Unsuspected Strength

On my very best health day, IBD can still be challenging to me. Whether it’s subtle symptoms, remembering to take my medications, medication side effects, or even just realizing some of the long-term impacts Crohn’s disease has had on my life.

Today I am thinking about how the bad is just one part

What if we focused on the other parts of our lives with IBD? What if it were possible for something good to come from such a challenging disease? I don’t think I realized that this was fully possible until maybe about a year ago. Since then, I have really been able to see that unsuspected strength can come from unexpected places, even in the form of a tough diagnosis.

I was lost in my illness

During the first several years that I struggled with symptoms of IBD, I will be the first to admit that I became lost in my illness. Outside of doctors appointments, trips to the hospital, and managing symptoms and temporary treatment plans at home, I mostly only spoke to my family and friends about how sick I was, and about how awful my life was. While these things were true, this period of time was incredibly difficult. There was so much more outside of the negativity that I wasn’t able to or didn’t choose to see.

A few months after I was finally diagnosed with Crohn’s disease, I realized that I was never ever going to move forward with my life if I couldn’t shift my perspective. Having a diagnosis, an answer, was in that way helpful. It also made me realize that although remission could be possible, this would be something I continued to face for the rest of my life. I still had goals and ambitions, professionally and personally. I needed to find a way to work towards those even in the face of certainty that my health could forever be a challenge.

It's a challenge to march forward

Over the past two and a half years, I have worked incredibly hard at marching forward despite setbacks. I have challenged myself when not feeling well, while at infusions, and even while admitted to the hospital. I still strive to complete tasks. Even if they’re just small ones, it makes me feel like I am still functioning, still a member of society, still moving forward. I adapted the mindset that although things could be pushed back or delayed by a few days or even a few weeks, I really preferred this to not be the case.

As I shifted my perspective, I made a commitment to myself that if I could, I would. This meant with my friendships, my relationship, my job, my hobbies, the things that brought me joy, the things required as an adult. If I was able to do the thing, respond to the message, submit the project, get some sunshine, then I would. Because doing the thing - it always always always made me feel better mentally. And I very quickly learned that when my head felt clearer and when my heart felt slightly more optimistic, I was so much more able to face challenges that came my way.

I now see the strength

By consciously choosing to push myself one step further than I thought I could at times, I now see the amount of strength I have gained. A strength that I would never have thought I could obtain, to be honest. In reflecting on how I’ve changed over time, I am so amazed by and proud of this strength. It has served me incredibly well. Not just in my battle with Crohn’s disease, but also now as my husband and I walk through treatments for infertility. One thing I’m really grateful for is that despite the new unknowns of IVF, Crohn’s disease has taught me that I can, and I will overcome anything that comes against me.

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