Sisyphus and Chronic Illness: A Lesson in Resilience and Hope

Life is hard. It isn’t fair, it’s often unpredictable and filled with twists and turns that can leave far more questions than answers in their wake. But amongst all of the trials and tribulations life throws our way, some people have an especially difficult burden to bear in the form of chronic illness – a seemingly insurmountable obstacle they must continuously overcome while trying to get through their days with dignity, grace, and hope. People living with a chronic illness are no strangers to uphill battles but yet in spite of it all there remains something we can learn from them about resilience: Sisyphus’ story as told by Albert Camus puts into perspective our own struggles both small and large; illustrating how even in near-hopeless circumstances one can remain defiantly committed to fighting for joy amidst adversity.  This brings us back to the present day where I am unable to ignore those around me dedicating themselves every single day despite their medical condition– showing passion for life among despair –and serving as an inspiring example for us on how to live resiliently whatever comes out way.

“the absurd man realizes that hitherto he
was bound to that postulate of freedom on the illusion of which he
was living. In a certain sense, that hampered him. To the extent to
which he imagined a purpose to his life, he adapted himself to the
demands of a purpose to be achieved and became the slave of his

Albert Camus, The Myth of Sisyphus

            The myth of Sisyphus (FULL TEXT LINKED) has been captivating people’s imaginations for centuries. Sisyphus, the cunning king of Ephyra, was punished by the gods by having to push a boulder up a hill for all eternity, only to watch it roll back down again, repeating the task over and over. As a symbol of the futility of effort, many have found this tale both haunting and thought-provoking. The myth of Sisyphus highlights the struggles and the futility of human existence. It has been told countless times through literature, philosophy, and art, from ancient Greece to contemporary times. As a cautionary tale of the dangers of hubris, the story continues to resonate with us today. The myth of Sisyphus is a tale of the human condition, a reminder of our limitations, and our need for empathy and compassion for ourselves and others facing similar struggles.

            Living with chronic illness can feel like an impossible task. Every day can feel like a Sisyphean struggle, a seemingly never-ending battle against an insurmountable obstacle. And those who use a wheelchair to navigate the world face unique challenges that only compound this feeling of hopelessness. However, the story of Sisyphus reminds us that although life may seem like an endless cycle of pain and suffering, we have the power to find meaning and purpose in our struggles. Just as Sisyphus found solace in his eternal task, we too can find purpose in our daily battles. It may not always be easy, but through the struggle, we can find a sense of strength, resilience, and determination that we may have never known before. When we choose to see our chronic illnesses as a part of our journey, rather than an obstacle to overcome, we can find a newfound sense of hope and purpose in our lives.

“As for this myth, one sees merely the whole effort of a
body straining to raise the huge stone, to roll it and push it up a
slope a hundred times over; one sees the face screwed up, the
cheek tight against the stone, the shoulder bracing the clay-covered
mass, the foot wedging it, the fresh start with arms outstretched,
the wholly human security of two earth-clotted hands. At the very
end of his long effort measured by skyless space and time without
depth, the purpose is achieved. Then Sisyphus watches the stone
rush down in a few moments toward that lower world whence he
will have to push it up again toward the summit. He goes back
down to the plain.”

Albert Camus, The Myth of Sisyphus
grayscale photo of man on wheelchair
Photo by Matheus Bertelli on

            Living this way can be a constant struggle, but what’s even more heartbreaking is the way society tends to dismiss the experiences of those who endure these challenges every day. The constant pain, doctor appointments, and medications can consume an individual’s life, yet they’re faced with the detrimental misconception that they’re not “sick enough” or “worthy enough” to receive empathy and assistance. Living with an invisible illness can be a lonely battle, as friends and family might not understand the daily physical and emotional toll it takes. We need to start acknowledging the hardships that accompany chronic illnesses and work towards a more compassionate society that supports and uplifts those who are constantly fighting. They’re not weak, they’re not exaggerating, and they’re not asking for pity. They’re simply asking for the basic respect and understanding that every person deserves.

adult biology chemical chemist
Photo by Pixabay on

            Chronic illness affects millions of Americans every year, and it was not until recently that our country has taken significant steps to address this issue. However, in the past few years, I have seen a growing awareness about chronic illness and the struggles that individuals face on a daily basis. The United States has made significant strides in acknowledging chronic illness, providing specialized clinics, expanding disability coverage, and creating awareness. It is inspiring to see the government, medical professionals, and individuals come together to make a positive difference in the lives of so many. We have a long way to go, but I am pleased to see that chronic illness is finally receiving the attention it deserves. It is vital that we continue to advocate, educate, and fight for those who are affected by these illnesses. Together, we can make a difference, and I am optimistic about the future of chronic illness awareness and support in the United States.

            Living with a chronic illness is a battle that few can comprehend unless they’ve traversed those paths themselves. Imagine every day waking up with the prospect of having to push a massive boulder uphill, only to have it roll back down again, repeating the vicious cycle day after day. That’s what it feels like for those fighting through chronic illness. The burden can bear down heavily, making one question why they bother fighting at all. Yet, like the Greek mythological figure Sisyphus, they persevere. They recognize their suffering, yes, but they push on because they believe in the transformative power of hope. They understand that the struggle is engrained within them and so they embrace it, pushing forward regardless. It’s a commendable act of fortitude, one that deserves our admiration, respect, and unwavering support.

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