5 Gifts that Come from Chronic Illness - Guestpost & Giveaway

Last week I interviewed Danea Horn about her new book for HealthCentral. Danea  agreed to do a guest post for The Seated View and generously offered to give away a copy of Chronic Resilience: 10 Sanity-Saving Strategies for Women Coping with the Stress of Illness. This is a great book that has lots of real, practical tips on creating a good life with a chronic illness. I plan to give it to several women I know, including some that don't have a chronic illness — the tips can be used by anyone who needs help with managing stress. Check out the bottom of the post for instructions to enter the giveaway.

Take it away, Danea!

Illness comes with many unpleasant gifts: fatigue, pain, appointments, worry, medications and a host of other inconveniences. These are obvious. What is less apparent are the unexpected blessings that can come from dealing with a chronic illness.

Of course, no one would choose to be sick for these gifts. However, if you have to cope with an illness, it’s good to be reminded of the positives that can come from the journey.

I was born with a congenial disorder that set me on a lifelong healing path. I’ve had many of the unpleasant gifts: pain, infertility and I am currently on the national kidney transplant list. I know that illness, in and of itself, is decidedly not a gift.

Yet, if the sky is blue, it is blue. There is no sense in arguing with reality. So, I decided to go on a treasure hunt through my health history to find 5 amazing gifts that have come from my health challenges. 

1. A Good Excuse to Rest: Everyone needs to rest sometimes. It is important for our body to recuperate from the rigors of work and family responsibilities. Every few months my back will remind me, through not-so-subtle pain, that it is time to take a break. I respond by putting life on pause and engaging in much needed self-care. 

2. Motivation to Eat Healthy: Due to the nature of my kidney disease it became important for me to adopt a vegan diet. I can’t say that I would have made this choice without the doctor’s nudge, but I’ve had more energy and felt better even with limited kidney function. I have also enjoyed inventing vegan versions of my favorite comfort foods. Last night we had biscuits and veggie “sausage” gravy. Yumm! 

3. Brings Dreams to Life: Illness is a poignant reminder that we don’t have all the time in the world. If there is something you’ve always wanted to do, now is the time. As the lab measurements of my kidney function declined, I knew I needed to switch gears. I quit my corporate job and began writing. Amazing thing is that my first book is in stores now.  

4.  Gratitude for the Small Things: I have never been more grateful for buttered crackers than after surgery. Disappearing pain, a call from a concerned doctor, warm hospital blankets, easy needle stick, short wait for an appointment, all of these tiny things become moments to rejoice in.  

5. Acceptance: I believe acceptance is one of the more important skills we can learn as humans. We do not get to control all of the circumstances and challenges in our lives. We do get to control our reaction. Accepting what we cannot change frees our energy to focus on how we can adjust and participate in our care. Illness has made me more trusting, more vulnerable, more open and more loving than I would have been without it.

These gifts don’t come wrapped with a bow. They are not always shiny, or even welcome at times. However, gifts are there, we just have to look for them.

Today, I’d love to give away a copy of my new book, Chronic Resilience: 10 Sanity-Saving Strategies for Women Coping with the Stress of Illness.  If you’d like to enter for a chance to win, Lene and I would like to know: 

What gift have you received from chronic illness or other challenges in your life?

Write your answer in the comment section below before Sunday, August 11, 2013 at 6 PM EST. Winner will be selected at random and announced on Monday, August 12, 2013. NB: Please remember to include your name on your entry!



Unknown said…
To care for myself - I had never prioritised my own needs above others including those of my bosses.

Now every second Monday, I ensure I limit any work ( it is officially my non working day - so I'm not completely there with my prioritisation) and I have a range of massages and beauty treatments, coloured nails make me smile each day and the massages really help.

I also make sure that I do not waste effort on what I cannot influence - agonising over the worry of others in cases when I can't help is probably a driver for my disease.
Chrissy said…
There are so many things I could list, but I think the most important is finding true friends. When you become ill so many people fall by the wayside and what you are left with are the real core of people who you can trust, who will go that extra mile to come and visit you and help when you are stuck at home with no way of changing a light bulb. Before I got ill, I assumed all my friends were true. Now I KNOW.
Anonymous said…
I have received many gifts of awareness since my diagnosis of rheumatoid arthritis. Prior to diagnosis, I believed my worth was tied to my accomplishments and reputation. I have since learned that my worth is intrinsic and cannot be established by external markers such as my bank balance, achievements, or how many tasks I do in a day. I have also found more inner strength then I ever thought possible. As my profession and many friends have fallen away, I have enjoyed a closer relationship with God. The fruits of this relationship are peace of mind, acceptance of myself, and a humility about life's twists and turns. I have a greater awareness that love is to be shared in all circumstances and this I find to be the ultimate gift.
Meg said…
I was given the wonderful gift of time to be with my sons as they went through middle and high school. Prior to when I had to stop working, both my husband and I worked evenings and weekends plus my husband was in school. Things were always rushed. When I stopped work, I had time - time to listen, time to talk, time to let friends come and hang out. I'm very limited in what I can do, so I wasn't thinking about what came next. Now that they are parents themselves, we are still close and I have a wonderful store of memories. And every so often, one of their friends will tell them "Your mother was the only adult who would listen to me." I'm blessed to have been given that gift.
Having a chronic illness has given me the gift of empathy. Because I know how greatly illness can affect every aspect of my own life, I'm more able to understand others and find ways to meet them halfway. I don't leap to judgement. I listen. I put myself in others' shoes.

If not for RA, I might not have such empathy for others. It has made me a better person.
Annette said…
I've been able to meet many people through RA who I would never have run across had I been more healthy. In fact the job I switched to and did for the past 20 years was a result of my decreased ability to expend physical strength when I was working. I ended up in a job that gave me more control over my life, more interesting puzzles, and great clients and workmates. These people, in addition to those who have an "illness connection" has been very enriching.

For example I never would have met you, Lene
Vickie said…
A gift I've received is a renewed love of reading for pleasure. Before ME, I read 2-3 books a year. Now that I don't have to reads tons of stuff for work, and have many days when reading in bed is the most strenuous activity I can do, I've started reading novels. I enjoy it immensely.
Diana Troldahl said…
Learning the power of the word 'No".
Finding my happiness from self-assessment, not the false beliefs of others who try and judge my capacity for activity.
Appreciating and treasuring the moments I can spend giving to my partner, as well as the time he spends helping me care for myself.
I have always been a bit too independent. That had to change as my illness progressed. In return, I gave me an appreciation for those moments I can reach out to my partner with whatever support I CAN share with him. It helps tremendously to make receiving his care a thing I am thankful for instead of a thing I wish weren't necessary.
I also have learned to have many fewer moments of frustration. It still happens, but much less often. Relaxing into a moment instead of ineffectively thrashing toward a (currently) unattainable goal is something that makes life much better on a daily basis.
Phil and Cris said…
My greatest gift has been learning to truly enjoy my family. LIfe is too short. With my daughter and family 5,000 miles away and my son 2,500, I treasure the time I spend with them. No worries about appearances or expectations, only admiring and experiencing the amazing people they are.
Cris Peacock
Karen said…
Sympathy - - not the kind where you need a tissue to wipe away tears, but sympathy that is akin to empathy. While I had been 'limping' along with Fibromyalgia and Connective Tissue Disease feeling pretty sorry for myself, my eyes were opened to the pain my husband was enduring when he was diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis,Psoriatic Arthritis, and Ankolosing Spondylitis! It didn't become a "misery loves company" relationship but rather recognizing Jim's diagnosis added a new 'level' to our 44 year old marriage and we could understand each other better than we ever had before. Empathy.....that's it .... empathy.
Anonymous said…
The gift chronic illness has given me is patience, with myself more than anything. Raised in a pull up your boot straps kind of family, I had a hard time being kind to myself. I fought everything about RA and paid for it later. Today I'm more content to let things slide and worry less about what others may think of me. :-)
Darlen S. said…
The biggest gift I got after my diagnosis was family..My children moved back closer to home and visit more often with the grandbabies..Even on my bad days my babies can always make me smile
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Lyn Burnstine said…
Before I had RA I was a classical singer and pianist, on hiatus while having my first babies. When the RA hit me hard in my wrists after my 3rd pregnancy, I could no longer play the piano. I did a little solo and choral singing, but driving became difficult. After my 4th pregnancy (which produced my 2nd surviving child), I fell in love with folk music, but didn't think I could do it myself because I couldn't bend my wrists around a guitar or banjo fret board and I had a high, classical voice. Then I discovered the autoharp, then the dulcimer, then the kalimba (thumb piano)and finally the psaltery, all instruments that didn't require a bent wrist. For nearly 40 years I earned a living as a folk singer.I realized one day early on in my career that it was truly the blessing of RA that sent me down that path.Classical musicians have to excel at their precise craft with very little room for originality , and nobody wants to hear you unless you are perfect; folk music can be more forgiving-a distinctive voice quality, a warm personality, and great songs (sometimes your own, sometimes other folk song writers)are the key to success. I had a blissful career that lasted until my 68th year, and still, at 80, sing a song or two once a year with my professional folksinger daughter, whose grown son is also a performer.So the gift has been passed down to two more generations, with great appreciation of the music from all the non-performing family members, even the budding opera singer.
Diane said…
I've learned to appreciate the little things...a beautiful sunset, time with family & friends, a bit of spinning &knitting thrown in.
I've learned to LOVE myself, even under these circumstances. My health issues have changed my daily life since 1997. I have learned that even the smallest of things can make my day as long as I celebrate my victories and don't woe over that which I didn't accomplish.
Michelle said…
Having a chronic illness has given me the gift of compassion for others. I never knew what it was like to have chronic pain and have to go to the doctor and take lots of medicine and have tests done until I was diagnosed with RA and fibromyalgia. Now I have so much more compassion for the elderly and handicapped who are living with limited mobility and chronic pain because I am seeing a small piece of what they live with daily. I want to be a help to them because I know what they are going through.
Danielle said…
Having a chronic illness has given me the gift of grace (for myself and for others). Due to my chronic illnesses (yes, like many of us I'm "blessed" with several...), there are days I don't feel well and just can't tackle my to-do list. As a stereotypical Type A, I've had to learn to give myself grace and not push myself to hard. But what's more, its made me more understanding of others and given me the opportunity to practice grace for them. Grace is something we all need at times and my illness continues to teach it to me.
AlisonH said…
I love the (I assume it's a) typo. Congenial disorder. It's so fitting. Chronic illness over time grants one the space and ability to be able to speak with people straight to the heart of who we and they are. For many people, it is so rare to find others willing to be vulnerable and strong at the same time, reachable and reaching out. And yet we who have what they would never want to have to deal with are the ones who get to learn better how to be and do that.

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