Lessons of Gratitude: A Letter of "Thanks" to UC

"Experience is the best teacher." This mantra rules my life.

As Thanksgiving approaches, I thought I would address how ulcerative colitis has taught me lessons of gratitude. So, here is my letter of "thanks" to UC.

Dear Colitis...

Thank you for entering my life so many years ago. You have taught me much about life and living.

As a teenager, I didn’t understand intestinal pain. Why did I hurt so bad after eating? Why did you force me to curl my body inward and tight like a ball? And the fatigue... the constant fatigue of running to the bathroom weighed heavy on my shoulders. While daily diarrhea left me dehydrated.

Teaching me to slow down

But through you, I have learned that I need to watch what I eat. To be particular and selective about food choices. To slow down. To chew every bite to the smallest morsels. Life is not meant to be gobbled down quickly. It’s meant to be digested... slowly... and... purposely. Thank you for this lesson.

Learning self-love

As for curling inward, this taught me self-love. That no matter how I look outwardly and inwardly, what matters most is the Love I give myself. This lesson has taken me a long time to learn. Years of self-loathing only exacerbated the internal pain and inflammation.

After living with you for over 36-years, I realize I’m a slow learner. The outward hugs to ease the pain signal what I needed internally. Now, each time my colon grumbles or growls, it’s a reminder to send myself love. To hug internally and say, "You are perfect just as you are."

Again, thank you for this lesson of love.

A key lesson on naps

When it comes to fatigue, I have learned that I can’t carry the world on my shoulders. The fatigue signals, "surrender." So, when I start feeling run down, exhausted with life, I have learned to throw my palms up, and say, "Universe, it’s yours. Take it all."

And then, I take a nap. Through fatigue, I have learned that naps are essential. They are the key to surrendering.

Treating the physical and mental

Finally, I thought about diarrhea that’s always left me unsettled, upset, nervous, and anxious. Through it, I understand what is outwardly visible is also what occurs inwardly. Through this symptom, I am taught to treat mental diarrhea as much as the intestinal version.

Why do I allow negative thoughts to flood my mind? And daily! That which is needed for the body is also needed for one’s mindset.

Again, I am a slow learner. But finally, I have learned to stop and reflect during the bouts of bathroom runs. What am I allowing to run through my head? Why is it all-consuming? Imodium for the body is just as important for the mind.

My Thanksgiving letter to UC

During this Thanksgiving, I know this disease is one that I will carry for the rest of my life. Through all the painful suffering, I see the irritants and ulcers that life presents to everyone.

Now older and wiser, I can vouch that we all must accept life’s trials and tribulations. No cures exist to end them. One may choose to cut out and remove a twist or turn on this roller coaster journey. But in the end, the twists and turns provide a vision of the universe as a vast landscape filled not only with pockets of despair but also with pockets of hope.

Through you, UC, I know it serves me best to grab hold of hope that lives within this dis-eased world. And for that, I say "thank you" for teaching me that I am stronger than I ever thought possible.

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