5 Things I’ve Learned From Living with a Chronic Illness

Do you remember those days when you were a kid dancing around your yard in a bathing suit, or playing soccer after school with your closest friends, or even looking forward to a fun sleepover on a Friday night?

I do too. I remember loving all of those moments and feeling so lucky to be me.

But at age 10, that all changed. I was diagnosed with a really common skin condition called psoriasis. What started out to be a small spot on my upper left arm turned into my whole body being covered with dry, white scaly patches within just one year.

Living with psoriasis was a moment-to-moment struggle. I lived in constant pain; quit my after-school activities; and became terrified of sleeping over at a friend’s house for fear that I would flake too much on their sheets.

When people met me during a psoriasis flare, all people saw was that I was covered in thick white scales. As much as my skin constantly reminded me of how different and separate I was, it also taught me some incredible lessons that I will be forever grateful for.

Whether you’re dealing with a skin condition, a body insecurity, or any other challenge that’s coming up in your life right now, these lessons will certainly apply to your life, as well.

1. Don’t judge a book by its cover

For most of my life, people would immediately feel sorry for me and focus on my skin condition. They never asked me personal questions like, “What’s your favorite color?” Or, “What music do you like?” I was simply seen as the “sick girl,” not the real Nitika. They would only see my skin. Now whenever I look at someone, no matter if they have acne or use a wheelchair, I make sure to look beyond what’s on the surface and treat them like the multi-faceted divine being they are. I’ve learned to always look past appearances and seek out the full depth of who someone is.

2. Your body is your biggest teacher

As I walked through the experience of having psoriasis, it became impossible for me to ignore that my inner struggles would inevitably show up on my body. When I would get angry or frustrated, I would itch more. When I was stressed out, it was harder for me to sleep. I began to really tune into my body’s signals and shifting my behaviors in response, creating strict boundaries in my life, changing my diet and altering my sleep patterns. For a long time, I thought I was the only one whose body sent them messages. But after a while, I realized this happened to everyone else! When my mom had a headache, it meant she was stressed. When my best friend got a stomach ache, it meant she was feeling anxious. 

My body has been my greatest teacher. Every time I need to slow down, stop, or listen, my body lets me know. Sometimes the message isn’t always the easiest to hear, but it’s always clear. My body has taught me how to connect to my intuition more and proven my strength. Listening to our bodies is absolutely crucial. So the next time you feel an internal imbalance, don’t ignore it.

3. Self-care is the access point to self-love

In all the years I was dealing with my skin condition on a daily basis, I thought of skincare as a means to an end. My routine consisted of the bare minimum, because caring for my skin felt like a tiresome task. Then, one day I decided to try something new. As I navigated the high pain and uncomfortable symptoms of a flare, I suddenly felt inspired to say affirmations to that area of my body as I applied a really luxurious body butter. The results were amazing. I could visibly see my skin calm down! When I offered my body love and grace, it loved me right back. I was so excited that I started to make it a daily practice. Don’t wait until your health is falling apart to start taking great care of your body. Start a self-care practice now, and you’ll cultivate self-love every time you bring intention to those everyday moments of nourishing yourself.

4. Healing isn’t linear

After almost two decades of testing out countless remedies, I know for a fact that even the word ‘healing’ can be triggering! 

Most doctors won’t tell you this, but healing isn’t about the long-term destination —it’s about focusing on daily steps that improve how we feel over time. Working to recover from any condition is about showing up to strengthen different areas of our lives so that we have better tools and resources to navigate however we’re feeling on a given day.

Today, I still have psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis (I developed arthritis when I was 20 years old), but I am able to live with ease and feel healthy because I consistently show up for my well-being in multiple areas of my life. I go to therapy to support my emotional process. I work with a team of awesome doctors to support my body as it changes throughout the years. And, I have found a combination of medicine that works for me. The last and maybe most important piece in all of this is being incredibly mindful about what I put into my body. Psoriasis and arthritis are both diseases that are triggered by inflammation, and the food I eat either irritates my condition or keeps inflammation low. I prefer to keep it low!

Since there is currently no medical cure for either psoriasis or arthritis, I know I will have to live with them for the rest of my life. But whenever my symptoms ebb and flow, I take comfort in knowing I have all the skills and mindset to support me.

5. Join a community that cares

In a world filled with a very narrow view of what it means to thrive and live a fulfilling life, I often felt on the outside and feared that my life would feel meaningless due to the challenges I was dealing with on a daily basis with my health. I know what it’s like to live life feeling like you have this secret inside of you, fighting to feel “normal” in a body that feels anything but.

There’s nothing lonelier than when you’re sick of struggling, alone. With 133 million Americans living with a chronic illness, I’ve realized no one needs to go through their journey in isolation.

I launched the Chronicon Community to be the supportive, safe haven that I wish I had access to years ago as a woman navigating life with multiple chronic illnesses. Our online community connects you with people and experts that want to know you for the real you, beyond your diagnosis or condition—but also with those that “get” your wellness challenges and lift you up.

Whatever you’re going through, it can feel scary at first to open up and share your experience. But when we come together through community, we reduce stigma, make difficult things okay to talk about, and find out that we’re truly never alone. 

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