7 Lessons I have Learned from being Diagnosed with a Chronic Illness


  1. Be patient with yourself and know that you probably won’t get well overnight. It can take months and even years to experience some sense of normalcy again and some people never do, but they learn to adapt. Remember that life may never be the same again. Don’t be afraid to mourn your old life, but gradually acclimatise yourself to the new, which may even include some changes for the better. In my case, I was relieved to finally get a diagnosis and thus an explanation for my uncontrolled weight gain and tiredness. It gave me hope that my condition could improve and that I might find relief for my symptoms.
  2. On that note, look through each cloud to see the silver lining. No doubt about it, chronic illness is devastating, but I can honestly say that in some ways it has changed my life for the better. As a result of my diagnosis, I live a healthier lifestyle (workouts with my personal trainer), eat an even healthier (allergen-free) diet and I have made countless wonderful friends that remind me that I am never alone. What’s more I have learned SO much about my body and health in general, enabling me to not only help myself, but to help others by sharing my research with them through online forums and in particular my website Butterflies and Phoenixes.
  3. Doctors are our partners and can at best provide us with the tools, knowledge and support to get well, but never blindly trust in their words and always, always be your own advocate. You cannot solely rely on a doctor to get you well. The road back to good health is like peeling back the layers of an onion. Treatment is rarely simple and there are often accompanying conditions, so it has been up to me to be my own medical detective and insist on the treatment I know I need and deserve. If a doctor patronises you, lacks the necessary knowledge or refuses to treat you with respect, don’t be afraid to kick them to the curb. After all, it is you who is paying them for a service! Persevere and realise that it may take time to find the right doctor for you.
  4. Each patient is different and there is no “magic pill”. For instance, whilst one may be helped by a certain treatment, another may find they experience no improvement in symptoms whatsoever. Listen to your body and your instincts. Likewise, don’t compare yourself to other patients. We all have our own battles to fight and can never truly walk in another’s shoes. Don’t feel bad because your symptoms sound less severe than someone else’s. This doesn’t invalidate your own suffering.
  5. Make the most of each and every day. Some days we can live life to the fullest and the next day we may suffer a relapse or be bedbound. Cherish each moment.
  6. Don’t be discouraged by those who refuse to take your illness seriously. Sad but true: many people are ignorant and uneducated and there’s often a lack of awareness about many “invisible” illnesses (i.e. you are sick inside, but look “fine” on the outside). Even sadder, but equally true: some of these people will often include your own friends and family.
  7. Never give up hope, take time to laugh and remain positive! You owe it to yourself to fight to get well.

By Sarah Downing

My name is Sarah. I was born and grew up in England and currently live in Düsseldorf, Germany, with my fiancé Corey and my cuddly cat Biscuit. I work as a translator and writer for my own company Aardwolf Text Services (www.aardwolf.de) and I love vintage clothes and music, as well as singing karaoke.


  1. Thankyou for this post, Sarah. I’m trying to come to terms with many health issues, knowing that my life will never be the same is so hard for me, every day my heart cries…I am trying to laugh and be positive but sometimes it’s so difficult … This is what I needed to read today and I will read it many times 🙂

    1. My dear Suzanne,

      I know what a horrible struggle it has been for you and I have always been inspired by your proactive and determined attitude. That said, I also know only too well that being positive is not a walk in the park or a cake walk (as the Americans call it). It is OK to feel down and to cry too. In fact, I think it is a healthy part of our mourning process, but for me focusing on the positives has helped me a lot. Sometimes it takes time to get to that point where you feel able to do that though and it can be an uphill struggle. But I know that you know you are not alone and I I continue to hope that you will get the treatment you need some day soon. You know where I am if you need to talk.



  2. What a wonderful finish to a tearful weekend for me. Some days I just want to cry and give up. I will print these points and think every day about them . Maybe one day I will feel well again. Thanks

    1. Hi Barbara,

      I’m really sorry you had such a sad weekend. I think all of us feel like that at times and, as I said to Suzanne, it is perfectly okay and also healthy to mourn. I hope that my points are able to help you and I certainly hope that your health improves very soon. Don’t hesitate to email me if you want to talk: sarah@sarahjdowning.com.



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