Because of numerous groups that I follow on social media, and the crohnie friends that I have made along the way, I often see a lot of shared articles talking about chronic illness. Some of them I wholly relate to, and others not so much. It is important to remember that everybody experiences chronic illness differently. However, as I think I have said quite often, one thing that made me feel better during my diagnosis of Crohn’s, was that I wasn’t alone, when I very often felt like I was going through something that nobody could possibly understand.
I’ve recently heard through the grapevine, that a few people I know have been diagnosed with different chronic illnesses. I have always felt a sincere longing to help those people feel less alone, to try and stop them from feeling the isolation that I did. I wish that I could have read something that wasn’t the terrifying statistics on Google or the hospital letters, all whilst trying to figure out what I did so badly to deserve it. So I wanted to write this post, to those who have recently been diagnosed with a chronic illness, in hope that it may provide somebody with that little bit of light at the end of the tunnel on a day that they may see no hope at all.
When I was diagnosed with Inflammatory Bowel Disease at 20, I was at university, enjoying what was supposed to be some of the best years of my life. Although they still were in many ways; the diagnosis of a chronic illness brought many struggles for me. I was told that I now had to deal with an unpredictable lifelong illness that had no cure. I was told that I could try numerous medication but they weren’t sure which, if any, would work. I was awake throughout the night with steroid-induced insomnia crying and pleading for the pain to stop. I started to feel completely alone as everybody around me continued to do the things that I had always done, whilst my life became filled with hospital appointments, tests and strong medication. It was hard to go from being somebody described as having ‘a full bill of health’ to my own body attacking itself. I felt like my illness had taken over my life, and that it was all everybody around me saw me as. At my darkest point, I felt like my life was over, and there was no way it could ever get better.
The unknown is terrifying, and the unknown is very often what makes you feel all of the things that I did. I want to tell those of you who have been diagnosed with a chronic illness that while there will be some of the hardest times you have been through, and you may sometimes feel so broken that you can’t be fixed, you will find strength. And I hate the cliche of what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, because I very often feel weakened by my illness. However, your illness will now tint your perspective on life. You will be empowered, and you will appreciate all the best moments, and celebrate what you can still achieve. Your future can still be full of happy, joyous times. You can experience all that life has to offer, whilst loving and appreciating life in a way that you never did before.
I no longer feel like my illness has taken over my life, and that it is a big fat label that people see me as. I feel like it is what makes me who I am – somebody who loves life and appreciates all the little things. It has taken me on exciting journeys that without it I wouldn’t have experienced, and introduced me to amazing people that I would have never have met. Being diagnosed with a chronic illness can be truly terrifying, confusing and isolating. But be patient with yourself, let yourself rest and process the news. Know that times won’t always be terrifying and scary. And know that although sometimes you may scream “why me?!” and feel like life is unfair; you will be thankful for the person that your illness will make you.
Most importantly, remember that you’re never alone.