The unappreciated side of chronic illness

Discovering the silver lining in the grey clouds of illness

Most of you who’ve braved to live with acute pain and deep-seated illness, know that your body isn’t always at its best self. There are times when, despite all the self-care and good intent, your body isn’t willing to cooperate. Sometimes, you feel like you have been dealt a bad hand in life that you don’t deserve. But, you only have two options: to give in and lose hope or to create value with what you have!

It is in trying times like these that you learn to appreciate the simplest of things which you earlier turned a blind eye to. Having said that, I am sure you wouldn’t miss a chance on this planet to mystically wake up one morning having regained all your health, feeling all healthy and hearty!

But, if you come to think of it, hasn’t your illness given you a new perspective in life?

In this sense, it’s ironic how a life-altering diagnosis can make you more appreciative of life itself. Not only this, but it also teaches you some of the most valuable lessons of your life!


1. Appreciation and Respect For Your Life and Body- Indeed, you do not learn the value of something, until its gone. All along when you’re physically healthy, you may have taken your body and its functions for granted. But, once you’re chronically ill, you pay so much attention to your body. It’s like your body is your only soldier when battling ill health. And, even though there are days when your body is not functioning at an optimum level and is in pain, you still learn to love each broken piece of yourself.

Time for Self-Check:

  • Are you more attuned to your body and have come to respect its limitations and warning signs? Or do you still push yourself to exhaustion?
  • Do you prioritize taking care of yourself with the knowledge that it doesn’t mean that you’re selfish?
  • Have you taken all the pre-requisite steps to ensure a healthy lifestyle – do you take a wholesome diet and have a regular exercise regimen?

2. Appreciation for the Tireless Support of your Family and Friends – All your childhood, the most vital etiquette that you learn is to say ‘Thank You’. But, rarely enough do you truly mean it from the depth of your heart when you say it to others. Well, if living with illness gives you one thing, it is to feel grateful for everyone around you! Some people may indeed have gone completely missing from your life post-illness. However, eventually, you learn to accept that and even wish them well. That said, you value your family for always going out of their way to ensure your well being and also, your friends, for always being there for you. Let’s just say, illness makes you a better human being, more cognizant of other’s contributions for your fulfilling life! If they ever need you for anything, you’d be there for them in a blink of an eye! 

Time for Self-Check:

  • Do you now feel more depth in your connections rather than maintaining superficial relationships?
  • Do you appreciate even the little things people do for you? 
  • Have you become more expressive in your relationships and frequently share with others how much you value them?

3. Appreciation for Being ‘YOU’ – Sometimes even one negative or neutral remark about you can put you in a low spot, where you begin to negate all the good things about yourself. But, living with a serious illness makes you realize your worth. Not to feel arrogant, but to never see yourself or measure your worth from the eyes of others. It may sometimes take years to come to this but you become more appreciative of yourself. You no longer need everyone to like you to feel compassion for yourself. 

Time for Self Check:

  • Do you feel just about fine even if not everyone around you thinks you’re awesome?
  • Have you developed a gentle “take me or leave me” attitude without being mean or disrespectful?
  • Do you look forward to time just with yourself in solitude?

4. Appreciation for your New Found Empathy and Compassion for Others – Sometimes it takes a big blow that sweeps you off your feet to come to acknowledge and understand the pain of others. It is only when you have experienced suffering, can you empathize with the suffering of another. The internal experience of your suffering makes you more giving, understanding, and strong!

Time for Self-Check:

  • Do you often acknowledge how tough life can be for everyone?
  • Do you feel a strong need to share your journey with others only to give them hope and encourage them to create value in their life?
  • Do you strongly feel the need to help others and be there for them in times of need?

5. Appreciation for the flexibility you Afford – If you’re fortunate enough to have altered your work as per your convenience, you will eventually come to feel grateful for the fact that you can choose to reschedule and re-prioritize tasks in a manner that they don’t take a toll on your health. You will come to acknowledge that such flexibility only comes with great good fortune. 

Time for Self-Check:

  • Have you started to control your calendar and appreciate how much flexibility it offers you?
  • Have you made your peace with the fact that there will be days, you’ll have to re-prioritize your schedule to first address your body’s needs?
  • Do you often plan your day in a manner that you have some free time for yourself to pace systematically rather than making edges meet?

6. Appreciation for your Time to Rest, Sleep And Restore – Before illness rings your doorbell, you feel like you’re the boss of your body and neglect its various needs. One of the prime ones being, your body’s need to rest and get adequate sleep to function optimally. That being said, living with an illness teaches you a valuable life lesson to always listen to your body and respect it. So you begin to feel grateful for sound sleep and a good rest.  

Time for Self Check:

  • Do you give adequate rest and sleep to your mind and body?
  • Do you feel recharged and rejuvenated after a good night’s sleep?
  • Do you give yourself sufficient breaks in the middle of the day to avoid burn out?

7. Appreciation for Doctors and Medicines – Just having met doctors for cold or flu, seldom make you feel appreciative of their invaluable contributions. But if you think now, you’ll remember the days when all you could feel was excruciating pains in your body and how by popping the right pill that your doctor suggested, you felt relieved. It is indeed true that when you’ve seen one of your lowest points in health, can you come to acknowledge how by a doctor’s input you’re regaining your health! Medicine then becomes more like a solace!

Time for Self-check:

  • Do you intently listen and follow through what your doctor says?
  • Do you make sure you learn about your medicines and take them on time?
  • Do you keep your doctor in the loop about the progress you’re making or about your current condition?

8. Appreciation for contentment borne of simple things – A Paradigm Shift! – Having said that, life-changing experience of pain and illness can make you come eye to eye with the reality of life: enjoying the pleasures of the simplest of things! You come to admire that it is the joy of the little things that leave the big impressions in your life. It may be enjoying meeting an old friend, soaking in the bright light of the sun, or just waking up without an alarm! 

Time for Self-Check:

  • Do you find yourselves more appreciative of the little joys of life like an unexpected call or a message?
  • Have you cut down on comparing your life with those of others around you?
  • Do you find yourself happy, motivated, and compassionate more often than not?

Take Away Message – If most of your answers to the above questions were ‘Yes’, Congratulations!!! You truly are growing through what you’re going through! Remember that you are brave beyond measure and I am so proud of you. 

Although, if by any chance, there were more nods in disagreement, it’s okay! Don’t be hard on yourself as you’re dealing with so much right now. Just continue to believe that you’ve been dealt the right hand because this is what your life needed to learn, grow, and even heal. Not to deny, these cards stink sometimes. Even though you cannot change your cards, you can change the way you play your game. Try to see the glass half full and focus on the silver lining in this grey cloud. One of the most life-transforming practices you can adopt is that of ‘Gratitude’. Persistently think of how your life is a blessing to you! Regular practice will make you more appreciative of life and will give you immense hope! 

If you’ve gained any other virtue with your experience of living with pain and illness, do share with us in the comment section below. 

Kudos to you.


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