Though a severe case of Lyme disease left Avril Lavigne bedridden five months, the singer says she's surprisingly thankful for the experience.
"Sometimes it takes instances like this to put things in perspective," says Lavigne, 30. "So in a way, I am grateful for all of this."
For the singer – who has worked nonstop since she was 17 when her debut album Let Go went platinum – being forced to step away from work was a blessing and changed her priorities.
"I've never had this much time off in my life," she says. "And I've never been more clear about what I want in life – health, family, love, happiness."
Her illness, which she contracted sometime last spring, also forced her to make some positive changes to her lifestyle.
"[My diet is] sugar-free, dairy-free, gluten-free, all organic. I juice three times a day," says Lavigne, who adds that she is about "80 percent" better now.
"I do yoga, meditate and try to swim or walk every day. It's really up and down – you get better, then you get worse, then better."
Moving forward, she's hoping to use her experience – which included many frustrating months of being undiagnosed despite consultations with several doctors – to inform others.
"I'm a very private person," she says. "But I can't just sit here and do nothing. I want to help people, and the first thing is bringing more awareness to Lyme disease … People don't really talk about the disease, and help can be minuscule."
And she's also using her music to benefit a good cause: Her new single "Fly" will be released in April in support of the 2015 Special Olympics.
To find out more about Lyme disease, click here and here.
For more on the singer's journey – including her plans for future – pick up the latest issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands now