I wrote last week about the hardest part of living with a chronic illness, and in doing that, I started thinking about some of the good things that have happened, too. I thought about how well I know myself and my body and how I’ve learned to pay more attention to my health. I thought about how much I have enjoyed all of the good days and learned to live them to the fullest after experiencing the bad days. I thought about how thankful I am for all of the great things I have in my life. But mostly, I thought about all of the amazing, incredible, strong, inspiring people I have met along the way.
Crohn’s disease has changed my life. Having an ostomy has changed my life. I can never regret them because I honestly don’t know who I would be without them. They are ingrained into my identity and the person I have become. Living with them has brought me to exactly the spot where I am right now. And you know what? I am totally fine with that. While things are far from perfect in my world, I am so thankful for the people in my life and all of the things that I have been able to accomplish and be a part of over the past 28 years.
I lived for 13 years without really ever knowing anybody else who had been through the same thing as I had. I learned to accept the loneliness and hide what I was feeling really well. But once I started speaking about it, I found a whole new world of acceptance and inspiration. I have formed bonds different from any I have ever known. I have made friends who I hope will remain friends forever. And that’s the best part of living with chronic illness.
That chronic illness makes you different. It makes you experience the world in a way that others who have not dealt with chronic illness could never understand. And it can make you feel like an outsider. It can make you feel alone.
But finding a community of people who know what you’ve been through and have walked in your same shoes… it’s an incredibly freeing feeling. I think one of the things we strive for most in this world is to be understood. Some people search for that their whole lives. I consider myself pretty lucky to have found it.
These people… These people make living with a chronic disease worth it.