love shaped leaves

Love is such a vast term.  As human beings, we experience love in many different forms; there’s parental love, romantic love, friendship love, companionate love, and more.  Something that’s been on my mind a great deal this week is how illness affects our abilities to love and be loved. It is not easy loving someone who has an illness because you ride the roller coaster right along with them.  You experience our pain, our joys, and our struggles, while also holding on to the burden that there is “nothing” you can do to make it better. It’s true that you cannot take away our sickness and pain, but you can continue to love us for who we are, and to me, that is the best medicine.

I’ll never forget the feeling of sitting alone in a hospital room, wondering if MALS would make my life crumble.  At that moment, I was afraid of how long it would take me to bounce back, if I even could. It wasn’t until familiar faces walked through the door, and I realized that I would be alright.  Just the presence of a loved one helps take the woes away. My most cherished times with the people I love were when they were there for me when I needed them the most. It is amazing how tough situations can make basic human interaction so pure and real.  It is something as simple as a true friend sitting on the edge of your bed, making you laugh even though it hurts because you’ve just had surgery, to remind you that there are so many great times still to come. I’ve learned that the people who have supported me, and who continue to support me with their unconditional love are the ones who mean the most to me, and who make me feel truly complete.  In my opinion, people don’t tell one another how much they mean to them enough. All it takes is a small gesture or a few words to let someone know that you care about them.

At times, it can feel like illness puts limits on the best parts of our lives.  It takes away our health, can hijack our moods, and greatly infringes upon our freedom to live life according to our own desires.  Despite the negative aspects, illness also has the ability to open our eyes to the realization that there is so much more than the deceptive haste and pressures of everyday life.  As busy and goal driven humans, we let so much get in the way of spending time with people we love. We allow school, work, distance, and so many other responsibilities take priority.  One of the wonderful powers that illness has it that it blurs all of that into the background and brings to light the things that are truly the most important; the love we have for one another.

Nicole Gustafson
Nicole Gustafson received her bachelor's degree in Psychology from Marist College in Poughkeepsie, NY. She recently moved from Connecticut to Menlo Park, California and is attending graduate school at Santa Clara University. Nicole is studying Counseling Psychology with an emphasis in Correctional Psychology.
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