There are parts of being sick that you wouldn’t wish on your worst enemy. Okay, maybe you’d wish them just on that one girl who used to spread rumors about you in the second grade. What a pain! But at least you know that you’re supposed to be the kind of person who wouldn’t wish these parts of your illness on anyone. Anyway. These negative parts of your illness are so easy to see – they make you feel bad and sometimes look bad and they can make you downright unhappy.

But here is one good thing about a disability or chronic health condition: You are forced to look at the world and at yourself with honest eyes. And while there are times when your illness takes away your happiness, it can also give you wisdom.

It’s not just illness, disability or a chronic health condition that can help you grow wisdom. Psychologists have shown that people who live through any trauma – like a natural disaster or a car crash or the death of a loved one – tend to come out of the experience with more wisdom than before. They call this postraumatic growth.

Your illness is a trauma – or maybe it’s even a series of traumas all stacked on top of each other. What this means is that you have the opportunity to grow. Actually, it’s more than just an opportunity: You’re going to change whether you like it or not, but how you change is largely up to you.

Can you see love in a hospital waiting room? Can you find beauty in the way a tough nurse passes out art supplies? Do you share a connection with other people who have struggled? Have you seen kindness from strangers and maybe even given kindness in return?

Not everyone has the opportunity to see these things. But you do. Because you are ill, you see the worst of the world, but if you choose to look, you can also see the best.

Kristi Pikiewicz
Dr. Pikiewicz earned her PhD in Clinical Psychology at Pacifica Graduate Institute in Carpinteria, CA. She completed pre-doctoral training at the Nan Tolbert Nurturing Center in Ojai, CA, and her post-doctoral internship at the Boulder Institute for Psychotherapy and Research. At both sites, Dr. Pikiewicz worked with a range of adult, adolescent and child clients in individual, couple, family and group settings. She also holds a B.S. in environmental science from Allegheny College and a teaching credential from Western Washington University.