Having a chronic health condition gives you a unique perspective on life. There are so many things most people take for granted like walking, exercising, driving, traveling, etc.
All of these things are things that I used to be able to do without thinking about. I have been on both sides of the fence.
On the one hand, having to focus so much attention and energy on daily activities can be exhausting and frustrating. On the other hand, it forces you to slow down and appreciate the little things.
I took my son with me a couple of weeks ago to my therapy appointment. We talked about dealing with his and my shame that comes up regarding my having a disability.
One of the things that I shared is that I know for a fact that many of the things I love and value about who I am are inextricably linked to living with a chronic illness, including my sensitivity, empathy, intelligence, and capacity to live in the present moment.
I also said that I have learned plenty of lessons and would be thrilled to accept a treatment or a cure at any point in the future, but I could tell that what I shared impacted him.
Then I took it a step further and asked him if he thinks that the qualities that he values about himself would be the same if I didn’t have a disability and he immediately recognized that they wouldn’t be.
It reminds me of one of the stories from a children’s book of Zen short stories that my friend bought for my son when he was younger. It goes something like this:
There’s a farmer living on a farm with his family and neighbors come to tell him that their country is going to war.
The military comes and tells the son to prepare to go off to fight in the war.
One of the family’s horses escapes from the farm and the son goes to try to bring him back.
He is able to recover the horse but he ends up falling off the horse on the way back home and breaking his leg.
When the soldiers come back to collect his son, he is unable to go because of his injury.
The moral of the story is that good luck and bad luck are all mixed up. You never know what you’re going to get.
It helps me to think about the things that I value about myself and my life that are bound up with having a chronic health condition. What about you? What do you value and love the most about yourself or your loved one? Do you think that it would the same if not for your condition or your loved one’s condition?
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If you haven’t already read the book, it’s a great place to start: Living With Chronic Illness Handbook.
David B. Younger, Ph.D. is a clinical psychologist specializing in working with people with chronic health conditions with a web-based private practice and lives in Austin, Texas with his wife, 13-year-old son, 4-year-old daughter and 5-year-old toy poodle.
Originally published at chronicillnesstherapy.com