Nobody wants to get sick. Aside from the pain that you have to endure, it limits what you can do, causes anxiety, changes your plans, puts your life on hold, suspends your regular flow of everyday routine or worse: cut your life short. No one is immune from getting sick, even the healthiest person out there.
Nonetheless, some of the most valuable lessons in life are learned from experiencing illness. When you are sick, it makes you reevaluate how you live your life, your habits, your values and your beliefs. Being sick has a sense of revelatory power.
Here are 4 valuable life lessons that we learn from being sick:
Being sick, especially with a chronic condition, may make you feel like you have little to no control over your life. It takes a lot of emotional strength and resilience to deal with something like this. Having Hashimoto’s disease made me feel more empathy toward those who are suffering from health issues. I understand even more how important it is to show compassion to people who are sick or anyone who is struggling.
It’s easier to feel something when you’ve been there or you’re going through a hard time yourself.
Empathy is knowing how to let go of yourself and your personal problems so you can support someone else in their difficulties. Developing empathy can help you build more meaningful connections with others. Sickness may keep you from going out and meeting people, but it can help you connect more directly and authentically with those who are in your life.
2. Health is valuable and fragile — take care of yourself!
Before I was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s, I took pride in pulling all-nighters. My health wasn’t my priority then… I was more concerned about getting things done and achieving. I wasn’t paying attention to my body’s needs. We live in a country where workaholism is prevalent, and most of us tend to believe in “mind over matter” as if the body can adapt to whatever stress it’s subjected to as long as the mind is strong enough. But being sick made me realize how terrible I was at taking care of myself.
Health should always be your priority. You should take care of yourself first because it is only then that you can truly get the most out of your life. Ignoring your body’s needs—such as getting enough sleep and eating well—will eventually catch up to you.
3. Learn to surrender.
Another gift sickness can give to you is learning to surrender and being okay with the fact that you cannot control everything. We are taught to believe that you should always take charge of your life, that you have to plan things ahead and follow through. However, when you’re sick, you cannot set a timeframe for when you should start feeling better. You need to surrender to the fact that you should rest and put things on hold.
Being sick encourages you to embrace what is happening. Healing takes time, and there are no shortcuts so you should learn to go with the flow. This doesn’t mean letting the river of life sweep you wherever it goes: it means that every once in a while you are okay with having no plans at all, enjoying and living in the moment.
Learning to surrender means that instead of pushing against the unexpected and becoming frustrated, you allow it to run its course and see where it takes you.
4. And finally, being sick teaches us to be okay with not being okay.
Healthy or not, everyone experiences struggles in life. When the going gets tough, instead of blaming yourself for your challenges, take a step back and realize that things like being sick are inevitable parts of the human experience. The best medicine for all kinds of illness is self-compassion. Being kind to yourself, especially when you are not doing so well, is one the best gifts you can give to yourself.
Taking care of yourself and others is the best thing we can do for each other. Be kind to yourself as you learn to embrace the unexpected and cope with things that aren’t so great, like illness. It won’t be easy, but helping each other get through it will certainly make the journey much better.
In love and respect,