December 1-7 is IBD Awareness Week. At this exact time four years ago I started feeling symptoms and didn’t know what it was. As I approach my four year diagnosis anniversary, I reflect on what having a chronic illness means to me, how it has changed me, and what it has taught me. If you have IBD, I hope you spend this time reflecting as well. If you do not have IBD, I hope you take the time to research and ask questions to learn what IBD really is and how it affects patients.
It’s really hard to believe that I was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis almost four years ago because at the same time it feels like just yesterday. I remember it all a little too clearly and as much as I try to forget, a chronic illness doesn’t allow you to do that. When I think of what having a chronic illness means to me, the first word that comes to mind is strength. There are people in your life that are walking around suffering with a chronic illness and you may never know it. We deserve an award for putting on a brave face and getting things done when we need to because sometimes we don’t have a choice. Every month I meet with my IBD support group and they amaze me with their resilience – it makes me want to be better.
When I became sick, I put up boundary walls to protect myself from getting hurt and pushed others away when I probably needed their help the most. Now, I feel confident and comfortable talking about my illness – and part of that is due to my blog which has really tested my vulnerability. I never realized how IBD would affect me mentally and emotionally. Now that I am in remission, I find these aspects of the disease the hardest to deal with. I learn something about myself every day and I know that process will continue for the rest of my life. When I decided to openly share my story, I never expected to receive so much support from family and friends, but it really is what pushes me forward.
IBD has also taught me a lot about myself. I’ve learned to trust the process, take life day by day, and to not be devastated by the setbacks. I spend a lot of time reflecting on the experiences I’ve had – both positive and negative – and understand that each one was leading me in the right direction even if I didn’t think it at the time. There are still days where I feel weak, fatigued, and overall unwell, but I know that tomorrow is a new day. I have become so aware of my body and what it needs that I am easily able to spot when something is wrong and how to fix it. Those who know me well know that when I set my mind on something, I commit to it wholeheartedly. Health is wealth and I will always do everything in my power to protect that.
In honor of IBD Awareness Week, I wanted to share links to some resources/blogs below for those of you who may have questions or want to learn more. Contrary to what some might believe, chronic illness patients appreciate when you ask them questions about what they have and how they deal with it. There needs to be more awareness and compassion for people who deal with these illnesses, because it can be very isolating and lonely at times. I choose to spread awareness for this disease, and continue to do so, because IBD patients deserve to be heard.