Feeling gratitude even on the toughest days.

Feeling Gratitude Even on the Toughest Days

As the holiday season gets in full gear, it's time to take a moment to reflect about what we're thankful for. Some days it's easier than others. When you battle inflammatory bowel disease or any chronic illness for that matter, sometimes it's difficult to think past the right now. As you grow with your illness and evolve as a person, while it doesn't always get easier, your circumstances will become your new normal.

The beauty of that new normal is that it creates a type of clarity, an understanding, gratefulness for a good day. People often ask me if I wish I didn't have Crohn's disease, while it's obviously not something I would wish on my worst enemy...I usually say I wouldn't change a thing. Here's why.

Looking at things differently after diagnosis

Prior to being diagnosed in July 2005, at age 21, I looked at life through a different lens. I took my health for granted and never thought twice about ever encountering hardships or illnesses. Now, 12 years later. I'm a much better person. Through my patient journey, I've been tested, I've struggled, I've risen above and I've shown others, and most importantly myself, what it means to be strong. I am grateful that this is my reality because it made me who I am. There's no sense in wondering about the what if's or thinking back to what might have been.

You may reach a point where you will find that this ugly disease has actually shown you the beauty of the world. It's opened your eyes to those with compassionate hearts. It's taught you things about yourself that you would have never known otherwise. It's pushed you to your limits - in good ways and bad.

The bad times with Crohn's disease

Those nights when you're restless in your hospital bed and feel uncomfortable in your sweaty hospital gown as you watch the pain medications drip into your veins. Those times where it takes not once, not twice, but eight times to get your IV started. Those moments where you're on your knees throwing up your colonoscopy prep. The burning pain of your incision and taking the first steps after an abdominal surgery and then looking in the mirror at your new battle wound.

Those are the awful times, where we may wonder, why me?

The good times with Crohn's disease

But, think about how the good times outweigh the bad. Think about how it feels to breathe the fresh air after a hospital stay and take a walk in the park with loved ones. Think about how it feels when you have a pain-free day and pause to think, wow--I feel great. I think about getting rolled in for my c-section and what it felt like the moment they placed my perfectly healthy son on my chest. A time where my body did not fail me but created a miracle.

Embracing the good times

IBD doesn't have to be your worst enemy. It can empower you. It can implore you to think beyond your self and advocate for others. Be a voice for those who suffer in silence. It took me more than nine years to open up. I didn't take one picture or share my story with anyone for years. I regret that. Now, I'm not looking back. I'm embracing the good, the bad, the beautiful and the ugly.

By finding gratitude in your own journey and looking in the mirror each day and thinking, "I got this" you'll feel a renewed sense of self. Rather than feeling like an outcast or less than, think about the good in your life and all that you're capable of. I promise you, you have the power to inspire and you have the power to overcome...but, it all has to start with finding gratitude within your own situation.

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