick of a flare, first diagnosed or whatever stage, it’s hard not to be consumed by your illness. It can (and often does) take over your life, but you are not your illness. Find joy in any hobby that takes you outside your condition. It’s so important to get out of your head – here are 10 ideas to get you started!
Keeping a tight crew
I’ve learned quickly it’s truly not worth the energy to keep explaining yourself or making excuses for people who are not willing to understand you. It’s really hard for people to wrap their heads around chronic illness, especially invisible ones. This can be hurtful, but the people that truly matter will support you unconditionally. Lean on these people. Having a strong support system is key for anyone.
If you have a chronic condition and are struggling to find some support, check out sites like The Tired Girl Society. I’ve met so many incredible women on there who have become dear friends.
Keep your eyes open…
With or without illness, life is full of ups and downs. Even in our most tumultuous of times, we can find hope and beauty – albeit, it can take some time to see it! But the clouds always break, my dear. Keep your eyes open to the lessons, and they will keep coming to you.