Before I got sick, I thought if a person looked healthy, he or she was healthy. After being sick for many years, now I know that a person can look just fine but be suffering from debilitating chronic pain or illness—or both. This led me to create this before and after snapshot of life with chronic pain and illness, some of it lighthearted, some of it not.

Before: There’s no such thing as getting sick with a seemingly acute illness and then not recovering.

After: Yes there is.

Before: My body works for me and does what I say.

After: My body dictates most of my life.

Before: I'm a tremendous help to my friends with health problems!

After: Realize I didn’t have a clue what their day-to-day life was like. Wish I had asked.

Before: Chronic pain and illness don’t impact all aspects of a person’s life.

After: Chronic pain and illness impact every aspect of life—from friendships, to intimate relationships, to finances, to emotional well-being. Must learn to live anew.

Before: Pride myself on keeping my commitments and always showing up on time.

After: Relieved if I can just show up.

Before: Sleep 7-8 hours: Feel great!

After: Sleep 7-8 hours: Feel pretty much like I did before sleeping 7-8 hours.

Before: Rain is an irritating inconvenience.           

After: Rain is an exciting event, bringing much-appreciated variety to the sameness of my day-to-day surroundings.

Before: Look down on anyone who watches golf on TV.

After: Some days, golf is the only watchable sport because the players move slowly and the announcers whisper.

Before: Every little physical ailment is complaint-worthy.

After: Is it acute? Cool; I can handle it.

Before: Stress is no big deal. Just push through it.

After: Stress can trigger a flare of symptoms that lays me low for days.

Before: Co-habit with a succession of dogs whom I feed, let outside, let inside, but otherwise ignore for days at a time. Just too busy.

After: Co-habit with a dog who’s often my only companion and, as such, has to put up with more attention than he needs or even wants.

Before: Define myself by my career: I am “Professor Bernhard.”

After: Content to remain undefined.

Before: The bed is primarily a place to sleep.

After: The bed is a world unto itself: a place to work, eat, socialize, host the dog, listen to music or the radio, watch TV, and…deposit clothes, dishes, books, and non-smelly trash. (There’s definitely too much “depositing” going on on my bed.)

Before: What people think of me is of utmost importance.

After: This is how I am. Take me or leave me (and I won’t even hold a grudge).

Before: Hate sauerkraut.

After: Hate sauerkraut.

For Before and After, Part 2, click here!

© 2013 Toni Bernhard. Thank you for reading my work. I'm the author of three books: 

How to Live Well with Chronic Pain and Illness: A Mindful Guide (2015)

How to Wake Up: A Buddhist-Inspired Guide to Navigating Joy and Sorrow (2013)

How to Be Sick: A Buddhist-Inspired Guide for the Chronically Ill and their Caregivers (2010)

All of my books are available in audio format from Amazon,, and iTunes.

Visit for more information and buying options.

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Painting by James McNeill Whistler/Public Domain

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