The 30 Day Chronic Illness Challenge was created by @cfs_zombie.  I first learned about it through Tumblr.  It sounded like an interesting challenge, with plenty of topics that I thought would lead to introspective and/or useful blog posts.  Every day, there is a new writing prompt that focuses on chronic illness.

Day 18: Do you think you have become a better person through being ill?  Explain.

I’m really not sure how to answer that question.  I don’t believe that having a chronic illness automatically makes someone into a better person.  I also don’t think having a chronic illness automatically makes someone into a worse person.  It just doesn’t work that way.

Chronic illness is a physical issue.   It has absolutely nothing at all to do with a person’s character. If anything, I think that having a chronic illness might push a person into being more real – more true to who they are as a person.

That can go either way.  A chronic illness can make a saint more saintly, or a curmudgeon more intolerable.  But, I doubt the experience of having a chronic illness makes a person better (or worse) than how they naturally are.

All of us have the potential to become a better person. All of us also have the potential to become an incredibly horrible, vile, monster of a person. Which of these two “wolves” will win? The one you choose to feed.

There are people who “feed” the good in themselves more often than the bad.  There are also those who regularly “feed” the worst parts of themselves, while mostly ignoring the good.  This is true whether or not one happens to have a chronic illness.

A person who is experiencing severe symptoms of their chronic illness could choose to react in two ways.  He or she could decide to hide their pain and act “normal” in an effort to try and prevent their loved ones from worrying about them.

Is this person’s illness making him or her a better person (because they want to spare their loved ones from emotional hardship)?  Or is this person’s chronic illness making them a worse person (by lying to their loved ones about their health and giving their loved ones a false sense of security)?

Or, a person who is experiencing severe symptoms of their chronic illness could choose to express their pain and anxiety about their health by lashing out at their loved ones.  Is this person’s illness making him or her a better person (by being honest about how their illness is affecting them at that moment and giving their loved ones a clear picture of the state of their health)?  Or, is this person’s illness making him or her a worse person (because yelling and being ornery could cause their loved ones to experience emotional harm)?

I’ve done both.  There have been times when I wake up in severe pain that won’t go away, and I end up “screaming at the internet” (but not at my husband).  There have been times when I’ve made an effort to hide some really severe symptoms because I didn’t want my loved ones to worry about me during a wedding or birthday party.

Does this mean that being ill has made me a better person, or a worse person?  It’s not the type of question that has a clear cut answer.

Perhaps the best response is this:  I am a person, who has some chronic illnesses.  Whether I become a better or worse person depends upon the actions that I choose to take.  Whether I become a better person, or a worse person, depends on which wolf I choose to feed.

Image by Carsten Tolkmit on Flickr

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