For close to 2 years, I was battling with the symptoms of Topical Steroid Withdrawal. It is a skin condition caused by the very medication that is used for the treatment of Eczema. It resulted in me being in a debilitative state for months. These collections of thoughts and life lessons are borne through my experience from illness to recovery.
1. You Find Out Just How Important Being Healthy Actually Is
Being happy is not the most important thing in life. Being healthy is. Being healthy gives you the prerequisite ability to function normally, before you can derive happiness from the things that you could do. I am sure that I am not the first person to say this, but this insight resonated deeply with me my after my illness.
Being healthy translates to immense unquantifiable value – you can live, work, play, be happy, spend more time doing the things you love, spend less time being ill and less money on medication and more.
You have to make your own health your priority, which means you must have the intrinsic motivation to take care of your health, your diet, your fitness and your time spent on doing healthy activities.
2. You Find Out WHAT Really Matters To You
When I was ill, all I wanted and needed to do was to get better. Important things that I thought mattered to me become glaringly insignificant in the face of bad health.
My career, achievements and personal material possessions meant very little to me. I suppose these are the last things on people’s mind when they go through a personal health crisis.
Physical comfort and security became top priority, as the chronic pain and lack of mobility took its toll on me. Basic necessities like food, shelter and water were more than enough to keep me alive and well. And lastly, I focused on doing the things that I enjoyed – my hobbies.
3. You Figure Out WHO Really Matters To You
There will be people with you during your good times – your friends, colleagues, acquaintances, bosses, parents, spouse and your children.
But will they still be with you during your bad times?
For those who do, you will know that these group of people are the ones who really matter to you, just as you are to them.
One positive takeaway about being terribly ill is that this experience gives you free and genuine filter: a filter to sift out your personal network. Some will be sympathetic while others will rejoice at your predicament; some will provide unconditional friendship and support while others will be judgmental and critical; some will genuinely check in to see how you are doing, while others will check in because they have vested interest in selling you medical products and advice.
My time spent being ill re-focused me to prioritize my time, effort and money in maintaining the network of people who were meaningful to me.
4. You Learn Just How Important Informing Yourself Really Is
Had I known about the severe downside risks of the medication I was prescribed for my skin condition, I would have used them with more caution and would not have ended up in my debilitative situation.
It was a huge lesson learnt– making decisions with limited information can give you sub-optimal results, sometimes disastrous for your health.
Now, I try to inform myself to the best of my capability prior to making any major decisions.
Be skeptical, be curious. Constantly ask questions to educate ourselves. Gather as much information from as many sources as you can. Then make a qualified judgment and decision.
5. You Really Do Learn To Embrace And Appreciate Even The Simplest Of Pleasures
Having a conversation with a friend, taking a walk in the park, having regular meals, laughing at silly jokes, taking a good nap, being able to work – these are simple pleasures that may seem trivial to you, but they were exactly what I yearned for during my debilitative state.
I learnt not to take these simple pleasures for granted. As I perform these seemingly routine tasks, I am constantly mindful of my illness. And the result of my horrid experience? I had become easily contented and way happier while embracing these simple pleasures.
6. Sadly, You Learn That Many People Really Are Superficial
I sound extremely shallow by writing this, but this is the harsh reality of life.
I remember this occasion while I was dining in a public restaurant. A family of four was seated next to my table. Through the entire dining experience, the father was constantly staring at my less-than-perfect skin while he was eating with his family. He looked worried and terrified. But it did not stop him from staring. This was not the only occasion when people from the public stared or gawked at me. It made me extremely uncomfortable, and I find that I will be feeling way better if I had taken more effort to cover my horrid looking skin.
As I recovered and started looking normal, people treated me better.
Through this ordeal, I learned that you can’t stop others from seeing or judging you in an instant. What you can do is to manage yourself well so that you can influence how others judge you in the manner you desire.
7. You Learn That Life Is Extremely Short So Start Doing Meaningful Things NOW.
Life is extremely fragile. I considered myself to be fit and active, yet circumstances had led me into a debilitative state in as little as a few months. I felt I would never recover from my skin ordeal. I believed that I was a finished article – done and dusted. It is amazing how fast life can turn on you – one day you are on a high, and the next day you could be gone.
During my illness, I dreamed about all the things I wanted to do if I could recover. I reminisced about all the time I had wasted – time spent on doing things that were distractions and not meaningful to anyone in particular. It was a startling reflection on how fast time can fly and how inefficient I was in utilizing time.
Post recovery, I focused on doing things that were meaningful to me and the people who really mattered to me. The rest is just noise in my life.