25 Things that Living with Crohn's Disease Has Taught Me
"There are many illnesses and negative things that have happened to people that have gotten them to greatness. Without the obstacles, these people may have never become great."
- Prince Ea
As I sit here, at my computer, on my 25th birthday (May 16th, 2016). I get a chance to reflect on the past seven years of my life. It has been 7.5 years since I began this crazy journey with inflammatory bowel disease and I am so proud of the transformation that I have gone through to get to this point. As most of you know, May was also IBD Awareness Month, so I want to share with you what living with Crohn's disease has taught me.
Lessons from living with Crohn's disease
1. It has taught me to have an appreciation for the little things: having a whole day without pain, being able to get out of bed in the morning, and enjoying food after a serious flare.
2. It has taught me what my life's purpose is. Before my diagnosis, I had little direction in regards to my life. When my health fell apart, the things that I thought I wanted were no longer important. In order to learn to truly take care of myself, I fell in love with anything health, wellness or nutrition-related. These things are my passion now and I hope one day to share them with other IBD patients who want to integrate alternative health modalities into their treatments.
3. It has taught me how to find and use my voice. As I got used to living with an autoimmune disease, I shared more about my journey and holistic perspective on living with Crohn's. What I never expected was that sharing what I was going through would help me heal, and it truly has.
4. It has taught me how strong I really am. The multiple years without a diagnosis, the frustration and anger, the daily uncontrollable symptoms and pain, and the isolation that comes with living with Crohn's has shown me that I am much stronger than I ever thought I could be.
5. It has taught me how to be more empathetic and understanding of people and their situations. When I was younger, I was never a mean person but I was unaware of the intense things that many people have to deal with. Crohn's has allowed me to tap into a more empathetic side of myself that can relate to people who may be going through tough times.
6. It has taught me how to develop an internal, subtle confidence. As young teens, we usually identify ourselves by how we look and what we have and develop a loud confidence because of those things. Living with IBD has given me the opportunity to develop confidence within myself that is based on how I treat others (and myself) and how I see people for who they are on the inside.
7. It has taught me that I am able to get through whatever life hands me. Before Crohn's, I'd never had an event that changed my life drastically. Adjusting to life with an autoimmune disease is tough, but now that I've done that, I know that I am better equipped to handle whatever else comes my way.
8. It has taught me that I can stand up for what I believe in. My perspective on living with IBD is different than most, and that has made this whole journey tougher than I thought it would be. However, it has also shown me that I am able to stand behind my beliefs and values while working with my care team to get the best care possible.
9. It has taught me how to be resourceful. The beginning of my Crohn's journey was very hard because I had little knowledge about where to find resources to help myself. Going through this life change has shown me that I can dig deep and find information needed to help myself feel better.
10. It has shown me an appreciation for the select few people that have stuck with me on my journey. People come in and out of our lives, but it seems that they move more quickly when you're chronically ill.
11. It has taught me how to laugh at myself. The embarrassing experiences that have come along with having Crohn's have shown me how to laugh at myself and some of the things that I have had to deal with over the years. Laughing is some of the best medicine there is.
12. It has taught me that my health is constantly changing. Over the 7.5 years that I've lived with Crohn's, the way that I eat, relax, exercise and relieve stress have changed so many times, and that is the beauty of life: there is always something new to learn.
13. It has taught me that is okay to be different. Everyone has an obstacle or circumstance that they have to deal with. In the end, we're all different, and that's okay!
14. It has taught me how to live in the present moment. Because of the severity of our diseases and the fleeting moments of relief from symptoms, being able to live in the moment and enjoy now is the best practice that we can cultivate as we live our lives with IBD.
15. It has taught me that I can be my own healer. While working with my medical care team, I also did my own homework about holistic health modalities and alternatives that I could incorporate into my life that could help me feel better, and they have.
16. It has taught me that I can be healed, even though I cannot be cured. While a cure for Crohn's or ulcerative colitis is still in the works, finding my life's purpose, living holistically, adopting a whole foods eating style, and minimizing my stress have allowed me to feel fully healed. I am finally able to live my life to the fullest potential while knowing that I have the tools in my toolbox and have practitioners to fall back on to help me if needed.
17. It has taught me how important my health really is. I have finally realized, with help from my autoimmune disease, how crucial it is to nourish my body, mind, and soul so that I can feel fully alive. If I don't have my health, the other aspects of my life will begin to deteriorate too.
18. It has taught me the value of community. Being able to lean on people in the same situation who know what you're going through is so inspiring and comforting.
19. It has taught me how to be okay with fitting out. I used to want so badly to fit in with the crowd. Thanks to Crohn's, I'm now okay with fitting out instead! I have found my "thing" that makes me different, and I'm beginning to see that as a blessing.
20. It has taught me how to find the blessings in health complications. Inflammatory bowel disease is a serious, severe condition, and feeling grateful for that diagnosis took a long time. However, I am finally able to say that I am so grateful for the fact that I have Crohn's disease and what it has brought into my life and taught me.
21. It has taught me that I can thrive on eating plants. While this lesson was unexpected due to the nature of my disease, I have found that eating a plant-based diet has helped me personally alleviate symptoms and feel my best!
22. It has taught me that I am able to run 13.1 miles. If I was never diagnosed with IBD, I would have never signed up for a Team Challenge Half Marathon in my hometown, completed it and beat my time goal!
23. It has taught me that being vulnerable and sharing my story can help and inspire others. I never knew that being so open and honest about what I go through and how I live my life would be so helpful for those in similar situations.
24. It has taught me that I am capable of so much more in my life than I had previously thought. Being diagnosed with Crohn's has shown me that I can be a blogger, health coach, half marathon runner, weight lifter, and plant-based eater. This disease has pushed me so far outside of my comfort zone that I can't even really remember the person that I used to be because I am so comfortable with who I am now and that is an amazing feeling.
25. It has taught me how to fully love all parts of myself. This has been the toughest lesson to learn because of Crohn's. I used to be so angry and resentful and fight-minded, and my health didn't get any better. Then, I tried being happy and loving and thrive-minded, and I've really, truly began to thrive!
Living with Crohn's is hard, but I wouldn't change a thing
While living with Crohn's disease has made my young adult years hard, I wouldn't change a single day of those years. I have learned so much about myself, other people and life because of my disease and I am happy that I can sit down and write this list honestly and openly. My hope is that one day, each of you who read this can write a list like this too!
Does exercising regularly help in the management of your symptoms?