Being thankful when you are chronically ill

November 24th, 2013 by Carrie, the Just Mildly Medicated gal

“At least you have your health.”

It’s an innocent phrase used as a ‘look on the bright side’ when talking to someone who is down on their luck. What if the person doesn’t have their health… what if their health has them by the proverbial balls?

This time of year everyone around me is focusing on what they are thankful for, it also figures I am in a gastroparesis, fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue flare on top of a cold. This means while the kids are bringing home drawings of turkeys, talking of feasts, and everyone is listing the daily things they are thankful for I am living off of broth and crackers, in pain as if I were training for a marathon and lethargic as if I just ran one. The idea of being thankful when you feel terrible seems like effort, but aren’t the things we are thankful for deserving of the effort?

I knew this slump was coming, I know when it starts and try a few things to snap out of it or at least put on a happier face. I made a long overdue hair appointment, which did give me some pep for a bit. I went back to writing my novel, also a step in the right direction as it gave me some focus for a while. I allowed the fatigue to sit with me instead of fighting it; I went to bed early and took naps instead of over caffeinating and resisting it every step of the way. I made plans with girlfriends and had a nice time out of the house. Even with all of this and applying the coping skills that work for me I am right now in my pajamas on day 2 or 3 without a shower, in constant pain even with meds around the clock, all food had the smell of spoiled chicken, and my throat is sore.

All things associated with a chronic illness flare building when you are supposed to be prepping for the season of giving, when all you really can focus on is nausea and pain, it’s a very unfair combination. Now this isn’t to say that because of my health I have a hard time finding the things I am thankful for, what I am saying is that it is hard to live in a way that shows others that I am thankful.

How can my husband know that I am thankful for his constant partnership with me, that I appreciate the way he picks up the extra weight of parenting when I am not at my best? What do I do to show that his commitment of in sickness and in health has been tested above the norm and he meets each challenge with love and concern for me and never seems bitter that he is both partner and caregiver long before time should have put us in this position?

How do you make sure your children know that even though you’re still lying down in the same spot when they get home from school that you are okay and want to hear about their day? How can I support them and ease their worries when I can see they are worried about me?

Being chronically ill can make it a bit harder to find the things you are thankful for through physical challenges like the exhaustion and pain, also through emotions like resentment. Even if, like me, you are lucky enough to have many things you are thankful for it can be especially hard to live in a way that conveys it.

So all of these thoughts of thankfulness while sitting on the couch stinky and hurting had  my wheels turning, how can I make sure the people in my life know I appreciate them when I don’t outwardly seem all that happy? Then I remembered reading The Five Languages of Love, and realized that maybe I needed to focus on making sure I was making the most of my efforts.

The Five Languages of Love:

Words of Affirmation

Acts of Service

Receiving Gifts

Quality Time

Physical Touch

I had my 10 year old take the test for kids on The Five Languages of Love website, my older son feels loved mostly by words of affirmation and acts of service. I do plan on using this as a starting point to make sure I am showing my love and thankfulness in ways that those I love receive it clearest. Now of course each person in my family will be different and they may change over time but especially at this time of year I feel it is very important to show those around me that I am thankful in whatever ways I am able.

I encourage you to look through your personal struggle and find the things you are truly thankful for and find a way to live in a way that shows it. Besides, if I had to choose I personally prefer a life filled with great relationships over good health, health is so overrated… okay, so maybe I wouldn’t mind a little good health too.

Thankful from the couch,

Carrie, the Just Mildly Medicated gal

Thankful from the couch.

Thankful from the couch.

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6 Responses

  1. Chris Dean says:

    Sweetie, I am keeping my fingers and oes crossed that you come out of this flare-beast quickly. Until then, know how thankful I am that I “met” you and am lucky enough to call you friend. *hugs*

  2. Barbara Warman says:

    This is a wonderful article. I have multiple sclerosis – first flare-up in 1970, diagnosed in 1990 and I am still walking with a cane so I know I am blessed every day. People say “You are so well because of your attitude.” I am not well because of my attitude. By suggesting that they are saying that my friend Marjorie died of MS at 40 because she needed a better attitude.
    But I “get” those days or weeks of tremendous fatigue and neuralgia and. like you, I have learned to accept them. I almost embrace them. They are part of my life.
    I keep myself involved, learn everything I can about as many things I can, I try to be interested and interesting. I love people, I love animals and I love life. What could be better?

  3. Rachael says:

    I love Barbara’s answer … it’s the acceptance of the ‘challenge’ we face that makes all the difference in our attitude and by default in our ability to be thankful for the smallest of things.

    Enjoy the season in the way that you and your family WANT to – not in the way everyone else thinks they need to :)

    Oh, and Hugs sweetie.



  4. hayley-eszti says:

    Another very relatable post from you. Sorry to hear you are in a flare, I hope you can escape it as soon as possible. I´m grateful for so many things, but sometimes the pain and everyday struggles create a thick smoke and it´s hard to see through it. Thinking of you and sending hugs x

  5. Linda says:

    Another great article! Your honesty is refreshing. And BTW – all of us, in good health or not, need to show our appreciation to our loved ones more than we do. And with that, please know that I appreciate you in more ways than you could know. You are a special gift from God, and I will always be there for you (after the 18-hour trip to get to you!). Thanks for being YOU.

  6. Pamela says:

    Carrie, Your writing comes straight from the heart and you share advice all of us should heed. A true challenge lies in removing our attention from our health conditions but we must strive to appreciate all the good things life offers us and, as you wrote, show thanks for them. Wishing you a very Happy Holiday filled with love and a meaningful 2014 filled with hope. -Pamela-

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