As a teenager, it seemed as if I was always getting sick. “Regular” things, like colds and flu, and “Really Wierd Illnesses” that, in hindsight, were probably manifestations and flares of the lupus I would later learn that I have. It wasn’t easy being sick so often. I missed out on school classes and other activities, and felt internal stress heaped on the normal development we go through when transitioning from child to young adult.
But there was a benefit to being sick, too. Yes, those “bad stretches” have their positive sides – if we look for them. And now, as I am older and have the luxury of looking back, I can say that the lessons I learned, consciously or unconsciously, have helped me, I hope, be a better and unique individual. Here are some of the benefits; if you are a teen and have a chronic illness, I offer them as food for thought and, I pray, hope:
o If you suffer from a chronic illness, you are in a unique and wonderful position to learn just how amazing, delicate, and complex our bodies are. You learn how to better care for yourself, and throughout your life, you can apply that knowledge to yourself and others.
o You can develop into a very unique person. Yes, it hurts to have to study at home and not participate in a lot of the “usual” things teens do. But your chronic illness is allowing you time and space to develop your very individual self – hopes, dreams, and plans, too. By all means, work hard to build good, positive and nurturing friendships and enjoy this time of your life. But also embrace the precious, singular person you are and are becoming!
o Talk to God as a friend and build your spirituality. When I was so very sick as a child, my mother told me, “Even if you are alone, God is with you. You can always talk to God.” That advice has sustained me and inspired me so very much, and it’s also been a great comfort. Yes, sometimes my talks with God are not easy ones. Sometimes, he gets quite an earful! But always, I am grateful for His presence and work in my life – and for the ability to talk with him no matter when.
o Develop your dreams and develop a plan. Today more than ever, people with chronic illness are able to be active and productive in a variety of areas. Even if you are considered “totally disabled,” you have something to give, and should keep dreaming – and planning – how you can take your many attributes and gifts and use them for the good of all.
o You are strong! Throughout your life, you will encounter people who say, “I can’t make it.” “I can’t do this.” “This situation is just too hard for me to handle.” The tough things you are going through now are showing you that you have a tremendous amount of inner strength and resilience. This enables you to be an inspiration for others who have not quite developed their inner strength like you have. And it enables you to guide them through their tough patches in the days and years ahead.
Above all, know that your life matters. You matter. And although life is not exactly easy, it is full of wonderful blessings – beginning with your unique and God-given spirit!
Joy and peace,