I recently finished “Beyond Powerful: Your Chronic Illness is Not Your Kryptonite” by Lala Jackson. I loved it! It goes over the 7 superpowers (with an 8th bonus online) Jackson believes our chronic illness gives us. These “superpowers” are traits that anyone can gain, but that our battles and co-existence with illness have given us either more easily, faster, or in a way that was unexpected.
I won’t spoil the book (read it), but I will tell you about my favorite parts:
There’s a point where Jackson discusses owning your knowledge of your body, AND the unusual behaviors/activities we pick up to maintain our health and sanity. I’ve had to learn, and relearn that skill over and over again in order to remain healthy.
Another good point is that we are extremely talented at accepting our reality and not getting distracted by it. Illness is part of our lives, but if we get too distracted by it we’ll miss the rest of our lives. The people, the moments, the hobbies, activities, surprises etc… I personally have grown up being the type of person who never thought bad things were “bad” and ended up coming off a bit like Phoebe from “Friends”; she tells horribly sad stories with this happy calm that makes everyone else uncomfortable. I would say things like “Yea, I can’t eat without these enzymes or I get really sick” or “that seven months was absolute torture because I was trapped in bed at my parent’s house”; which are my illness based comments but I’ve also had a lifetime of oversharing horrible things with little consideration to the fact that most people see events as “good” and “bad” as opposed to “life”. I’m a realist, and while I, of course, acknowledge moments might not feel so great, I also know that they give me the perspective required to truly appreciate the happier moments. Having chronic illness only amplifies that acceptance of my situations as “just life”.
There was one thing I would’ve asked her to change (in the hypothetical situation that I was in any position to do so): while women do have the higher stats on chronic illness, there are many men who struggle as well. In a world that tells them they cannot be weak, or sick, or even upset about their circumstances unless it’s in anger. Jackson assumes most of her readers are female (which is probably true), but maybe as chronic illness advocates we should try to reach out to more men as well. My roommate is a guy with Crohn’s disease. He struggles daily to live normally with his illness, and while he’s much more open about it than most, he also rarely lets his illness show through unless he’s completely debilitated by it. There are a lot of days when I want to remind him that he’s strong just as much as anyone else who reads this blog or has chronic illness. We owe it to men with chronic illness to advocate for them and help them become leaders too. Though, Lala does acknowledge male readers, and she doesn’t, by any means, exclude them. To be fair, it’s difficult to include a male perspective when you are not, in fact, male.
At any rate, the book is a quick read, which is a huge bonus when you’ve got limited time due to illness. It’s very worth reading no matter which stage of accepting and/or being empowered by your illness you are. You can learn more about Lala Jackson, check out her blog, or get your book copy here.