5 Ways To Positively Leverage Chronic Illnesses

5 Ways To Positively Leverage Chronic Illnesses

What if you could turn your chronic illnesses into your next best strength?


Kung Fu Panda's Po is one of my favorite movie characters. In one of my favorite animated scenes of all time - he attains "inner peace" to redirect a firey ball of liquid into enemy territory to save the day. In this scene, he quintessentially demonstrates how obstacles can be turned into opportunities.

The Center for Disease Control estimates that 6 in 10 Americans suffer from at least one chronic diseases (Note: chronic illnesses are defined by the CDC as the "personal experience of living with the affliction that often accompanies chronic disease," thus the two terms are linked, however, the focus of this article is on the related experience and not the disease.)

According to Merriam Webster, "chronic" is something that is "continuing or occurring again and again for a long time," and "illness" is "an unhealthy condition of body or mind." Used together "chronic illness" is any recurrent or ongoing unhealthy condition of the body or mind. With this definition in mind, chronic illnesses may actually encompass more than 6 in 10 Americans, given that the CDC definition is limited to conditions of the body.

The stresses faced by individuals with chronic illnesses include financial burdens, emotional tolls, temporal constraints and a lower quality of life to name a few. The stresses presented by chronic illnesses - approached with a determined, opportunistic, and problem-solving mentality - can translate to innumerable opportunities to positively impact communities.

Here are 6 ways by which you can leverage your chronic illness to effect positivity.

1. Use your illness to advocate for others

When it comes to chronic illnesses, patients often hear the phrase "you are your own best advocate," and while that is true, patients with chronic illnesses have shared experiences that they can use to bring about change for all. Use your experiences and your voice to effect change where change is needed - whether that be procedural, financial or political.

2. Use your illness to care for others

While a career in medicine or healthcare may not be the primary interest of patients with chronic conditions, having been "on the other side" allows care providers to better empathize with patients.

3. Use your illness to give you new perspectives

We each have a human perspective composed of overlapping spheres of our identity. Often, after a harrowing medical experience - with the right mindset and circumstances - individuals come out with a unique take on life - often one founded in meaning or relationships.

4. Use your illness to open up career opportunities

Despite more than 6 in 10 Americans having chronic illnesses, the majority of this afflicted population are older (50+); as a result, individuals with chronic illnesses at early stages in their education or careers can use chronic illnesses to help them identify programs or jobs that aim to recruit individuals with disabilities with the purpose of removing obstacles to education or advancement that students with disabilities might face.

5. Use your illness to create a community

While it may seem at times as though the journey with chronic illnesses is lonely, there is a tremendous benefit in joining together. Resources get shared, connections get made and conversations get had, all of which help contribute to a positive, collaborative community.

Society chooses to view chronic Illness as inherently disadvantageous, and while the battle with chronic illnesses may be laden with obstacles, the experiences and narratives of patients with chronic illnesses can be positively leveraged to give individuals unique ways to change the world.

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A Letter To The Tomboy I Used To Be

To that girl with the baseball hat, board shorts, and grass stains, thank you.

To the tomboy I used to be,

Thank you so much for making me the strong, beautiful, determined, and badass girl I am today. I am proud of who you've become. It is because of you that I can stand on my own two feet. It is because of you that I am not afraid to stand up for what I believe in. And for that, I am eternally grateful.

You were never easy to deal with. Mom and Dad had a lot to handle growing up. It was Dad who had to fight for you to be able to play boys' baseball. It was Mom who had to stand up to the boys that were mean to you for playing a boys' sport. It was both of them who had to cart you around to all of your games and practices, because playing one sport a season was just not enough. It was Mom who had to wash your clothes endless times, because the grass and dirt stains would never come out the first time. Don't ever forget who helped you become who you are.

Your attitude and thought process is very different from that of most girls. You grew up dealing with your problems through wrestling or fighting. Pettiness was not something you could deal with. Your anger came from losing a game, not drama with girls. You didn't understand why girls fought, or were so mean to each other, and to this day, you still don't understand it. You are different. You aren't like most girls by any means, which can be difficult for you, even now. You are so much tougher. You think differently. You are determined.

I love who you turned into. You are so strong; you handle everything with such passion and grit, that I can't help but thank you. Thank you for pushing yourself, and for not letting anything or anyone get in your way. The boys were mean sometimes, and the girls talked about you, but that never fazed you. That chip on your shoulder only made you strive even harder for greatness.

Thank you for making me unique. Thank you for making me extraordinary. Thank you for making me, me.



Cover Image Credit: tumblr

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If You're Against Abortion, Here's What You Should Do About It

There's more you can-- and should-- do than picket outside Planned Parenthood


Upon the recent passing of a law that permits late-term abortions, I have seen many of my friends cry out uproariously that our country is fallen and has forsaken God. While you could probably argue this point with other examples, I don't think that this particular one serves as proof of our current state. Let me first explain to you what this law really is about and then encourage you to take other actions to lower the abortion rate.

Now in case you're not familiar, New York recently passed a law allowing abortions during the third trimester of pregnancy. What I think a lot of people have still yet to realize is that this is only allowed in the case that the fetus is not likely to live once outside the womb or the birth will be of danger to the mother. So one more time for those who still might be confused, abortion doctors are not just taking babies out of the womb and killing them a day before birth because the mother decided she didn't want it anymore. This is to save lives and prevent pain and suffering.

I know many think that aborting a terminal fetus before birth still counts as murder, but let me equate it, instead, to ending life support for a loved one who is brain-dead. In many cases, these children are experiencing pain inside the womb only to be followed by more pain shortly before death once born. Parents that are choosing to abort their pregnancies in the third trimester for these reasons are devastated and only trying to end a child's suffering, often at the expense of their own.

Hopefully, I have convinced you that not all abortions are just being used as a form of contraception and that there are many painful stories about the necessity of abortion for a mother. What can you do to lower these rates though? Well, I might add that making abortion legal probably isn't going to do the trick. While you might want to close your ears to this information, women who want an abortion are probably going to get one whether it's legal or not. Many anti-abortion individuals happen to be the same individuals that are anti-gun control with the argument that illegal guns will be procured no matter the laws. Might I turn your eye than to the case of abortion and the fact that people will probably always do what they want to do. Anyhow, let me get off of my soapbox and actually provide some information.

If you're really in it to lower abortion rates, walking outside of Planned Parenthood with a sign, shaming the women who enter probably isn't going to do the trick. First of all, Planned Parenthood does more than just provide abortions, so you may be scaring/shaming a woman who just wants access to healthcare for her pregnancy out of seeking help at all. What you can do, however, is push for your local schools to teach real sex education and not abstinence-only contraception. Yeah, scary pictures of STD's might do the trick for a while, but as we've previously discussed, people are probably going to do what they want to do regardless of what you tell them. We need to be teaching our young people how to have safe sex, and just be teaching them about sex in general. I know that the thought of your teenager having sex probably scares the crap out of you but, if they're going to do it anyway, don't you want them to be safe?

Another thing that you can do to lower the rate of abortion is to call for easier access to birth control for women. When they can easily and affordably access safe methods of contraception, there are bound to be less unwanted pregnancies. The United States needs to not only be educating its youth about all aspects of sex, but it needs to be making it as easy as possible for them to be SAFE about it. It may not be your first preference for young people to be having sex, but if they're going to do it anyway, we need to ensure that they feel comfortable taking the countermeasures to be safe about it.

The last point I'd like to make before I finish up is that even if you think that abortion is morally wrong, it's not your choice to make whether or not another individual decides to get one. Many times this decision is going to be a painful one for the mother, especially if she knows that her child will not survive outside the womb. There is no reason to make this process more painful for her, or even dangerous by illegalizing it. We need to be supporting mothers and not shaming them for whatever decision they decide to make.

If you're anti-abortion, that doesn't mean you have to be anti-choice. If you would choose not to get one, that's totally fine and I understand that, but it's important to look at the bigger picture and ensure both the physical and mental health of our women who are probably already going through a lot. Now is not the time to tear others down for their choices. Now is the time for the human race to stand together and support each other and make sure that our country is a safe one to live in regardless of your beliefs.

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