This time of year has always caused more angst than joy for me. More obligations in work, family, and social aspects of life in a compressed time period (not to mention when the nights are longer — less daylight) would tip me into the “winter blues.”
This Christmas season, living with Polycythemia Vera (www.mpdfoundation.org) and its lovely side effects, I’m forced to re-set expectations and focus on getting and maintaining a reasonable level of healthiness. And guess what? The earth is still rotating on its axis even though I’m doing a fraction of what I’ve done in past years.
Searching for the bright side of living with a chronic, invisible illness, I’ve found a few:
1. Being immunosuppressed is a great reason to avoid crowded shopping areas and people you don’t care to see. Getting a bargain is not worth getting a virus. And most people do not wash their hands enough!
2. Fatigue/exhaustion during the day provides opportunities for mandatory “cat naps.” Ahhh… the oft-misunderstood delight of a brief respite during the day!
3. Family and friends are impressed with your accomplishments that previously would have barely attracted notice. So glad you came to that meeting! Dinner was great, mom! Thanks for making that extra trip when I forgot my project at home…
4. Someone else (like a wonderful teenage daughter) will do a lot of the gift wrapping that caused me great last-minute stress in previous years.
5. You get to know all the lab techs, nurses, and physicians with weekly/bi-weekly visits. You are not just another nameless co-pay in the health care industrial complex.
6. “Chemo brain” is a great excuse for forgetfulness. What was I going to tell you? Why did I open this drawer? Didn’t I tell you …?
7. While you don’t get preferred parking spots, you can “fake it” pretty well and decide how public you want the illness to be. Since you don’t look “sick” people don’t assume the worst and bombard you with knowing looks of pity or fear.
8. You appreciate the “good” days so much more than ever before — being able to go places, work, be an active parent and spouse, be a friend… No more taking healthy life for granted!
9. Side effects are just another way of forcing you to to pay attention to the present. Annoying? Painful? Frustrating? Yes! Yes! Yes! Living through this in the moment, step by step, is part of the journey.
10. Chronic illness is like a loofah sponge — it forces you to shed the flakes from your life. Life is too short and time is too precious to spend on people / activities / thoughts that do not contribute positively.
So there’s my Top Ten benefits of living with a chronic illness.
Please add others … I’m interested to learn from you, too!
Sending best wishes for a Happy Hannakah, Merry Christmas, Sublime Solstice, Happy Kwanzaa, and all other celebrations you enjoy this time of year.
with peace and love,