By Karin Gelschus
So many things are ripped away from us when we’re diagnosed with a chronic illness, and often times they’re taken from us long before the disease is identified. When symptoms crowd in, it’s natural to wander into a dark cave of detrimental thoughts. I was no different as I found myself trapped in a state of serious depression. It took me months to find my way out. With a LOT of effort, practice, and support from those closest to me, I was slowly able to transform my thoughts.
One of the hardest things was to see the good that has come from my disease. I’ve been forced to cope with lupus on a daily basis and because of its challenges, I’ve developed into a more mindful person.
Lupus has given me…
- Empathy. My ability to listen, understand, and sympathize with other people’s struggles has expanded vastly and continues to deepen as I face new challenges.
- Perseverance. Every single minute can be a struggle some days. Knowing that I have to deal with my illness regardless of my attitude, I’ve grown more determined to accomplish my goals than ever before.
- The ability to say no, and not feel guilty about it. Our society is accustomed to jam-packed schedules. Between kids, work, and household chores, our to-do lists grow longer and longer. That life isn’t sustainable with a chronic illness, and I’ve learned to only take on what I can and want to handle.
- A worth greater than myself. I now have a cause to fight. I volunteer and raise funds for lupus research. I blog to help others going through similar challenges. I try to do everything I can to help others like me coping with chronic illnesses.
- The ability to take care of myself – mind and body. Although I’ve always liked to exercise and eat healthy (most of the time), it was easy to take my body for granted before I got lupus. The luxury of being careless isn’t an option for chronic illness sufferers. Routine due diligence and respect for my body are essential to keeping myself as healthy as I can be.
- Laughter, because sometimes you just have to make fun of yourself. Chronic fatigue is a common symptom of lupus and because of my extreme tiredness, my short-term memory is pretty much non-existent. When I put the cereal box in the fridge or trip over my own feet, I chuckle to myself. I like to share my silly stories with other people so we can laugh together. My friends love hearing my daily hiccups.
- Wisdom. I’ve learned more about life in the past several years than I did in the previous 10.
- Priorities. How I spend my time is a lot different now than before I had lupus. What I used to stress about doesn’t seem to matter all that much anymore.
- Humbleness. iPhones, Coach purses, Tiffany jewelry, the latest and greatest whatever doesn’t matter to me. The wonderful moments and memories I share with friends and family do.
- Deeper love and closer connections with those who surround me.
Having recognized each of these qualities, I’ve reached a sense of peace with my illness and the path my life has taken. I wish with all my heart that all chronic illness suffers can reach some sort of peace with their illness. What have you become more mindful about?
Karin Gelschus was diagnosed with lupus at 23. She currently works as an interactive marketing specialist at CaringBridge, a nonprofit providing personal websites that connect people experiencing a health challenge to their family and friends.
For more on this topic, visit the WebMD Lupus Community.