Sunday, February 10, 2013

Book Review: The Five Gifts of Illness

Disclaimer: I first just want to say that this book was a good one for me to read, but it was a hard one. Many of you know Laura, at least from her blog, who died in December of sepsis treated poorly. I had no idea when I picked up this book that the author fought her own battle with sepsis, staying in the hospital for weeks while Laura was sent home after two days and subsequently died two days after that. The author, like many health activists, is very frank about the things she goes through and this event is no different. She completely describes in agonizing detail what it felt like and how her thoughts wandered and she thought she would die. I had to stop reading the book for a long while due to the shock of reading it and not being able to turn away, so for those of you not interested in that pain, skip pages 97-108 of the book. If you'd actually like to read the excerpt, please contact me and I can get it to you.

Phew.

The Five Gifts of Illness by Jill Sklar is a wonderfully truthful book about the topic not talked about often - the good things that being chronically ill can bring us. She definitely doesn't play down the bad side of things, but notes how her own life changed when she was able to see the illness as a gift-bringer instead of a demon (all the time anyway).

The five gifts are as follows: relationships, time and being, altruism, emotions, and goals. Our illnesses give us new perspectives on these aspects of life and turn us into people who feel more, laze less, and love with our full hearts.

In the chapter on relationships, Sklar discusses how our illness improves relationships we choose to have, forces us to shelve relationships better left forgotten, and allows us to deepen our relationship with ourselves. I definitely feel as though many of the relationships that I have chosen to continue with friends are deeper than they may have been otherwise. The good ones understand that I can't eat certain places or how my illness may force me to cancel last minute and they handle it with grace.

In 'Time and Being' Sklar points out that many of us have a new appreciation for time - our own time and the time of other people. I, for one, am a stickler about people being late or cancelling last minute because I feel that they don't understand how much effort I had to put into being okay for whatever our plans are, from resting more in the week leading up to our date or whatever to altering taking medications to avoid a med hangover.

The chapter entitled 'Altruism' focuses on how so many chronically ill people start a blog, a website, or at the very least reach out to others via a support group. It is all with the intention of helping each other, sharing the knowledge that we have gained, and helping people get the best care possible.

The chapter on emotions discusses how we must strive to live our lives in balance. It can be very difficult to do, and may require constant re-centering for most of us, but living with our emotions in check - realizing what we should be emotional about, etc - helps to keep us healthy... well, as healthy as we can be anyway. Things like fear, sadness, and stress can weigh us down and actually make our conditions worse.

The final gift of illness is about goals and how we realize our future. We have to come to terms with the goals we can achieve but it doesn't mean to discard goals a little more out there. Last year, I would've said there was no way I would be able to run again after using my cane so much in the beginning months. However, I'm running again... not that I really should I'm sure but whatever!

I won't go over many of the other chapters leading to the gifts because we don't want to ruin the whole book for ya! But I will say that Sklar has a very matter-of-fact way of writing that is endearing to chronically ill patients, I believe. I'd definitely recommend it for both the chronically ill person you love (especially yourself!) and the person loved by the chronically ill person?

Brain fog. Whatever. You get my point!

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