But it’s true.
It is possible to find happiness, to be grateful, even after life has dealt you a crappy hand.
When you get chronically sick, what it boils down to is this:
And there is nothing you can do about it.
A life where limitations didn’t really exist, where basic functions like walking and having control over one’s body were taken for granted, assumed to always be there.
It’s easy to think about how much simpler life was before everything imploded.
So it may seem counterintuitive, a tad crazy even, that I would feel grateful for having a chronic illness.
It can change your life in so-many not-so-good ways. Boy, can it ever!
But there is a flip side to every coin: Life can also be changed in many good ways.
There was a time when any talk of gratitude about my illness, of finding the valuable life lessons, the elusive Silver Lining, anything Pollyanna-esque, would have filled me with anger and indignation.
Well-intentioned but totally-missed-the-mark comments from people like “You’re still alive, you should be grateful for that!” would leave me thinking “Ok, fair point, I am grateful for that, but I still can’t move my frigging legs! I’m 24 years old and stuck in a wheelchair. Know anything about that, huh?!”
I wasn’t grateful. I was pissed off.
It’s a natural part of the healing process, to grieve what was once there but is now gone.
But there comes a point at which we must pick ourselves off the floor and get back on the horse.
For me, that meant searching within and making a conscious choice: A choice that I would make something positive of my new normal, this new chapter in my life, despite the crap-quota of cards I was holding.
My old life was gone, replaced by something entirely unfamiliar, uncomfortable and downright painful (in every literal sense of the word), but somehow, someway, I knew I would survive.
Correction: Not just survive, I knew I would thrive.
And I have.
You are constantly challenged and it seems like you are always facing an uphill battle. Two steps forward and about a dozen back.
If I were given a choice not to have this illness, I’d gladly take it. I’m sure anyone in a similar position would do the same.
I have grown and become a better person because of my chronic illness. It’s led me on an expedition of self-awareness and improvement, survival, love.
I’ve found a way to be happy, engaged with life, and to keep working towards my dreams, even with illness and limitation.
Instead of being constantly consumed by pain or what is lacking, I choose to appreciate what I do have:
*Extracts from my daily scribblings in my gratitude journal.
“Focus on what you have instead of what you don’t. On what’s right in your world instead of what’s wrong. On where you’re going instead of what you’ve been through.”
– Billy Cox
I’m (beyond!) grateful for the good days.
I can (most of the time!) find happiness and satisfaction even on the worst days.
This isn’t about (falsely) convincing yourself that you are Pollyanna 24/7 and everything is just awesome. I’m never grateful when crap happens to me, at least not at the time.
This isn’t about plastering a smile to your face and applying a Band-Aid to your unhappiness, pretending that everything is ok when it’s not.
This isn’t, as my beautiful friend Kelly Owens, writer at ‘A Jumble of Things,‘ so eloquently put it:
“I’m not asking you to shit sparkles and ride unicorns in rush hour every day – my plea is only for you to remember that the past is better left in the past, and present moments that may be shitty don’t have to be your prequel to the Dark Side. If you live like every day is a tragedy, every tomorrow will be too.”
To take charge over that which you still have power – thoughts, attitude, approach to life – to create a sense of wellbeing that has the ability to transcend the iron hold of chronic illness.
While the problems and obstacles don’t disappear and I don’t pretend that they don’t exist – how could I possibly? – I am so happy, so grateful, to be living this life of mine.
Even if I can’t always feel all of my limbs!
What do you feel grateful for even when you are going through a tough time(s)?
Like this post? Then share it!
All photos and content the property of Starbrite Warrior and Bree Hogan. Not to be reproduced without permission.