I was in awe as I read the article. How could the author be grateful for chronic illness? Why would he be when his chronic illness nearly killed him? It didn’t make sense to me. I could never show gratitude towards a disease that has done nothing but complicate my life.
Here was this incredible man whose life had been harshly touched by lupus — an autoimmune disease similar to the one that I have had for the past five years — thanking his disease. Further, he was stating with great conviction that lupus brought with it many reasons to be grateful.
Was he really thankful for lupus? I asked only because I didn’t see any blessings from my own challenging health. I didn’t even know where to find gratitude in living with chronic illness. After all, how could I ever be grateful for chronic illness?
Meeting Chronic Illness
Chronic illness and I met nearly five years ago in a rather intrusive way. Out of the blue, one September morning in 2008, I awoke to the inability to walk or use my hands. That day, my life forever changed. I went from being superwoman to being super sick.
It took nearly a year and a half to find a treatment plan that made life with rheumatoid arthritis and fibromyalgia tolerable. That first year was also very depressing and going into year two, I didn’t think I could continue to be productive with pain and sickness. My new normal was suddenly about dealing with daily challenges and working to better understand the changes to my body and my life.
Before Chronic Illness
Before chronic illness, I always had something to accomplish and I had to be the best at everything. I had to be right and I had to win every argument. After chronic illness, life became too short.
Before chronic illness, I worried about what other family members thought about me. I had to have an impeccably clean home and I had to host the finest dinner parties. Now, I get to be me – the real me, who hates all that stuff.
Before chronic illness, I held grudges and I burned bridges. Now, faith, family and friendship are everything.
Before chronic illness, watching the stars or enjoying nature were not as important as a hard day’s work. Now, I remember every day how important these things are.
Chronic Illness Changed Me
Chronic illness made me tougher. Now, a sinus infection or the flu is easy stuff. A toothache is just an inconvenience. Pain is the usual.
Chronic illness made me honest and outspoken. Now, I speak up and I wouldn’t care less what people think of me.
When it came to friendships, chronic illness showed me which ones were true friends and which ones weren’t worth my time. Now, my friendships are more meaningful than ever.
Chronic illness didn’t make my marriage better. If anything, it showed me that I was in the wrong place with the wrong person. Now, I understand that it is easier to be alone than it is to be with someone who makes you feel alone.
Chronic illness taught me to love myself. It has also helped me to grow closer to my sisters and my nieces and nephews. Moreover, it has helped me to teach my children empathy and kindness. Now, my kids get to see true strength and wisdom through both my actions and my words.
Maybe I Am Grateful
Chronic illness might be here to stay, but it doesn’t decide my destiny. It doesn’t decide how I watch my children grow up and how I chase my dreams. Chronic illness doesn’t decide how I live my life. The only thing chronic illness did decide was that I would get a wakeup call.
Will I ever be cured? Nope. Will I ever be remission? Probably not. Did chronic illness change me? Yes — and more than I possibly would have changed on my own. I don’t remember the person I was five years ago. Chronic illness is the reason I have changed and maybe — just maybe — I am grateful for that change.
I again ask the question. Could I ever be grateful for chronic illness? Sure, why not? After all, if not for chronic illness, I wouldn’t have awoken to the person I genuinely am.
Originally posted at Arthritis Connect.