Living life with any chronic illness has its ups and downs. However, there are also ways to look at it to say “…now up…is…down..” (Pirates of the Carribbean: At World’s End 2007). There are drawbacks, absolutely, and also little silver linings that can actually make having this condition an advantage!
You might think I’m crazy and tell yourself that is is:
“Absolutely, totally, and, in all other ways, inconceivable!”
– Vizzini, The Princess Bride, 1987
The Dark Side
Everyone knows that a chronic illness is no joy ride. It often consists of a painful roller coaster of inflammation, cramps, fatigue, and otherwise a limited lifestyle. It is so easy to fall into emotional turmoil when every day is a struggle and getting out of bed seems like the hardest task of the day. You wake up from a sleepless night, exhausted from the pain, and fed up with it all.
The weight that a chronic illness carries can be almost too much to bear sometimes. Yes, people can ‘live” with their chronic illness but at what cost? The price of our happiness, livelihood, and overall quality of life is too expensive. Yet, we must continue to pay that toll every single day.
Mentally, chronic illness warriors play a deceitful, confusing game that never lets up. Constantly trying to figure out what to do to make the pain stop and claw our way to a positive mindset. After all, what the hell do you do when you are told “this is a lifelong disease and there is no cure….good luck.” That giant cloud hanging over our head is the truth that makes us feel like we are fighting an unwinnable battle. The worst part is that we must fight it every single day because the second we stop fighting, things get worse.
Our thoughts control our body and if we lose our mental game, our body will wreak havoc with a vengeance. Cramps, exhaustion, nutrient deficiencies, depression, mood swings, and anxiety are among the most common methods of retaliation from our body.
We often view our chronic illness as something that does not truly belong to us and is not part of our body or self. Almost as if we have an evil monster living inside of us that is not supposed to be there and there is nothing we can do to stop it from slowly eating us away from the inside out. Maybe that’s just me and my love for the Gremlins movie haha. Honestly, with my IBD, I feels like this little stomach gremlin wants nothing more than to consume the nutrients I need for my body and suck the life out of me when I don’t give it what it wants. As if I am at the mercy of this horrible, destructive creature that lives inside me and there is nothing I can do to get it out.
This is NOT the truth.
Perhaps the most important truth I have come to realize is that I AM IN CHARGE.
The Light Side
There is a silver lining in all of that darkness. Just as The Force has a dark side, there is always a light side to keep it in check. Best said by The King himself:
“Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. …”
Martin Luther King Jr, Love Your Enemies 1957″
It is a bit of a paradox to think of something so disabling to be an advantage but I’m not talking about any physical advantages. It is true we may be in frequent pain, fatigue, and overall discomfort but that is not the point.
The point is, IBD has given me the mental toughness to withstand the darkness and the empathy to appreciate the journey of this struggle.
Living with IBD taught me how to change my mindset, push through the pain, and, most importantly, how to never give up on myself. Each little victory is celebrated with a wealth of gratitude and pride for every little bit of progress. This frame of mind has helped me in numerous situations beyond the bathroom. I am more aware of how I communicate my needs to others, have more discipline to stay on diets and workout regiments, and even improved the way I spend time with people I am close to.
In addition, I just feel like I can look at my life through a new lens. I take my time to savor every moment laughing with friends and family. I devote myself to learning everything I can about the anatomy and physiology of my body. I practice what I preach and help lift others up by sharing my experiences with those who may benfit from it.
The reality is that IBD is what started this whole website. I felt lost, alone, and ignorant of any knowledge or possibility of hope with this condition. Knowing what it is like to live in the dark, I wanted to take on a lead role in showing people the lighter side of things. To be honest, there really is only one quote that can bring this one home…
“Happiness can be found, even in the darkest of times. If only one remembers to turn on the light.”
Dumbledore, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban 2004
That’s all for now, Ta Ta
**BONUS: The perfect song to melt the world away and float on cloud 9. When I am feeling overwhelmed and frustrated with it all, I jump on this song and soar far far away. Please enjoy “O (Fly On)” by Coldplay 🙂