Chronic Illness, Health, Self Improvement

It Pays To Fight Dirty

I feel your pain. I’ve been there. Through the months spent bedridden because I was too sick to walk across the room. The years writhing in pain as I try to fall asleep. Feeling so isolated, so scared. Hundreds of doctor appointments, thousands of hours spent worrying. More diagnoses than I care to recall, none of them landing quite right. Feeling like nobody, not even expert doctors know what to think of me. Peers questioning the legitimacy of my struggles. Tears shed over the pain of missing out,

Clipboard with diagnosis fibromyalgia and pen.

the pain of being misunderstood. Pain in my joints and pain in my soul.

I want you to know that you are not alone. We are soldiers, living in an invisible war-zone. But we are in this battle together. There are millions of people fighting this common enemy. And we are strong as heck.

Illness is a thief, but it cannot steal everything. As long as we have hope, we have the upper hand. Hope for answers, hope for healing. But mostly hope that we can find a way to transform the pain from an adversary to a teacher. Hope that our struggles will teach us to see new beauties in life – the small, everyday blessings that most people pass over. These gifts are ours to enjoy. We have the unique opportunity to fully and deeply appreciate everything we have in this life because we know the harsh reality of losing things we hold dear.


I have discovered that illness can either steal my joy or fuel it. It’s an active choice we all have to make. Once I learned that I could choose, illness ceased to control my life.

When I have a flare, I can curse it, or I can see it as an opportunity to slow down and appreciate the little miracles of life. Once I catch myself spiraling down the rabbit hole of anger and self-pity, I try to force myself to look around the room and find things to be grateful for. My three beatufil chridre. The sunlight streaming through my window. The fact that chocolate exists. Once I start, it’s hard to stop. There is so much good in this world that pain cannot steal. We just have to learn how to look for it.

That doesn’t mean that our struggle isn’t real or that the pain doesn’t hurt. It is so real and so hard. Some days a dark cloud lingers over me, and I can’t feel hope. Experiencing gratitude feels impossible, and the world seems to be a stormy pit of suffering and meaninglessness. But the beauties of the world don’t disappear because I shut my eyes to them. They’re always waiting for me should I choose to look.


You may feel broken today, but you are one of this world’s true masterpieces. Nothing – not illness, not pain, can change that truth. The fact that you choose to push through the suffering and keep investing in life is an act of pure valor. I may not know you, but I’m grateful for you, exactly how you are. Keep fighting the good fight. I believe that you can win.

Probably everyone with a chronic illness has a few of these issues hiding in their emotional closet. Like all storage areas, even our emotions need an occasional “airing out.” Naturally, your issues and obstacles will be different than mine. Yours may include financial difficulties or worry that you’ll never get married or problems getting the people you care about to support you in your struggle. But whatever your issues, dealing with yourself first is paramount.

What do you feel about living with an illness?

Go into your own emotional closet. Any tough questions piling up in there? Surely some worries, some insecurities, some problems are there, stuck on a shelf like so many stuffed animals. My advice: Take them down one at a time and struggle with them until they are lying at your feet, trampled and no longer bothersome. Fight dirty.

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