After the diagnosis of Crohn’s disease, most people I knew expected me to give up the life I once had for a life of the unknown. If I gave up the things I loved, it would “be okay” or “people would understand”. I couldn’t do that because I didn’t know how and I was resilient to change. I wanted my life and I fought for it. I played the one sport I loved, volleyball. I traded basketball for bowling. I traded track for drama club, which was way better and I was much more passionate about. Without Crohn’s disease, I think I would have missed out on some things I found a passion for because of my disease.
My senior year of high school, I shared with my entire class that I had Crohn’s disease while reading my a college essay we had to write as a requirement for English Class. When writing it, I felt so confident in sharing with strangers my fight as a person and my personal journey. But it was very emotional to share with people who I grew up with. I shared myself in a vulnerable way. My teacher told me I took a risk in talking about chronic illness in a college essay but I played it well. I shared my struggles on the volleyball team, getting sick and losing my starting position. Also, not having enough strength but fighting through practice. (My coach wrote all of the seniors a letter at the end of the letter and she wrote to me that she learned more from me than she’s thinks she taught me, in that while feeling sick I still competed with peers and never complained and always encouraged my teammates.) In the essay, I also shared how I hid my pain. Even my closest friends had no idea. I would dig my fingers into my palm or cross my fingers really hard. Weird I know, but if I caused pain somewhere else in the body I could decrease my attention to my gut. I could also keep my hands out of sight. I still do this sometimes. Now, my friends look at my body language for signs of pain.
At the end of the essay, I state I wouldn’t change my diagnosis. As odd as that sounds, there’s a genetic component and if I don’t have it then my brother would. I don’t wish that on him or anyone for that matter. I am strong enough to handle this. God thinks I am strong enough to fight this disease. Crohn’s does not define me. However, it has molded me into the person I am today.
What I have learned from Crohn’s disease:
1. Advocacy. I learned this from my mom as well. But I have never been a bigger advocate for my health except when I was living on my own 800 miles away from home. The only person that was going to take care of me was ME. If I wanted the doctor to know the entire picture, I had to tell him All my symptoms. If I needed a prescription refill I had to call the Dr. If I didn’t, I was to blame and no one else. And if I wanted to get better, it started with ME accepting help.
2. Depression happens. For the longest time I thought depression would go away. I could fight it. I didn’t need medicine. Until I hit rock bottom. I couldn’t stand myself and my anxiety was through the roof. I cried everyday because I was overwhelmed. I made the decision to ask for medication to help and I haven’t looked back. I like having a clear head and not worrying about everything every second. Yes, bad days happen but not as often.
3. It’s okay to ask for help.
4. Everyone’s fighting a battle of their own. So smile and let the little things go.
5. I appreciate the friends that have been there through the thick of it. I find ways to let them know it even if I can’t see them often.
6. I will always have more fight left in me. And having a support system provides me with more drive to fight.
7. You learn what’s important in life and relationships and cut out the bullshit. “Ain’t nobody got time for dat”
Thanks for reading! 🙂
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