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A Letter to Myself, 10 Years in the Making

Ten years ago, in September 2009, my life changed forever. I wrote a very brief overview here. I was one month into a new job, one-year post-college graduation, and really excited to finally be living in the city when I woke up one morning experiencing significant GI distress - something I naively (or routinely) assumed at the time would be short-lived. Today, in looking back and reflecting over the last decade, I thought about what I would tell 23 year old me on the brink of experiencing Crohn’s disease symptoms consistently for the next chapter of my life. Here’s a letter I wrote myself, one that has been 10 years in the making.

A letter to my newly diagnosed self

Dear 23-year-old Amanda,

This week is going to be really hard. But unfortunately, it’s just the very beginning. When you start to feel sick, take it seriously.

You can keep trying to work through the pain, but it’s okay not to as well. It’s okay to ask for help. It’s okay to tell people you need time. Support. It’s okay to tell people how bad your stomach hurts.

The first doctor (and the second and the third and the eighth) will tell you that you’re fine, that you’ll get better soon, that you can’t possibly be this sick, that your test results are fine, that your anxiety is getting the best of you. They are wrong.

Remember that, even when your heart feels broken, they are wrong. You are the only person who lives within this body and you need to keep trusting that upset gut of yours. Something is wrong. Something is very wrong.

Be gentle with your heart. When you look back at these years of trauma, you’ll wish you had been a better friend to yourself.

Be cautious of the friends you make, you trust, and you keep. The chronic illness community is full of personalities and ambitious and feelings, just like in high school or college or at work, and not every friend is going to support you.

Speaking of support, know that you’re not broken for needing it. But also know that you don’t need it as much as you may think you do. You’re so damn strong, and you will get through this. All of this. You will get to a place of relief, and comfort, and then you will thrive again.

Ten years from now, you’ll look back at this moment and smile, knowing that you’re about to walk through literal hell and yet you survive. Ten years from now, you’re living your dreams. You have a Masters Degree and a wonderful loving husband and a perfect daughter. You are a strong independent woman with a family and friends who are incredible.

Ten years from now you’ll beam with pride that you chose your future. That you chose your life. That you chose to stay. The worst days (and nights) were filled with anxiety and painsomnia and bruises from multiple IV sticks, text chains, and facebook posts and desperate journal entries, but they were just that - the worst days. Not the regular days. Not the best days. Those are today. They are watching your daughter smile for the first time. They’re sitting in Starbucks sipping coffee without running to restroom or doubling over in pain.

Amanda, please, be patient. Even if you can’t speed up the process, even if you can’t find the right treatment for eight more years, know it’s there. It’s coming. Know that these days are going to make you the best, strongest version of yourself in the future.

I’m so proud of you.

Love,

33-year-old Amanda

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