How I find the silver lining while living with sickle cell disease

This month I'm recognizing the benefits I've gained from my condition

As most of us know, sickle cell can be a debilitating disease. I’ve been diagnosed with it since I was 18 months old, yet it still causes me much pain, agony, and difficulty. I have trouble making plans, enjoying an active social life, and exercising, and it’s even caused me to adjust my career. My life with sickle cell has included much strife and hardship.

But for this Sickle Cell Awareness Month, I wanted to speak on some ways I’ve benefited from the disease. I know, the cons far outweigh any pros with this condition. But I’m a “silver lining” type of person, one who tries to search as deep as possible to identify the good in any situation.

My silver lining
Foremost among those benefits is the resilience I’ve gained from this chronic condition. It takes a lot to knock me out of my usual optimistic outlook, and even when a lot seems to be going wrong at once, my mental fortitude usually helps me navigate my way through it and bounce back quickly.

Moreover, because sickle cell has a habit of doing what it likes regardless of my plans, I’m able to look ahead and adapt, ensuring I can handle any potential hiccups from the disease. This skill has proven to be a huge advantage in my professional life. It’s helped me build strong, well-rounded teams that aren’t stopped by a single point of failure. It also helps my social life when I’m planning big undertakings, such as a holiday abroad.

The ability to empathize is another benefit I’ve gained during my time with sickle cell. After all, my sickle cell crises have taught me how quickly life can turn upside down — and how little control any of us have over our circumstances. When I encounter others who may be down on their luck, I never judge. Instead, I’m able to extend them genuine empathy.

This quality is appreciated in my relationships, and people feel comfortable coming to me for advice. My down and difficult periods with sickle cell have taught me to be grounded by the seemingly mundane. This perspective feeds into my advice and helps me offer a completely different perspective.

Further, I’ve learned the value of independence. That quality yields other benefits; it lets me do my best to maximize my time and opportunities, for instance. I also try to make life as enjoyable as I can because I know that at any point — due to no fault of my own — I could be huddled up in hospital or restricted in what I can do.

Through facing my own mortality, I’ve begun to appreciate how finite our time is. Thus, I make the most of the time I have by building great relationships, capitalizing on opportunities, and having as much fun as I can without worsening my circumstances.

Correspondingly, sickle cell has helped me appreciate life. I typically stay grateful no matter how seemingly small the blessing is. As I’ve experienced the physical, psychological, and medical trauma of sickle cell, somehow I’ve learned to appreciate all simple, basic, and normal pleasures.