Could there be anything good about having chronic illness? 9 ways people have found the positive despite all the difficulties we face

This week, I was drawn to a question someone posted in one of my chronic illness Facebook groups:

“What is the one good thing that has come out of having this devastating condition?“

I limit my time on groups like this because they can bring me down. But this discussion lifted me up. True, several people said there was nothing good about it. But others, many others in fact, found they could name at least one thing.

It’s not easy to see the positive when you’re suffering. We all need to come to this in our own way and in our own time. Getting there requires going through a grieving process.

The discussion was so touching to read. So many people had recognized that whatever we’re going through, it can be meaningful and even joyful.

Here are some of the responses that stood out:

1. Compassion. Several people shared that they now have compassion for others who are going through difficulties. Chronic illness can be a great leveler. We no longer see ourselves as being above those are who are suffering, because we are suffering ourselves.

2. Taking things in stride. All that stuff we used to worry about? We now see we made mountains out of molehills. I’ve also realized that a lot of the things that I used to look back in shame about no longer embarrass me. In fact just the opposite. I’m proud that I was brave enough to try things and fall on my face.

3. Appreciating our partners. Many of us are humbled by how much our spouses or other loved ones care for us. My husband and I are so much closer than we were before the accident. And we were close before. Going through this can help you see how much and how deep love can run.

4. Finding out who your friends are. There’s nothing like chronic illness to force you to learn who’s going to stick by you, and who isn’t. I’m sorry to say that most of my friends turned out to be in the fair weather category. I was also surprised by who hung in there.

5. Making new friends. Thanks to social media, support groups and the like, I’ve connected with people I never would’ve met. Most are grappling with chronic illness and/or pain. I never would’ve made these connections any other way. These are beautiful, brave and strong people who are also a lot of fun to talk to. Many people shared similar stories and felt the same way.

6. Discovering how strong you are. When I first had my accident I was sure that I couldn’t handle pain at all. I didn’t see myself as a strong person. But as time went on and things got worse, I found I could handle far more than I thought I could. This is a common experience. We don’t know how strong we are until our strength is tested.

7. Learning patience and perseverance. It’s hard to hang in there when things are as difficult as they are with chronic illness. But somehow we do. We accept that we can’t do many or even most of the things we used to enjoy. We go through ups and downs. We sit in waiting rooms for hours. We live with the reality of not knowing what will come next. And somehow, we keep going.

8. Discovering the small pleasures. When we’re forced to slow down, we gain appreciation for things that we wouldn’t have noticed when we were healthy. A sunset, a kind word, a beautiful garden. These things create meaning in our lives and also remind us that being present in the moment is more important than rushing through life.

9. Understanding what life is really about. Many people shared that they’d become more spiritual and felt closer to God as a result of their illness. Through our suffering, we gain a deeper understanding of why we’re here. It clarifies our purpose. It takes us out of the everyday and into a deep and abiding place.

It’s hard to see the positive when we’re going through the agony that is chronic illness and pain. No one can do it all the time. But it’s good to remind each other that there are bright spots in our difficult lives.

What are some others I’ve missed? Leave them in the comments.

Photo: @mccutcheon on @unsplash

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