IBD Awareness

Navigating Life’s Great Divide

Little book nerd me recently finished a book titled Between Two Kingdoms: A Memoir of a Life Interrupted by Suleika Jaouad. I have to say it was one of the best books I have read in recent years. I found it relatable in every aspect – so relatable that I highlighted forty passages on my Kindle as inspiration for a blog post! While Suleika’s cancer diagnosis is much more serious than my IBD diagnosis, there were still things she said that reminded me of what it’s like to live a life interrupted.

Between Two Kingdoms, by Suleika Jaouad book review - The Washington Post

Suleika and I both received a life-changing health diagnosis around the same age, which is an age that most people are just starting out their lives – exploring their career, getting married, starting a family, traveling, etc. In my case, there was a period of time where I thought all these important “life” things would be taken away from me. The rug swept out from under my feet. After graduating from college, I had plans to interview for a job in Silicon Valley, move away, and keep traveling like I had been. It wasn’t long before I realized I couldn’t do these things AND stay healthy. I had to choose one or the other.

“That everyone’s lives were starting while mine was over before it had begun was unspeakably unfair.”

Suleika Jaouad, Between Two Kingdoms: A Memoir of a Life Interrupted

I think one of the tough parts about having a chronic illness is becoming comfortable with lack of control. I am someone who loves to plan – I like to know exactly what my week ahead will hold so there are no surprises. But when you are chronically ill, you never know when your body is going to decide to shutdown. In this regard, you have to learn to go with the flow and stay present in this moment. For me, that also means placing trust in my doctors and knowing they will provide me with the best advice and care that they can.

“To be a patient is to relinquish control – to your medical team and their decisions, to your body and its unscheduled breakdowns.”

Suleika Jaouad, Between Two Kingdoms: A Memoir of a Life Interrupted

While living with a chronic illness has a lot of negatives, it can also have some positives. I loved how Suleika mentioned that she needed to start fighting for herself. I can relate to this and I even wrote a blog post about being my own advocate a while back. Being a sick person, it seems like a lot of other people are making decisions for you. I didn’t like that. I learned to find my own voice and articulate what I want and need. What came with that was confidence. Confidence to reach out for help when I need it and confidence in understanding my broken, yet reliable body.

By far the hardest part about living with chronic illness is moving forward. Suleika’s book is based on the concept that we remember life before we are diagnosed and life after. I like to call it the great divide. I constantly find myself reminiscing about my life pre-diagnosis and how simple things were. How I could go out with my friends and eat what I wanted without a care in the world. Sometimes I miss that carefree version of myself. Life after diagnosis is completely different and hard to explain. It’s not something I could have prepared or wished for. I feel like two separate people with two completely different outlooks on life. But, I still wouldn’t change it because it has led me here – living a life where I am successful, healthy, and stable.

“They taught me that, when life brings you to the floor, there is a choice: You can allow the worst thing that’s ever happened to you to hijack your remaining days, or you can claw your way back into motion.”

Suleika Jaouad, Between Two Kingdoms: A Memoir of a Life Interrupted

I think many of us can remember a significant event in our lives that changed just about everything. Whether it be the death of a friend or family member, losing a job, losing a fur friend, or a life-changing diagnosis. These things are blips in our timeline, but change the trajectory of our lives. We can remember a version of ourselves before and a completely different version of ourselves after. What I’ve learned is that even though I will never be cured of my IBD, my life is full of choices. I choose to focus on the things I love instead of the things that bring me gloom, because I know there is so much more to gain when the rain clouds go away.

I highly recommend this book!

Visit Suleika’s website to learn more about her story.

Watch Suleika’s TED talk.

Follow Suleika on Twitter.

Follow Suleika on Instagram.

Follow Suleika on Facebook.

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