Written by our fave former intern Sondi Bruner, reporting from her Vancouver kitchen.
You probably think I'm nuts.
Sickness can be painful, ugly, stressful, agonizing, tragic, wretched, humiliating, sad.
So what's to be grateful for?
I used to whine a lot about having Crohn's disease. I felt sorry for myself. I adopted a 'Why me, why does my body hate me so much?' kinda attitude. It was me against my intestines – and it seemed as if my intestines were always winning.
Sure, Crohn's disease sucks. I've been on loads of medications, I've spent countless hours doubled over in hospital ERs, I've had a foot of bowel removed. It took me a long time to recognize all of the amazing gifts having this disease has brought me, but here I am, talking about illness like it's a blessing and totally meaning it.
Here are a few reasons why we can all be grateful for our illnesses:
- Disease and illness are the body's way of telling us what isn't working. Our bodies know what's up, even if our minds don't. Symptoms, whether they are minor or more serious, are signals that what we're doing – overeating, smoking, drinking, working long hours, hanging on to a relationship that isn't fulfilling, whatever – isn't making us happy or healthy. The biggest challenge, of course, is learning how to listen. But it's nice to have these signs, so we can do something about it. Which leads me to my next point...
- Disease and illness give us a chance to change, before it's too late. Nobody is the picture of health one moment and horrendously ill the next. Most of the time, it's a long road down to sicky-town, and we don't get there overnight. I grew up with a penchant for bagels, chocolate, candy, ice cream and cake. If it wasn't for a potentially life-threatening disease, I may never have changed my ways and could have ended up with an illness at age 60 that was far more serious. The good news is, even when confronted with severe, chronic diseases, there is still a chance to turn things around (hey, Meghan did it). It's never too late to choose to live more healthfully.
- Disease and illness allow us to experience things we may not have otherwise. Being sick can change your path and expose you to people, places and adventures you wouldn't have considered before. If I didn't have Crohn's, would I have quit my job at 30? Gone back to school to learn an entirely new field and made a whole bunch of incredible friends? Moved to Toronto for three months to play with Meghan and her awesome group of peeps? Maybe. But probably not.
- Disease and illness remind us to make every day count. It doesn't matter how much money you have, how great your last vacation was, how many friends you've got, how pretty your hair looks, how sweet your apartment is. Because when you feel like garbage, you can't enjoy any of it. There's nothing quite like an illness to get you out of the future or past and into the present. Being sick reminds us that our time here is fleeting, and we should take advantage of every moment and enjoy it.
Of course, disease is not all sunshine and puppies. Everyone feels frustrated and negative about their lives sometimes. I was recently talking to a friend about my path to healing, and I mentioned how disappointed I was in my latest blood results, what wasn't going right, what I needed to do better.
Her response? “Sondi, the fact that you have been able to go off of your medication and feel as well as you do is something that should be celebrated every single day when you wake up in the morning.”
That really shoved some perspective into me, folks.
The point is not to dwell on the crappy aspects of illness, or pine for days when you might feel better, but to notice all the wonderful moments in between.
So let's raise a glass (of green juice) to good health, as well as bad health, because both of them give us reasons to appreciate our time on this earth.