Having a chronic disease means you're more likely to have to explain your life to others often. Which means that you learn to navigate the interesting waters of telling somebody you have a chronic, progressive disease – that most people know of because it's life-shortening – and it gets even more interesting when you have a sibling that succumbed to complications from it.
One of the best lessons I've learned from discussing my CF is how important it is to develop the skill of empathy. I've written about this before, but I feel like it's important to really harp on this topic.
It can be difficult for the human mind to comprehend suffering. I understand that there are many others that have it far worse than me, and comprehending their suffering is difficult, but there are also many people that will never have health concerns until they're very, very old. That puts me in the unique position of understanding suffering, but attempting to not become bitter for my complicated situation.
Writing about this is also difficult because I don't intend to sound arrogant or pandering when discussing this, but when you start to realize how difficult others' lives can be, and probably more importantly, how little you really know about what others deal with, you start to become a more compassionate individual. You develop the ability to view the world from the lens of love and compassion, as opposed to bitterness and anger. Trying to imagine how you would feel in someone else's shoes – and being honest with yourself about how you would feel – allows you to better understand the plight of others, and hopefully, allows you to become a better person in the process.
Some of the most amazing conversations have come when I talk to people about my situation and they come away better understanding in the end. They come away realizing how intense CF can be, but hopefully it isn't founded in pity, but rather empathy. It means the world to me when people take the time to learn and understand. It gives me a sense of control in how others perceive me and CF in general. It also makes me happy because it shows that other people care about me. Even people readin my pieces means so much to me because I think it allows people to do an exercise in empathy by trying to learn more about me.
I admit I have a long way to become a better and more compassionate person. I think utilizing empathy and practicing it is the first step to contributing to the greater good. I implore everybody to try to be empathetic today and every day.