"You'll find that life is still worthwhile if you just smile."
Charlie Chaplin

All my life, I've grown up with a monster alongside me. It's called epilepsy, and it's my greatest hindrance. Because of it, I experience epileptic seizures, fatigue, and abnormal sensory experiences (among other things) somewhat frequently. Even if I've gone without seizures for quite a while, I feel my condition with me every single day, and that's not something to be overlooked.

If you or a loved one suffer from a chronic illness, I'm here to tell you that 1) you're not alone and 2) it's not all bad! Living with a chronic illness can be a painful existence, but pain teaches us to be stronger. Pain leads us to seek support from others, and meet people with whom we never would've crossed paths otherwise. And...without pain, would joy mean nearly as much?

And so, for the sake of any meaning at all, I share with you the seven lessons I've learned throughout life with a chronic illness.

You must put your needs before anyone else's, and that doesn't make you selfish.


You've probably canceled plenty of plans to take of your needs if you've not been feeling well. You don't take pleasure in it at all, but you know your body better than anyone else. You simply need more rest than regular people, and that can be a challenging truth to accept.

Pain grants you a higher perspective.


Can't find your keys? Lose your laptop charger? Stuck in traffic? Eh...if you've been through worse, daily hassles are an insignificant price to pay so long as you're feeling well. It's useless to put the effort in to complain about a minute inconvenience, and it's not easy to accept that. If it's not proactive, it's not worth it.

You shouldn't feel like a burden on anyone else.


Hard as it may be, you don't have to apologize for any inconvenience you cause! You didn't ask for your condition, and it's not as if you've ever chosen to feel ill on purpose.

You would be nothing without the people in your support system.


If you deal with a chronic illness, you'll quickly learn that isolating yourself from family and friends only intensifies the problem. Isolation leads to feelings of negativity, and if you want to live life to its fullest, there's no way around it: You'll need to trust others with your pain and verbalize how you're feeling. You'll need to seek out moral support. It doesn't make you weak, it only makes you human.

You should try and let go of what you can't control.


Generalized anxiety is frequently diagnosed in patients who deal with a chronic illness. It's hard not to worry, what with all the medication, procedures, and admissions to the hospital. No one ought to blame you for it.

Worrying never solved anything, and that's easy enough to say. However, anxiety is completely irrational. It takes ahold of you, but you need to put up a fight. Within reason, prepare for situations that cause you anxiety. Practice mindfulness and meditation. Do all you can to take control of your life and stay in the present moment.

Healthcare workers are the real MVPs.


Let's be real, having a responsive doctor with whom to work on a treatment plan makes a world of difference. Not to mention that during a hospital stay, nurses are your salvation. Doctors are here and there throughout the day, but nurses are there at the press of a button. Ever-so-patient, they're there to aid you in using the bathroom, grab your snacks, or give you some simple reassurance.

What doesn't kill you makes you stronger.


You've woken up without knowing where you are...only to find you're stuck in the hospital. Suffice to say, you've been rushed to the emergency room more than once. You've had days you didn't want to get up out of bed, but you did because you owed it to yourself. You've been through the wringer, and you're still kicking. Be proud!

No matter how tough it may be, you'll make it through this. You've made it through everything before now, and that makes you one tough cookie. Simply because you deal with chronic illness doesn't mean you can't live a meaningful life. Keep on keeping on!