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Illness is one of the most challenging events you will ever experience in your life. It doesn’t discriminate and impacts all ages, races and genders. Each and every day can bring about something new, something unpredictable. Everyone’s body is different so no two people with the same illness may experience the same journey. Illness really is an unpredictable journey full of peaks and troughs. A journey that can and does change your entire life. Instead of focusing on the negatives it may bring, I would like to highlight the five most important things it has taught me.
A time for personal growth
My journey through illness although ongoing has been a time where I have discovered my true identity. I would have never anticipated just how much I would grow as a person whilst feeling the world was passing me by. I have discovered new skills, new passions and new life goals. This has occurred mainly due to illness grinding my life to a complete halt and giving me the time to really look and evaluate it. I know I will be able to look back on this time not at the illness itself but the time in my life where I discovered my true place in this world.
Loving yourself is not being selfish
Sometimes the personal traits of loving yourself and being selfish can become confused and warped thus leading some people to think that putting their own health and wellbeing first is a selfish act. This could not be further from the truth. To get the best out of you, you need to look after yourself both physically and mentally. If you look after yourself and are the best you can possibly be then everybody will benefit from that. It seems perfectly logical but can take quite a while to master. Learning to take a step back, to slow down and to listen to your body are some of the best and most valuable skills you can possess.
The importance of living in the moment
I was always one to cling on to the past and worry about the future. Whilst doing so I forgot to live in the here and now. Beauty is in the small details blink and you will miss it. Ask yourself, how often do I walk down the street so caught up in my own thoughts that I fail to see the beauty that exists around me? This is a bad habit we are all victim to unfortunately. I myself due to low energy levels have had to adjust and slow down my pace of walking. Not only has this caused me to be a lot calmer but I now see the true beauty that exists around me. For me personally this beauty exists in the intricate detail and colouring of plants and flowers, feeling the warmth of the sunshine on my skin, seeing animals bringing joy to the lives of their owners, observing couples locked in a warm embrace and hearing the sound of laughter from children playing happily together. These are all things that can be taken for granted but are each important and beautiful in their own way.
The important things in life aren’t fame and fortune but beautiful memories
As someone once said to me, if now this very moment was your last, what would you be thinking about? Would it be the money in your bank account or the many pairs of shoes in your wardrobe? Although these things are nice they aren’t what’s really important and valuable in life. I know personally all the beautiful memories I had in life, faces of my loved ones and happy events detailed in beautiful colour would be what was in my thoughts. Life is not all about trying to be the best at everything. It is enjoying what you have and who you have. No value can be put on warm hugs, happy tears and belly laughs. These memories are your true treasure.
It is okay not to feel okay
Whether it is through physical or mental illness, know that it is okay not to feel okay. The important thing is to learn to listen to your mind and body and note how you are feeling at any given time. Mental and physical health exist in conjunction with one another. If one suffers so will the other. I have learnt through my own experiences to not be ashamed of how I am feeling or what I have gone through. The hardest words you can possibly say to another person are “please help me” but once you do you will never regret it. From there on in is a powerful journey of development and growth. You may fall along the way but the pain gets less and less as time goes on. You will see just how amazing you are and the true strength and beauty you possess inside. It will also teach you just how valuable and important your very existence is and you will experience true happiness again. I too have been there and I understand. I’ve been in the depths of despair, suffocating in the darkness unable to go on. I never thought I could experience happiness again but I have. This happiness is much stronger and better than ever before. Even whilst battling illness I see the positives it has brought me. By experiencing everything I have, I am happy to admit that I feel happy in my own skin and am proud of who I am and what I have achieved.
Avril is an award winning blogger and her excellent blog A Paler Shade of Beauty is a very safe, supportive and fun environment for people going through or recovering from illness. Avril has been battling Lyme disease for a few years but her positive outlook on life shines through on her blog.
Irish Life is one of Ireland’s leading financial services companies with over 1 million customers. For over 75 years, we’ve been helping people in Ireland look after their life insurance, pension and investment needs.