Illness as a Blessing
The first time I heard someone refer to their illness or cancer as a "gift", I was in shock and disbelief. I learned in my psychology classes people often justify a traumatic or negative experience so I reasoned that this must be why I heard people with cancer, chronic illnesses, amputees, etc say they are a better person for it. How could the negativity of tragedy transform into a positive?
I remembered back to one year when I suffered the loss of a boyfriend and best friend to sudden accidental deaths and I felt transformed in a positive way. I grieved, but I also found, and concentrated on, the positive. It wasn't until my recent diagnosis of Rheumatoid Arthritis that I realized, justification or not, it must be turned into a positive as well. I will not suffer for no reason. I am not a cancer patient or survivor, but I have found the gift in living with a chronic and painful illness.
So many of us live in terrific health only to simultaneously fear that ill health is lurking around the corner. This fear is about as close to feeling alive as we get- we live as if being alive is fearing death, avoiding illness, and seeking pleasure. I now think that being alive is accepting pain and suffering and appreciating the good days more. Because of my illness, I am in a beautiful state of transformation while others either live in fear or on autopilot.
People who have suffered posess an astounding gift to offer others in the way of support (groups) and first-hand information that doctors can't supply. They can be an inspiration to others.
Children are effected in positive ways when they grow up witnessing the challenges and courage of a parent or close relative that has an illness. My 2 yr old daughter knows that I have limitations and my hands hurt or are "sick". Many children of parents with an illness grow up to participate in foundations and charity specific to the illness that effected their parent. It's the best tool for teaching compassion.
Humility; needing help from others and asking for it, becoming acutely aware of our limitations, and asserting our boundaries. I can't keep a running count of how many times I hear, especially women, about how much they accomplished in one day, one hour or how much they have yet to accomplish- it's exhausting. Many autoimmune diseases are found in women. Coincidence- oh, I don't think so. If you saw my Friends' Facebook posts and how many of those women and mothers who practically climbed Mount Everest before breakfast, it's no wonder we exhaust ourselves to illness.
Putting our energy into something meaningful. How much energy gets wasted on the little stuff? Apparently none of us learned from the book series, "Don't Sweat the Small Stuff" because I think that's easily an epidemic creeping alongside obesity. Having an illness forces you to put your energy into only the biggest bang for your buck- it's the way to live.
Getting to know, and take care of, your body. When we were children, we had our mothers around to tell us when to put a jacket on, when to take our medicine, etc but somehow when we grew up we lost our ability to prevent or recognize symptoms, take precautions, and take care of ourselves. We ignore the bad until it gets worse and we have a decent excuse to be excused from our relentless duties.
Pulling the weeds. Illness is negative in nature so most everything else needs to be positive. This means focusing on keeping positive people in your life- letting go of bad relationships and reeping the benefit. Focus energy on healing and excusing those that drain our energy from our life.
I read in a book about a doctor who stated the secret to longevity is having a chronic illness- it's truly a blessing in disguise. Why? Because it forces you to listen to your body, treat it well, be more aware of what toxins and the environment do to your body, and harness stress and emotions before they become more serious. Chronic illness flare-ups give you distinct warning signals and people without illness have a hard time listening and following through taking care of themselves.