I recently read Tessa Miller’s book titled What Doesn’t Kill You which has proved to be a big hit in the chronic illness community. A member of my support group recommended the book to me and without hesitation, I bought it. Through every word, I felt connected. By the end, I just hoped that even people without IBD would read this book and be able to understand us better. The burden of chronic illness is heavy to carry and sometimes it is hard to explain to others who have no previous knowledge. This book did an amazing job of just that.
One of my favorite parts of the book is Tessa’s “Seven Secrets” chapter. In this blog post, I want to share with you some of my favorite secrets she mentions and how I resonated with them as a patient suffering from IBD.
Secret #1: We’re sick (no pun intended) of unsolicited advice.
Over the years, I have gotten lots of advice from people who think there is a simple solution to ulcerative colitis. “Just eat healthier!” “Stop stressing yourself out!” “Try acupuncture!” Easier said than done, right?! Truth is, there is no one solution that is going to cure UC. As of right now, there is no known cure for the disease. A combination of these factors might put a patient into remission, but they are not an end all, be all solution to curing IBD. This is something I wish more people understood about chronic illness.
Secret #2: We want people to stop commenting on what we eat.
This happens to me way too often. It is extremely hard to go to a dinner party and skip dessert or turn down an alcoholic beverage. I always end up getting the question “Why?” The answer isn’t so simple. I usually just make up an excuse instead of explaining the real reason because chances are it will turn into a long conversation. People have even told me “You can drink alcohol, you just choose not to.” Not exactly. If I drink alcohol, it will tear apart my insides. So yeah, I actually can’t drink it and I choose not to so I can save my colon from destruction.
Secret #6: We aren’t unreliable – our illnesses are.
Since being diagnosed, it has been harder for me to leave the house without worry or fear setting in. This has resulted in a lot of cancelled plans. I don’t want to be considered the “flaky” friend, but sometimes I choose to listen to my body instead. If my body feels tired, I choose to stay home and rest because I know that’s what I need at that moment. I have felt guilty for cancelling plans in the past and sometimes still do, but now that most of my friends know about my illness they are understanding when I can’t make it. This is where being open and transparent about your illness can come in handy.
These are my three favorite secrets from Tessa’s book. Thanks, Tessa for writing such a powerful book and sharing your story with the chronic illness community! I know it has helped so many people including myself. One day, I hope that I can write a book about my story as well. For those of you who do not have a chronic illness, I encourage you to pick up a copy of this book from your local bookstore and give it a read. It will give you so much insight into the life of the chronically ill, which is something we need to bring more awareness to.
Have you read Tessa Miller’s book? If so, let me know what you thought in the comments below!