By Laura –
I know what you’re thinking, “How can someone be thankful they’re sick?”
It’s because when you have a chronic illness, you are forced to learn a lot — about a lot of different things. Some days I feel like I’m in school 24/7. From understanding myself, to navigating the medical system and working through life lessons — it’s all been beneficial to me. The lessons I have learned will apply to life when hopefully one day chronic illness isn’t the first thing I think of when I wake up in the morning. They have made me stronger and more resilient, and will help carry me through any tough situation life might throw at me. So for that, I am thankful I have chronic migraine, depression and anxiety. They have made me who I am today.
1) I know my body.
Paying close attention to symptoms, feelings and emotions has tuned me in with my body. With migraines, I have learned prodrome signals to know when it’s time to take rescue medication — something as simple as yawning more often. I’ve also identified triggers such as stress, lack of sleep and changes in barometric pressure. With anxiety and depression, I now know one is often followed by the other and that they feed on each other. Daily check-ins, meditation and cognitive behaviour therapy have helped me to understand early warning signs and address them as soon as they pop up.
2) I am endlessly grateful.
When you are stuck in a dark, silent room for days on end with a pounding head, you find joy in the smallest of things when you emerge from the gloom. Sitting in a sunny room, being able to jump in the car to go visit a friend, being able to make your own food, being able to concentrate… I could go on and on. You realize it’s the simple things that make life enjoyable and you begin to relish in them.
3) I have learned to set boundaries.
Boundaries seem negative but in reality they are a positive tool for living a balanced, happy life. Saying “no” and knowing your limits can bring a sense of power back into your life, especially if you feel like you lost control of it due to chronic illness. It’s perfectly ok to make last minute changes because of how you’re feeling or adapt plans as the day goes. It’s also ok to say “no” in advance if you know you have a busy few days ahead — adding in that extra event or chore might put you into bed. Pace yourself. No one expects you to be a superhero on the days you feel good, they just want to see a smile on your face.
4) Family and friends make all the difference.
If I didn’t have a chronic illness, I don’t think I would know the full value of my support system. Every day, I tell them how thankful I am for their presence and for what they do for me — especially on the days when I can barely do anything for myself. It has also made me realize how lucky I am to have the support system I do. That’s why I’m here for YOU if you need support. Just having someone there to write a message to can be the difference between a good and bad day.
5) Accomplishments are big and small.
Having a chronic illness has taught me success shows itself in many ways. Some days it might be taking a shower, other days it might be a full day outing with friends. Whatever your accomplishment is, take time at the end of the day to congratulate yourself. You worked hard. No matter the size of the accomplishment, it deserves attention and applause. You got this!!!
6) It’s important to trust the universe.
This has been one of the biggest lessons I have learned (And, I’m still learning). I was having a bad day and my friend Tatiana texted me, “Trust the universe; let life unfold with ease”. As soon as I read those words, I felt calm. She was right. The quote was right. I trust I have chronic illnesses for a reason. I also trust and believe I will learn from my chronic illnesses and the lessons I learn will serve me well today, tomorrow and from now on.
7) Enjoy the moment.
Focusing on where you are in the moment is important. Mindfulness can go a long away in changing your perspective and allowing yourself the time and space to heal NOW. If you focus on the past, you are not able to see how far you’ve come. If you worry about the future, you are not able to find ways to heal today. Bringing your attention to what you and your body needs right now, whether that’s a nap or a chat with a friend, can heal you today — even for that moment, and that’s what matters most.
8) It has taught me acceptance.
The biggest change I saw in myself on my journey with chronic illness happened when I accepted migraines as a part of my life. I’m currently working on accepting anxiety. The moment I accepted migraines as a part of my life, the fight inside me stopped and I was better able to find healing ways. Acceptance gives me the time and space to get through a migraine. It gives me the peace to know they will happen and that’s ok. It makes my heart happy to know the battle inside myself is over and I can now focus all my energy on healing instead of fighting.