The 10 Things People with Chronic Illness or Pain Need to Know

making peace with chronic conditions, maggie mcreynoldsNote: I have lived with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and Fibromyalgia most of my adult life. Whereas once I struggled, fought, and suffered, now—even though I still work towards partial or full recovery—I live in the present with what is, and I live a darned good life as a result. Here’s how:

  1. Your physical condition does not define who you are. As all-consuming as dealing with physical limitations can be, you are more than the things you can or can’t do. You are your ability to give and receive love. You are the unique sculpture that is your soul. You are your interests, your passions, your distinctive point of view. You are also not your societal roles, your bank account, or your stuff. You are simply, beautifully, miraculously you, the only you there will ever be for all time. It really is enough.
  2. Any chronic condition waxes and wanes. When we have good days, we can scarcely imagine what it was like to be so sick. Unfortunately, it tends to work in reverse, too—when we have bad days, we can’t imagine feeling otherwise. Do yourself a favor. On a good day, write a letter to your future self, the one who’s having a bad day. Describe in rich detail what a good day feels like. Remind yourself that good days–or at least not-so-crappy days-do come back around. Print it out and tape it or post it somewhere where you can easily find it, no matter how sick or stressed you may feel.
  3. There is really nothing in the world that is universally good or bad. Even the best thing in the world has a downside or two. And even the most terrible tragedy imaginable can contain a gift within it. How many good things have come out of your challenges? I guarantee you’ll find more than one.
  4. Give people the benefit of the doubt. Operate from the assumption that they are doing the best they can with whatever they have to work with at the time. That guy at the mall who told you he wishes HE could ride the mobility scooter ’cause his feet hurt? He’s just trying to connect with you—hey, at least he didn’t pretend you weren’t there. And about those people who pretend you’re not there. They actually think they’re helping you by not making you feel self-conscious.
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