After receiving the news a few months ago that I was officially in endoscopic remission, I felt a huge weight lifted off my shoulders. It felt like I could finally take a deep breath. No more worrying that I had lingering inflammation in my colon. While this news was worth celebrating, I still felt like a little bit of weight lingered. The thing about having a chronic illness is that it’s chronic – it lasts forever. Which is why the journey doesn’t end here.
I wish I could say that I no longer worry about my chronic illness. For some reason, I thought receiving the news of being in remission would be much more satisfying than it actually was. I wanted to celebrate by eating whatever I wanted just once. Then I remembered that a flare-up is always going to be a possibility. I can’t just forget about all the work I’ve put in to get to this point. I have to continue moving forward by living the healthy lifestyle that I have created for myself over the past two years.
I think many others with chronic illness will admit that the worrying never stops. We will never be able to go back to the lives we lived prior to being diagnosed. On the bright side, we have gained qualities like strength, persistence, resilience, and tolerance along the way. People with chronic illness know how to identify and deal with severe pain much better than someone who does not have a chronic illness. We have learned to listen to our bodies. We have learned not to give up when we have one bad day.
Having a chronic illness is a full-time job, and we are really good at hiding it. If you see me out, you would never know just by looking at me that I suffer from ulcerative colitis. Not only does a chronic illness come with the physical effects, it also causes emotional stress in the form of dealing with doctors, obtaining medications, getting approval through insurance, etc. I have spent almost entire days on the phone arguing with insurance companies to get my medication, and it really does feel like another full-time job at times. It is emotionally exhausting.
I am so grateful that while in remission I can live a somewhat normal life. My first thought when entering a place of business is no longer “Where is the bathroom?” (although sometimes I realize I didn’t think about that, and then I start thinking about it – funny how the mind works). This doesn’t mean I can eat whatever I want and stay out all night. I still choose to listen to my body so that I can perform my daily duties to the best of my ability. If a flare was imminent, I know that now I have the tools to deal with it better than in the past. Without my health, I have nothing.
For those of you with IBD who are in remission, how has your outlook changed?