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wundayatta's avatar

How did your illness affect your attitude towards or about your life?

Asked by wundayatta (58638points) April 13th, 2011

If you’ve been ill with a serious or chronic illness, or if you’ve known someone who has been ill, this question is for you. I’m wondering about how your attitude towards your life was affected by the illness.

I know that when I was having my first bipolar depression, I became very uncertain about whether life was worth it if it was going to be endless pain. In the past, I said I never wanted to die, no matter how badly things hurt, but depression sure made me question my resolve.

I kept on thinking how if I was dead, I couldn’t feel anything. Yes, there would be nothing positive to feel, either, but I would be dead, so I wouldn’t know that. There wouldn’t be a me to know anything.

Since I’ve recovered, my attitude has changed again. I want to love people more and I want to help people in a different way. I used to want to help people in a global way with better social policy or something. Now all I want are personal relationships. I want to help people heal themselves with my involvement in their lives, whether a fleeting involvement or one with greater depth.

I believe my illness changed my level of empathy. I had a lot of barriers and mistrust—fear that I would be hurt. I think that the illness showed me that my fear of being hurt doesn’t matter. The fear I felt about the mental pain was so much worse than any fear of failure might be. I think I learned that it is ok to be happy and that happiness is too precious to deny myself of it.

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26 Answers

lucillelucillelucille's avatar

Illness made me stronger.
Being diabetic and seeing my mother die from complications of the same disease just reinforced the idea that life is indeed too short and one should find a way to be happy in spite of “bad” things that happen.
Two years ago,I was diagnosed with MS.That was interesting in that it took away my ability to do my pottery and painting….for awhile…due to the numbness in my hands.I never thought that I wouldn’t be able to create art.It’s affect was more direct than the diabetes.
I had a procedure done a few months ago and am doing better than ever.I literally got a second chance! How often does that happen?? :)
I do have even more empathy for people than I ever have and have even been able to help a few with MS.I try to be an example of what one can do in spite of diabetes or MS.
I do not give up.
I do know that it doesn’t pay to feel sorry for oneself.
Find a way to be happy in spite of what happens in your life. ;)

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

I’m stressed out and feeling like shit, crying in my beer, and I see lucille’s post and I always kick myself in the ass and shake my head. I’m an asshole, she’s a warrior. Go girl!!

JilltheTooth's avatar

Ah, @Adirondackwannabe , I too am always inspired by LucyThrice, but remember to own your own life and pain.

After the whole cancer thing, I found my life focus narrowed a bit, meaning I no longer freaked about the big world things I couldn’t fix and became much more involved with the little local things I can do. I don’t suffer fools with any grace anymore, but my tolerance has increased exponentially for others. I value the simplest things much more, now, like sitting with a decent cuppa Joe watching the sun come through my funky little stained glass window of a morning. I don’t tend to take things, or people, for granted anymore, and as cliched as it sounds, every day that I wake up above ground is a good one. Varying degrees, of course, but still a good one.

lucillelucillelucille's avatar

@Adirondackwannabe—Thanks:) Get a dremel to take your frustrations out on inanimate objects…nothin’wrong with that. ;)
@JilltheTooth -Thank you too! We share the same attitude about a few things I see.:)

buster's avatar

I’m bipolar. I overdosed was in a coma and miraculously lived considering I had three times the lethal dose of phenobarbitol in my system. I was crushed when I realized I had fucked everything else in my life up and I failed at suicide too. This was almost five years ago. The first two years after that were the hardest. I was in and out of psych hospitals deeply depressed. Over time therapy and trying different meds I have realized when I am slipping into depression and try to head it off.

Now if things don’t go my way I try and think how much better I have it than 98% of the people in the world have it. I’m not really materialistic anymore and just enjoy simple things instead of stressing about what I don’t have or could or should be doing. Holding down a full time legit job seems impossible for most of the last five years. I work odd jobs and construction for cash. Sometimes though I get so low I don’t care and am incapable of being emotional. It seems like I hit a low spell about every time daylight savings hits. I can’t get out of bed or eat or leave the house.

I want to do something with myself though to help people. I want food, a decent home and loving and caring friends. Other than that all I need is to travel places with my backpack and skateboard. I try and stay positive and follow the golden rule. I do have anger issues though and will become violent if someone trys to do me dirty or is an asshole to me for no reason. Sometimes I still have suicidal thoughts but do not follow through after seeing the pain I caused my mom dad sisters and others.

Also since my attempt both my dads brothers one of which was very close to my age and my best friend have accidentally overdosed. My cousin and close friend who was a couple years younger than me lived next to me and we always skated our homemade skatepark in his driveway accidentally overdosed during this time too. These deaths deeply affected me. I couldnt function for weeks. I still cry several times a week because of this. The pain there death has caused me and my family makes it easier for me to be clean. I would rather be miserable in an asylum than cause my family anymore heartache. When I feel good which seems to be more frequently nowadays than not I am a funny compassionate person who everybody wants to be around. I don’t know why but sometimes I put on a sarcastic offensive persona to callous myself from the ugliness in me and the world. I despise flashy materialism. I know from experience a poor person will share his last cigarette or food with you more readily than a rich man will even look at me and smile. I keep it simple. I fish, skate, bike,travel,hike,camp,drink with buddies and make sure I eat and have a place to stay. I want my own home and maybe a car but I don’t dwell on those things. I don’t know I am still trying to figure out how I tick, how to maintain happiness and what my role in this world and life is.

I am stronger than I have ever been. I have been to hell and back then back to hell a few more times. I have been beaten, betrayed, incarcerated, damn near dead, on every hard drug around, locked in psych units with people a lot more batshit crazy than me, have had several young friends and family die from violence, drugs, accidents, suicides, and natural causes. These experiences have given me the perspective where I do not want to end up if I don’t stand up and help myself. I am stronger physically. I am more self confident but could stand to have some more. A lot of my bad choices I want blame on mental illness but being manic, depressed, or cracked out definitely helped me talk myself into things I knew better than do or would do if my brain worked like a healthy happy person.

Mariah's avatar

I was fourteen when I was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis, and I was young and stupid and didn’t care. I thought someone would give me some pills to take and it would go away. I didn’t understand chronic illness.
Later that year I had to receive a blood transfusion, and I learned the value of charity. My first flare-up ended and I learned to appreciate and not take for granted the days on which I felt good. But I was still young and stupid and I thought it would never come back again, mostly because I couldn’t deal with the thought of the alternative.
It came back when I was sixteen and it was worse that time. The second flare-up was very clearly brought on by stress… and so began a mental cycle I’m still trying to break out of. I became acutely aware of how my habits, hell, even my thoughts, could impact my body and I started feeling the need to have control over all of these things. This flare up got really bad – I missed months of school, I got a lot more blood, and I went on IV nutrition for two months. I started a heavy duty biologic immunsuppressant to get the flare under control. My IV site ended up getting infected, I went septic and it wasn’t caught until the last minute; I almost died. A lot of my idealism went away that year.
Dealing with this illness in high school boosted my confidence. Prior to getting sick, my life had been really cushy, and I was insecure about that. So I could perform well under great circumstances – who can’t? I had no reason to believe in my strength of character until I started performing well under shitty circumstances – then I had a true reason to believe in myself. That was huge for me.
It also brought out the good in people. I got piles of cards from my classmates, my teachers worked tirelessly with me to get me caught up on the work I missed. Everyone was incredibly sweet and it did my soul a lot of good to see the kindness come out of the woodwork.
From the time I was sixteen until I went off to college, my health was tentatively good. I didn’t achieve very good remission again, and I got a terribly painful lung infection twice as a side effect of the heavy duty meds. I had learned my lesson about stress and was making every effort I could to become more laid back, although that is not my nature. I did not choose to go to the most prestegious college that accepted me because I saw that the lifestyle there was very high-strung, rather I chose a small college with great accomodations for struggling students. I had learned that I needed to place a greater value on my own well-being than I had been in the past.
When I went to college I immediately got sick again and I struggled just to make it through the one quarter that I attended. I couldn’t admit to myself that I didn’t have control over my health, so my eating habits and my desire to control my stress became borderline obsessive compulsive. The weight of the responsibility of taking care of my health on my own felt huge. I received more blood and my doctor suggested surgery to remove my colon. I had reached the point mentally where I finally agreed it was time, so I took a leave of absence from school to have it done.
I wouldn’t trade away what I’ve learned, but I don’t want to hold onto all the habits I developed as a result of my illness. I’ve learned that there are people out there suffering – I honestly don’t know if I really realized that before; I wasn’t really aware of chronic illness. I have greater empathy and much more appreciation of the good days. But I also have fear. My health went to shit despite trying my hardest to keep it good; so what would it be like if I didn’t try my hardest? If I took risks, if I drank alcohol, if I ate unhealthily, if I didn’t get enough sleep, if I if I if I… I want to start trusting that I don’t have to behave in the optimal healthful manner in order to be okay – the pressure of that attitude is probably more unhealthy for me than having an greasy meal now and then. I play it safe now and that’s not getting me anywhere good.
Sorry about the novel.

Facade's avatar

I have chronic pain and mental issues don’t I look crazy? =). Although these things have gotten better, I used to think “why live if living is going to be this way?” Of course I never did anything, but I still meant it. My outlook on life changes depending upon how I feel. Sometimes I feel fine and am ready to embrace life. Other times I feel like shit and go back to my old way of thinking. I look forward to the days when I always feel fine, and things in life aren’t royally sucking.

wundayatta's avatar

Wow, @Mariah! That was a very moving story. You’re working so hard, and you’ve achieved some important gains, but also it’s a continuous struggle. I’m glad you wrote that down. I think it will be very important for any number of people who come along to read it. GA x10!

Mariah's avatar

Thank you kindly @wundayatta!!

gondwanalon's avatar

Nine years of dealing my particular health issue brought me to my knees. I contemplated suicide to end my suffering but I couldn’t do that to my wife. In June 2010 I took a big chance on a very expensive surgical procedure this no guarantee of success. Luckily for me it was a huge success.

Now I don’t worry about little things like money, the weather, foolish people, politics, etc, etc. As long as my heart and body keep functioning normally I’m so such a happy camper. Also I’m more appreciative of music, mature, and all that is good.

CaptainHarley's avatar

It made me appreciate my family and friends more. It made me realize that, if there’s something I want to do, I should go ahead and do it ‘cause I may not have a chance later on. And it made me draw closer to God.

seekingwolf's avatar

Being diagnosed with PCOS was a double-edged sword. I decided to embrace my infertility (I stopped ovulating properly at a young age) and saw it as a GOOD thing. I’m not sure if I want kids but if I do, I would definitely adopt one at a slightly older age and raise it the best I can with a loving husband. I’m not in that rush to make babies…mentally or physically. It’s a good feeling. I can enjoy life and concentrate on my career and then when the time is right, I can adopt if I want to and be a slightly older parent. I know some who are freaking in their mid 20s and wanting to get pregnant. I am in no rush and I LOVE it.

Having PCOS has made me kinda..well, overweight. I’m getting weight loss surgery soon this summer. I still eat well though. I eat a low carb diet and am more mindful of what I stick into my mouth than most my age.

Hawaii_Jake's avatar

I was diagnosed bipolar 10 years ago. Mental illness seeped through every pore of my being.

For years whenever I closed my eyes, I was submerged in a bog. A mirey glue held me under its surface. I couldn’t close my eyes to rest. I couldn’t close my eyes to nap. Going to bed at night was an exercise in strong denial. It makes me want to cry just remembering it now.

The bog was thick and deep. I could not feel anything solid underneath me, and I could not reach up to the surface. It was all encompassing, and I was suffocating in the black, slick waste.

I would pull myself one arm at a time upward trying to reach air. I would grab and pull and attempt to get myself out of the wretched mess, and eventually, my face would break the surface, and I could breathe. I was still trapped, but I was breathing. This imagery went on for years. My eyes would shut, and I would be trapped in sludge.

I think back on it now, and the emotions are strong. It makes me want to sob remembering the terror.

There came a day when more than my face broke through. Somehow, my hands broke the surface, and I attempted to grab something to pull myself free. To my horror, the bog was covered with razor sharp rocks. Points and edges of the rocks were honed to a fine edge. Grabbing hold would slice through skin and muscle on my hands and cut to the bone. My head was free, but I was still captive to this vicious muck.

I can’t remember when it happened, but I gathered the strength to lift my torso out of the mire. The rocks sliced through my hands, but I denied the pain and wrenched my body upward. I remember being exhilarated by the ability to twist from my waist up in the open air. My legs remained encased and unusable, but I felt exultant. I could move.

This exercise took years. For ages, I remained in the bog, and I saw it every single time I shut my eyes. Even to pray.

I don’t remember now which came first: the smoother surface or lifting my entire body above the razor-like rocks. Still, that day did come when I stood above the bog ready to move.

Was there celebrating? Was there exuberance? No, for I found myself at the bottom of a pit. The only way out was up a slope of razor-like rocks. Again, the pain. More pain. Fierce, blinding cutting pain. Searing behind my eyes.

For years, I languished sunken in a putrid mire. Now free of that black bog, I faced a mountainous climb up rocks meant to slice me to pieces. And I did begin to climb.

I don’t know how the healing began or even when, but the day came when I could close my eyes and not see myself in the bog or being sliced to pieces trying to escape. It was sometime after my fifth anniversary of sobriety. I spent a great deal of my life self-medicating with gin. The pain did not stop on my first day sober. It did not stop in the first year. It was sometime after five years of continuous sobriety.

It also came two or three years after my bipolar diagnosis, and the beginning of medication.

Today, I am relieved to report that I close my eyes, and I see nothing. Blessed nothing.

gm_pansa1's avatar

I took a complete nosedive over the past couple of years…...
though it has calmed down a great deal, I used to be very very obsessed with death and finding that as being my way of coping. I still feel that the world’s better off without me, but that’s depression for ya.

WillWorkForChocolate's avatar

A short term illness caused by a stupid nurse really ruined my bonding experience with my daughter, and I feel that our relationship has suffered because of it. I was sick for so long that instead of really bonding with her and cooing over her, I was stuck in bed, horribly ill. I was so focused on just trying to make myself better, that I became emotionally detatched from everything else.

Also, after years of being miserable and in pain all the time, I was finally diagnosed with endometriosis about 2 years ago. I feel like crap most of the time, with horrible cramps, migraines, extreme fatigue, sexual pain, moodiness, constant lower back pain, stomach issues, ovarian cysts, hypoglycemia, anxiety attacks… get the idea. It’s freaking awful, and as a result, I never feel like leaving my house and have to literally force myself to go to the grocery store and to take my kids to gymnastics class. I don’t have the money (no insurance) to get a hysterectomy, plus I’ve been told that the side effects of a hysterectomy can be just as bad as the endometriosis itself. So it’s just something I have to suffer through until I hit menopause. Oh my God, another 10–20 years of this. Now do you see why I’m so cranky a lot of the time?

KateTheGreat's avatar

I was 15 when I found out that I had cance. I felt like I was on top of the world, and then the cancer completely blew that all away. I was also very beautiful before that, I had long hair down to my waist. I lost all of my hair and it ruined every bit of self-confidence that I had.

Then, another big blow came to me this year when I was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia. Before that, I knew that there was something wrong with me, but when I received the final diagnosis, it was horrible. I felt as though I was going to be labeled crazy or I’d have to stay in a mental hospital my entire life. At first, I did receive some criticism and there were some harsh comments about my mental stability, but I chose to stay strong. I wanted to prove everyone wrong, and I did. I stayed in college, pursued my dreams harder than I ever did before, and actually got a job. I still have a lot of problems, but I work through them pretty well. I take medicine and go to therapy every week, I force myself to go out into public and face my fears. The biggest problems I have right now is trusting people and focusing on whatever I’m doing. I still have some hardcore hallucinations, but I’m working on trying to snap out of them.

CaptainHarley's avatar


YOUR biggest problem is finding the money to feed your gun-collecting habit! : D

KateTheGreat's avatar

@CaptainHarley Hahahahaha, not really, I use all the money I get from singing for that!

CaptainHarley's avatar


LOL! Kewl. BTW… my older grandaughter is a real songbird. She just cut her second CD. If you’re interested, I can let you hear it. How knows? You guys might wanna try something together? : )

KateTheGreat's avatar

@CaptainHarley I would LOVE to hear it!

cak's avatar

Considering I felt like the poster child for all illnesses that were hanging out there, I had to make a decision. Would I let it run me or would I run the illness.

Cancer made me more tenacious.
Leukemia, I laugh in the face of leukemia.
When I found out I had a cerebral aneurysm, I giggled. Seriously. It was like, “what else?”

I’ve had other things, in the mix of those things. For the better part, illness made me stronger. I hit low moments, but the highs outweighed the lows.

drdoombot's avatar

I’ve been dealing with unexplained fatigue and dizziness for nearly 10 months now. My functionality has deteriorated significantly. I’ve been to a number of doctors and specialists and have no diagnosis. I continue to fight it and try to move on with my life, but as more time passes, I feel myself getting worn out and depressed over the whole thing.

I can’t really comment on the long-term effects, but it’s pretty crappy right now.

Mr_Saturn512's avatar

I have asthma. I never really thought much about it when I was younger. I was just bummed out at times. But I still played sports and was determined to break through my limits. I can run miles and miles.

augustlan's avatar

You people inspire me!
I’ve been dealing with some kind of chronic illness or another (most of them not life-threatening) for most of my life, even as a kid. I think I’ve been dealing with that for so long and had such a horrible childhood (due to other factors), that most of it hasn’t really changed me at all. I think I may have been a different kind of person entirely if I hadn’t had those issues, though. It sure would be interesting to know how I’d have turned out!
The big ones in my life:

Depression. From a very early age I pretty much wanted to die, so who knows how awfully that colored my world view? Thank God that’s under control these days.

Going through thyroid storm as a 15 year old. It almost killed me, but I was lucky enough to not realize that until years later. But, I had to be home-schooled for months, and when I went back to my big, crowded high school, I began to experience extreme anxiety, which I still struggle with today. Maybe without that forced seclusion, my anxiety never would have gotten that bad?

Being diagnosed with kidney disease and told I couldn’t have any more children because of it. I was pregnant at the time, and scared to death I’d die leaving my kids motherless. Obviously, I survived. ~ I’ve calmed down about this one, for the most part, since it hasn’t gotten worse since then. I’m holding steady and three great kids are enough for me. :)

Fibromyalgia. Ugh. Constant pain for about 15 years now. I still haven’t mastered the art of pacing my physical activity so as not to exacerbate it. I can’t quite get it through my head that I shouldn’t do too much in any one day, or I’ll suffer the consequences. This one changed me the most, I think. I’m just not capable of doing all the things I want to do and it pisses me off to no end. I’m probably more irritable than I used to be.

Both the thyroid condition and the kidney disease, along with a multitude of lesser problems are all auto-immune disorders. That fact has brought me to the conclusion that I just can’t trust my own damn body. I’ve pretty much made my peace with that, but every once in a while I get angry about it.

plethora's avatar

You people bring me to my knees. I have never had any physical or mental or emotional issue. Now I have some minor neuropathy in my feet with which I’ve found ways to deal. But NOTHING…nothing whatever like you all have endured. Thank you. At the very least you have made me kinder to those who suffer without my knowledge.

GracieT's avatar

I actually consider my Brain Injury to be a gift. Yes, it sucks, but even despite all of the baggage like my bipolar and my PCOS that came with it I still think that overall it was a gift. Because of the injury I’ve become less selfish, less judgmental, more accepting and open. I have to admit that it did cause some negatives, but I’ve been blessed and have people to help me work through them. If I had a choice I can honestly say I would have to give it serious thought if someone could make me “better”. I don’t know- I might say no.

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