I’m going to share a story that is extremely personal to me. Something that only few know and even less truly understand.
When I was 16 years old, I was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis. This is a digestive disease that when in remission is extremely manageable, but when flaring makes eating, living and functioning in every single aspect nothing short of a chore.
Going out… a chore.
Getting out of bed at a reasonable time… a chore.
Going to work every morning.. a chore.
Eating normal foods like a normal person… impossible.
Which brings me to now. 5 years later at 21 years old, I decided to move to Dallas for the summer for an internship. My condition had been mostly under control taking 8 pills a day, but something felt off. I went 5 weeks into my internship and each day it got worse. But for some reason, I chose to suffer in silence. I refused to get help because in those weeks pushing through was more valuable than admitting defeat and taking a setback.
In those weeks, I put work before my health, both physically and mentally. I ignored my symptoms and normalized the pain so that no one would worry about me. Unfortunately, this decision cost me. I ended up hospitalized for 8 days, something I’d never dealt with before. I couldn’t eat, couldn’t sleep, was in constant pain, got stuck with needles 6 times a day, the list goes on.
I was dealing with a lot mentally as well. My medicine wasn’t working and I didn’t understand why. I believe in a God who heals and loves, but I wasn’t getting better and wasn’t sure why God chose me to suffer with this in the first place. Thoughts of “I’ll never be able to live normally” ran through my head like a dark cloud, impossible to ignore.
It wasn’t until I sat down and really decided I wanted to be bigger than this that my mentality truly turned around. I refused to live in the hospital longer than I needed to. I refused to say “woe is me” and give up the fight. After being discharged, I’m feeling much better, but still fighting to reach full health every day.
As much as I didn’t understand why I was put through this, I can say I walked away with three major lessons learned.
- Listen to yourself. If your body and mind is saying you’re doing too much, listen. Take a step back and take time for yourself. Ignoring your instincts will do nothing but make bouncing back even harder.
- Prioritize yourself. Something I’ve struggled to accept is that I need to be my own first priority. Between school, work, extracurricular activities, family, friends, etc. I’m always struggling to determine what is actually important. This past week taught me that my health trumps all of that.
- Utilize your support system. This is the biggest one. When I got admitted into the hospital, my phone exploded with love, prayers and kind words. Messages from people who care for me more than I can wrap my head around. A few of the messages that stuck out to me revolved around “Why didn’t you tell me you were struggling?” I didn’t have an answer, but this hard time served as a blinding reminder that those who truly love me do not see me as a burden and are willing to truly nurture me in every aspect.
Listen to yourself. Prioritize yourself. Utilize your support systems to the fullest extent.