Does a chronic illness mean the end of life-as-you-know-it?
A Diagnosis and the Choice to Live
I was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease in the spring of 2009 and once I figured out what Crohn’s is and what that meant for me I thought that my life was over. I couldn’t believe that I could be so sick and still look totally normal from the outside – well, most of the time.
My family didn’t understand that my chipmunk face wasn’t because I was eating too much and getting fat and that when I lost weight and looked pale or why I was always so tired. Every part of dealing with my disease was frustrating.
I felt like Crohn’s was a death-sentence, or at least the end of life as I knew it. I felt so alone – like no one understood and I didn’t want them to see the sickly mess the disease made of me.
Rather than curl up and die or let myself fall into depression, I started researching more. I wouldn’t accept that I was destined to live the rest of my life as a slave to my disease. I chose to take charge.
When I married my husband two years earlier, I thought life was going to be complete bliss with the man I love. His military career had other plans. Instead it was lonely, unfair and generally very disappointing from what I had hoped it would be.
His job in the US Air Force meant that he was sent all over the country and the world without much notice and without having any say. Half of our seven year marriage we spent apart. Early on I was faced with a choice to “hold down the fort” and drown my lonely sorrows until he returned or go out and make a life for myself without him. This seemed the very antithesis of marriage. It was either chose life or be resigned to live like a hermit. I chose life.
I worked hard and made friends and coped as best as I could in filling the void my husband left each time he deployed with friends and activities that made me happy. My attitude is
“I am in charge of how I feel and today, I choose happiness despite the circumstances”.
A Routine Choice to Live
This is a choice each of us has; let the circumstances define you or define yourself amidst the circumstances. Every day – despite how I feel physically, despite what is going on around me I can only control my attitude and my actions.
Most of my Crohn’s research led me to believe that I only had one option; listen to the doctors and take medications. I knew there had to be a better way. I had seen my body heal itself when I’d get a bruise or a scratch as long as I took care of it. I figured “the cure” had to be along the same lines. Take care of your body and give your body a chance to heal itself. This meant changing my habits, which is hard for everyone. At first it was hard to turn my whole life upside down… but hadn’t my disease done that to me in the first place? Now I was taking control.
It was difficult to stay consistent however returning to the way I had always done things meant returning to an illness-ridden half-life. This alone motivated me to make small, intentional changes every day. I replaced bad habits with good ones and I saw my health greatly improve.
Every day that means different choices. That is still the most difficult task…
Choose to Live Daily
You must choose to live daily. Health is the goal and not perfection. Make the effort to choose the best thing for your life – not the easiest. When you implement that effort into your life every single day, that’s where transformation happens. That’s how true change happens.
Every healthy choice moves you closer to health and every unhealthy one leads you closer toward sickness. When you choose it every day it becomes a habit of health. You just have set a goal, keep with it and remind yourself why you started. Right now, pause and think: what will your goal be? How will you choose to live?
Written by Megan Schiffner from Follow Meg