Finding Joy in Chronic Illness

Let me make one thing clear. My life with Hashimoto’s can bring about a lot of challenges and setbacks. That being said, I by no means think that I have it worse than everyone else. There are so many people who endure so much more than me every day, that have sicknesses that require them to fight for their life hour by hour, and a “good day” for them is being able to sit up in bed for a while. My thoughts and prayers are with you. Though I often don’t feel good, have low energy, can’t control my weight, etc., I still feel so blessed to be able to live life the way I do. Though I don’t always have the energy to workout, sometimes I do. Though I usually don’t feel rested, I am still able to go to class and work after. Though I’ve faced a lot of setbacks, I know that my future is bright. I am blessed. All that being said, dealing with these health issues for so long has truly changed who I am. A lot of the time, it can be easy to simply view the negatives in my situation. But after you deal with something for so long, you have to learn that in order to survive, you have to change your mentality. Viewing life through a negative lens, though a temptation, isn’t an option for me. There are ways that my chronic illness has caused me to see the world in a different light. It has given me new perspective, and taken me deeper when I otherwise would have remained shallow. Though a challenge, it is also an opportunity. With chronic illness, you are given the unique opportunity to view life in a way that many can’t, and to receive blessings that may be ignored by other people. Again, I live a blessed life, and I don’t want to belittle the struggles you may be facing today if you aren’t able to see the light in your situation. Keeping that in mind, here are some of the ways I have been able to find joy and blessing with chronic illness.

 

You learn how to optimize your energy.

I’ve found that many people who always have energy aren’t always motivated. It can easy to put off till later what you can do now. If you always feel good, there is no urgency to seize the moment. However, when you often don’t have energy, you feel like a superhero during those days or times when you do. It’s like you are on top of the world, and though you know it won’t last long, you are stricken with this urgency to make the most of these moments. For me, these are often the times I workout. There are a few things that make me really happy, and one of them is being able to absolutely kill it in the gym, and leave knowing I made progress. So when you have those moments of energy, fill your heart with thankfulness, and take advantage of these special opportunities.

 

You know how to empathize with people.

If you have endured living with a chronic illness for very long, then no doubt, you’ve had to walk through some deep waters. You may look at the people playing in the shallows and wish you could join, maybe you don’t even remember what it feels like to walk in water like that. But take heart, for though these people have the opportunity to tread lightly and laugh easily, they might not know how to empathize with the people who are out in the deep water past the shore. If you are in the deep end, don’t get discouraged. Take heart, because you have the unique opportunity to be able to feel how others feel when life’s current carries someone out farther than they’ve been before. You will be able to help them and give them advice that someone in the shallows might never be able to, and that is an invaluable gift. Never underestimate the power of empathy.

 

You learn the value of true friendship and community.

Have you ever noticed that when things get really hard for you, your friends will either get going or come closer. Sometimes they leave because they don’t know what to say or how to act around you. Sometimes they just don’t have the energy or capacity to emotionally invest in someone who can’t always just have fun. Maybe they just didn’t realize the commitment the relationship required, and weren’t ready to take the relationship to the inevitable deepness your situation would require the friendship to go. No matter the cause, the blessing in it all is those people who choose to stick around. These are the relationships that you are going to have for a lifetime. These are the people that you know will be loyal through thick and thin, something many people don’t have in their relationships. I have learned the definition of friendship, and the importance of community throughout my life, the last few years in particular, and I will never take these relationships for granted. (Whether you are one of my closest friends or simply someone who has offered words of encouragement and support to me, I am so very thankful for you.)

 

You develop the discipline of a positive mindset.

How many people do you know that seem to be trapped in the prison of their own negative mindset? It’s like even if they try to be positive sometimes they literally don’t have the ability. Now, I’m not saying that if you have chronic illness you are instantly forced to be positive, because it definitely is a choice for anyone. However, I believe that when you are constantly faced with opposition, you HAVE to make a choice about what kind of attitude you are going to choose to have. Life isn’t easy, so you have to be intentional. Many people who don’t have a lot of difficult circumstances facing them aren’t forced to make that choice, and just end up being negative because it’s easier. Having more punches thrown at you forces you into a position where you must choose how you will face life, and I have intentionally chosen to view it positively. Often being sick, I find joy because I have chosen positivity, that perhaps someone who is always healthy but has gotten into the habit of negativity doesn’t have.

 

You learn how to persevere.

Wow, life has knocked me down so many times. Honestly, sometimes it feels like every time I get my hopes too far up, they just end up getting dashed to bits. Does anyone else know what I mean? It’s so easy to feel this way when you suffer with chronic illness. Maybe you were hoping the doctors would have good news, maybe you were hoping a certain medicine would work for you, maybe you were hoping what steps worked for so many might work for you, or maybe you were hoping that by now you would be feeling better, not worse. Whatever it is, you’ve reached out in hope only to be disappointed time and time again. How is this positive? There are countless people who don’t know how to handle disappointment and failure. Maybe it’s something they haven’t had to deal with very often. However, those of us with chronic illness get the special opportunity to practice this all the time. Life is going to throw people curveballs. It’s just how it works. But guess what? We have the practice under our belts to know how to get up when life knocks us down time and time again, though nobody can understand why, we have learned to rise though life and circumstances try to stomp us back to our knees. We will ALWAYS stand up again, because we have learned one of life’s most valuable lessons: how to persevere through trial and discouragement.

 

You learn how to truly rely on God.

Maybe you don’t believe in God, and I’m not here to tell you you’re right or wrong, but God is such a part of my life and my journey that there is no way I can be authentic and leave Him out of it. I believe many people struggle through life because they continually try to do things by their own strength. I know I did this for most of my life. Though I thought I was relying on God, the ugly truth is that though I had moments where I cried out for help, I would always end up trying to be independent and doing things by my own will and my own strength again. That never worked out well for me. Not only was I constantly exhausted, but I didn’t know God in the capacity that I could because I didn’t take the time to do so. In the past few years, God has taken me through a precious journey where I have learned to rely on him more and more. My illness has helped me so much with this. In this season, my days are filled with classes, homework, work, relationships, fitness, serving, etc. This is on very little energy, and what seems like very little capacity to do anything at all. Being in this position has shown me that I literally cannot make it through a single day without relying on Jesus, without reading my Bible in the mornings and praying throughout my day about everything, really. I don’t have the capacity to deal with my life on my own, and being sick has turned out to be one of the biggest reasons I have learned to rely on God the way that I need to. Living with a chronic illness can teach you how to develop your personal relationship with Jesus, how to find strength and peace in his presence, and how to grow your capacity when you otherwise wouldn’t have any.

 

You are intentional about your health.

Let’s face it. America isn’t a very healthy place. AT ALL. I would post some stats, but you have probably all read them. Dealing with chronic illness, we HAVE to be intentional with our health. It’s an important investment we choose to make daily. I don’t know about you, but I have spent countless hours studying about nutrition, what foods are the most vitamin rich, what things I can eat that will be best for healing my thyroid, what things I can’t eat, etc. It’s really not a choice for me, but what a blessing! People around us are dying of diseases caused by poor diet and nutrition, but we have been forced to educate ourselves in a way many others haven’t seen the benefits of doing, and will no doubt experience the consequences of their poor choices. Not only have we given ourselves the knowledge to benefit our own bodies, but we have been given the voice to educate and make a difference in the people around us.

 

 

I hope these thoughts have been able to inspire you! Life can be heavy, and I’m so grateful for people who know how to lift me up and see the light in dark situations. I hope that if you are feelings in the dark today, you will be able to see the blessings in your life and experience true joy as you realize each one. My thoughts and prayers are with those of you going through deep waters in life. Don’t give up hoping. Keep getting up when life knocks you down. Each one of you are fighters, and not only have the opportunity to be a deeper person yourself, but to have a greater platform to reach others going through their own battles. Love you all!

 

There are so many more things I could add to the list. What are the ways you find joy and see the blessings with your chronic illness?

 

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