You learn the scales of pain, you learn the bureaucracy of the health care system, you learn to grieve for abilities and opportunities lost, and so much more.
I know this; I am living with chronic illness too.
Yet all is not lost. Your chronic illness also teaches you many great things that offer enormous reward in life, and sometimes it's good to take a moment to acknowledge this brighter side of your existence.
1. True Love
If it's there you've likely discovered the meaning of true love.
When your husband changes your dressings, or ileostomy bag, or your wife happily fetches your painkillers in the middle of the night.
When your child hugs you big and hard yet softly and gently to avoid your pain, when your mom tells you she loves you even though you weren't able to spend time with her yet again.
When someone looks into your eyes outside the OR and says "You will be okay, I love you."
Living with an invisible illness has taught you that not all suffering is visible or obvious.
You don't judge when the man doesn't offer you his seat on the train, because perhaps, despite appearances, he has Rheumatoid Arthritis and desperately needs to sit down.
You smile and send the woman who asks to jump the line in the ladies restroom forward, as despite appearances you know that she might have an IBD, and her need for the bathroom is desperate.
You don't comment when a person walks from their car in the disabled parking space, because you know that despite the fact she is seemingly walking well now, her chronic fatigue means that she will struggle to make it back to her car later.
3. The Value of Time
As you sit in a doctor's surgery for the third time this week, listening to the clock ticking the seconds away on the wall, you understand time.
You recognize the minutes you lose sitting in waiting rooms, driving to appointments, and laying in bed feeling too much pain to move.
You also recognize the minutes you feel well enough to leave your bed, when you're simply sat in peace drinking a cup of tea, or you're able to take a walk with a friend.
You know how precious time is and you don't waste it.
4. Community is Important
You need your community, and so you build a community, whether you realize it or not.
When suffering with a chronic illness you build a community, you give to your community and you actually, often give your community purpose as it bonds through your need for support.
When your neighbor knocks on your door with a meal to save you the effort of cooking.
When your friend calls by to take your kids out to play even though she has her hands full with her own children.
When your elderly neighbor drops by with groceries, because despite his own struggles, he knows you need help.
In return, when you're well enough you don't hesitate to contribute to your community in thanks.
5. You Recognize The Beauty in the Little Things
Your heightened senses, because of pain and difficult symptoms, mean you no longer passively interact with anything.
You're sick and so often suffering, so you know darkness, which also means that you bathe in the light of anything beautiful.
You notice the blooming flowers as you drag yourself around the block for a painful walk.
You drink in the lyrics of the music you hear, basking in their tone and meaning.
You acknowledge a child's delightful giggle as they look in awe at the bird flying in the sky.
You see the beauty all around you.
You understand what it means to truly, heart deeply be grateful for every little thing.
You're grateful for the doctors and nurses that help you maintain your quality of life and stay alive.
You're grateful for the moments you spend with your family doing ordinary things.
You're grateful for the Internet that allows you to stay connected despite often being housebound.
You're grateful for your children's teachers who care for them with patience and compassion at times when your pain means you struggle.
You're grateful for the friends who take the time to love and care for you despite your frequent inability to show up.
You are grateful you are breathing.
Lottie has suffered with chronic illness and daily pain for the last 17 years. She is a JPoucher as a result of Ulcerative Colitis, and has Fibromyalgia, Chronic Migraines, GERD and Obstructive Sleep Apnea. You can find her at www.lottieryan.com supporting women with chronic illness to create a life you love despite it all.
This article was originally post in the Huffpost. We found so inspirational that we asked permission to repost it here, to give it exposure. If you see a great story somewhere, do let us know.