What living with a chronic disease for a decade has taught me about happiness

When I was 15 years old, I got diagnosed with crohn’s disease and colitis. The doctor was not so sure which of both I really had, so he diagnosed me with both. For years before that diagnosis I struggled with increasing stomach pain, diarrhea and missed many days at school. Finally I got treated with prednisone and felt better initially, but the drug made me feel worse in the long run.
I started my search for health and diet on the internet, read many books and was hooked on the path to get well by myself ever since. I saw immediate benefits of the healthy lifestyle and the healthy diet in particular. I drastically reduced the occasions when I drank alcohol and avoided junk food for the most part, because everytime I indulged in it, I felt the immediate negative effects.

Challenges come to us in many ways. Consciously chosen or not.


Finding what works

I have to say though that it was not an easy journey to find out what works and what does not and I am still tweaking my diet around on a regular basis, trying out new things. But I also tend to forget from time to time what did not work and deviate from my protocols and diets, only to find myself in pain all over again. But those periods have become less frequent and shorter. I am now more stable in my good eating habits and avoid big “failures”.

Can you become happier through a disease?

But I have learned a positive lesson from this disease. I am actually very thankful for the path that this condition has pushed me towards. I know this sounds mad to someone who is suffering badly from this or any disease. But I have found that this disease has pushed myself to grow mentally. To learn and grow in areas that I would probably have neglected otherwise. If you would ask me if I wanted to relive the past 10 years without having this disease, I would tend to answer no. Of course you never know how an alternative reality would have turned out to be, but as I am in a pretty happy state right now, I do not wanted anything to be different. I can imagine many different realities without this disease that would not have turned out so well. Without the interest in eating healthy, I would probably have continued to eat meat and junk food. Ending up less healthy overall in the end.

And the things I learned about healthy living were only the start of a much greater journey into personal development. This path I might also not have taken without all that I learned through the research on this condition. And serious personal development work has probably been the biggest factor in increasing my happiness over the last couple of years. Meditation, inner work and contemplation of death for example have shifted my mental outlook in profound ways. Listening to great teachers like Alan Watts and contemplating on his teachings have paved my way to discover greatly helpful concepts to cope with life’s struggles. And I can honestly say I am much happier since implementing several mental practices into my daily life.

Conclusion

The bottom line of this post is that no matter what difficult situations life throws at you, you are most likely to benefit from them as well. Similar to physical training, where you first have to challenge and hurt the muscles in order for them to grow, life-challenges will grow your character, happiness and resilience. And in knowing that, you can actually appreciate the hard times. Seeing hard times as opportunities for growth allows you to search for constructive solutions to your problems. Leaving you better off in the end than without that challenging life-event.

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