Being sick sucks. It really does, there are so many negatives. We are constantly talking about what we don't like about a medicine, complaining about the tests we have to do, or what we don't like hearing/being told. All of these are difficult things, but have you ever thought about the positives of your illness? If there are any parts of your life that would be completely different if you never learned anything from being ill?
For me, there are so many things that have come from being ill that are incredibly positive.
I've learned to communicate better. I have pretty severe General Anxiety Disorder, so talking with others about pretty much anything makes my heart stop and my palms sweat. Since becoming ill, I have learned to confront others, and letting those around me know what I want them to know.
I learned to try new things when I became ill. I had to give up ballet my senior because of my SMAS, but that didn't stop me from being creative in other ways. I picked up fashion blogging (I also needed all new clothes because I was suddenly a size 00), I learned and practiced calligraphy, and I mastered the art of not flinching when being poked by needles. I spent time researching what I wanted my career to be and who I wanted to be. I started thinking about going through formal recruitment, about what college would be like, about what classes I wanted to take, and so much more. I read incredible books and even wrote a few short stories myself.
Being ill, I conquered some of my biggest fears. I don't know why, seeming as I grew up with a doctor as a dad, but any type of medical anything scared the living daylights out of me. Needles, hospital stays, and medical tests were some of my worst nightmares. After countless IVs, blood draws, self-given shots, and a feeding tube, I think I can handle close to anything. I didn't even flinch when I had my cartilage pierced because I legitimately didn't feel the needle. My mom actually mentioned that I might need a spinal tap or an MRI of my brain the other day and I just shrugged. 2 years ago I probably would've cried. I remember being absolutely terrified when I went to the ENT and she said I might need sinus surgery. Pure fear filled my whole body hearing that and my mom had to squeeze my hand and remind me to breathe. Now, when someone mentions I need my tonsils out I take it like someone talking about the weather. It's not that big of a deal, it's such a simple surgery. I know I would still be terrified of the medical world had I not become chronically ill.
My confidence has increased immensely. Being shy and quiet in high school was the easy way out. I didn't have to talk to many people other than my dance friends, and I could pretty much avoid all of my anxiety triggers. I cared what people thought of my attitude, what I wore, how my face looked, what things I had or didn't have, but now I could care less. I am confident in who I am and who I want to become. I could care less that people hate big t-shirts and nike shorts, it's what I'm comfortable with. You don't like the fact that I'm not wearing makeup today? Too bad. You're in my study room that I have booked for 9pm? I'm not afraid to ask you to leave anymore. Don't like the fact that I want my doctorate and actually have dreams as a woman? Get over it. I know who am, I know what I want in life, and that is because of being ill. When you almost have everything taken away from you, you learn to appreciate yourself.
I gained the most amazing friends in the entire world. These women would do and have done anything for me. From taking me to urgent care, to picking up prescriptions, to holding my hand during a panic attack because I thought I couldn't breathe. They've basically carried me to my dorm room because I couldn't stand up straight and was sobbing in pain. They make me laugh on my worst days, and make me shine on my best days. But most of all, these girls accept me as I am no questions asked. They love me as Liz, not Elizabeth the sick girl. And I know they always will.
I have learned what true empathy is being ill. I may not always be able to completely understand another person's situation, but I can offer my sincerest words of kindness in a way that won't sound superficial. I have learned that empathizing with someone means to step back and try to imagine yourself in that situation. From there you can decide what they best course of comforting them may be. If I hadn't become so sick I would never have learned to empathize with my mom, several of my friends, and even those random people I follow on Instagram just because I know they're sick too.
I have learned appreciation due to my illness. I didn't realize how much I took for granted growing up. My dad being a doctor and being able to take care of me the moment I didn't feel well. A very comfortable living situation, the ability to go to great schools, and knowing that I would be able to afford college without a problem. When I first fell ill I realized how self absorbed I was. I finally saw how hard my parents worked to take care of my brother and I and truly learned to appreciate it. I saw how deeply my family loved and how they would go to the ends of the earth for me. I occasionally would receive calls from hospitals or other places asking for payments and my jaw would drop at how much they were asking for. Sobbing, I would call my dad to let him know and then apologize profusely for the fact that he had to pay not only my mom's medical bills but now also mine. He would calm me down and reassure me, reminding me that he would do anything to make me feel better and that he was thankful that I was aware of how lucky I was. Picking up my monthly prescriptions and watching the number climb, I call my dad and let him know that I had to pick up medicine. Then I thank him for paying my way through school so I didn't have to take out loans or get a job to support myself. I am reminded how lucky I am be so incredibly loved by two amazing parents and by a family so large that I can barely keep track of the number of cousins I have. I learned to appreciate how amazing my private high school was and how thankful I was for their accommodating hearts. I learned to appreciate college and the ability to learn. I cried my first day of college because I couldn't believe I was lucky enough to be a student at OU, nevertheless one who was awarded a scholarship and had fallen in love with a group of sorority women.
Most of all, I learned to appreciate the life I was given.