Embracing Your New Normal
I remember when I was first diagnosed, I believed once I was “better” I would be able to return to everything I used to do and love. And while that may be true for a lot of you given the advances in treatment options these days, it wasn’t true for me.
Life before ulcerative colitis
I was a competitive swimmer since the age of 7. I was on track to swim at Princeton before I was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis at 13. Even at that young age, I was swimming and doing exceptional at Junior Olympics and even qualified in multiple events for Olympic Trials. Given my dad’s friend was an alumni and the basketball coach for Princeton, I did have an “in” with them. They told my parents and me that provided I continued on the path I was on both athletically and academically, I would have a spot on the team when the time came.
To say I was excited was an understatement. I loved swimming. I loved the camaraderie of the team. I loved the water. I just loved everything about it! Not so much the 4 am workouts but still... most of it. :) I was excited about my impending future!
I wasn't able to compete once diagnosed with UC
However, I never realized how much strength it took to swim at the level I was until IBD came into my life. My best events were distance butterfly and distance IM (individual medley) prior to becoming ill. I did my best in between hospital stays, medications, procedures, and surgeries to get back in the pool with my team.
It took time for me to finally realize, I just couldn’t compete anymore. My body wasn’t capable of it. It hurt me emotionally more than anything because swimming was my life. It was the one thing I was great at. It made my parents proud of me. It was what I was known for. To have that all of a sudden ripped out from under you at such a young age was beyond disappointing, to say the least.
I was also a huge food lover. I was someone who enjoyed healthy things like veggies and salad. I also wasn’t very picky... I pretty much loved everything. I was never really on a diet but I grew up learning about nutrition and carried it with me. Having inflammatory bowel disease and going through all of the surgeries I have had has now made it impossible for me to enjoy a lot of the things I once used to love. Those foods would cause an immediate obstruction until I finally just gave up on them.
My life is different now
There were a lot of things I used to love prior to my inflammatory bowel disease diagnosis. I have had to learn to accept that my life is different now. Not over, but different. I needed to find new activities to enjoy. I needed to search for different types of foods I could have that made me happy. I think you get the picture.
While it is a very slow process for most of us (me included), we have to be able to embrace our “new normal.” It doesn’t mean we have to give up all of the things we love but we have to search for other things that make our bodies, heart and soul happy.
I know it is difficult. I still have a very hard time with it and I have lived with IBD for almost 17 years. You are not alone if you are in a place of just despondency because of all your disease has taken from you. It takes time and other people get it. Maybe not your immediate family or friends but the people who live with this invisible, chronic illness and our wonderful community understands. We are always here for you. Please remember that.
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