Chronic Illness Lessons

The New York Times published an article recently by someone with Crohn’s disease on five things the author wished she’d known before being diagnosed with a chronic illness. I agree wholeheartedly with everything she wrote.

This part resonated with me: “You grieve a version of yourself that doesn’t exist anymore, and a future version that looks different than you’d planned.” I definitely went through a grieving process after being diagnosed, and it’s been an ongoing struggle to accept that IBD is something I will have to live with for the rest of my life and that the ups and downs of having a chronic illness are largely out of my control. But as I’ve written before, I’m also strangely grateful for having a chronic illness and the ways in which it’s changed me. I’m a different person than I was before I was diagnosed, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

I also completely agree with her suggestions to find support, both from a therapist and a support group. My therapist has been very helpful in dealing with the anxiety that comes with having a chronic illness. But the best thing I did since getting diagnosed was start a support group through the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation. I am so grateful to everyone who comes to each meeting and shares their experiences. I recently went out with a few people from the group, and though we initially tried to talk about aspects of our lives unrelated to our illness, the conversation naturally kept coming back to Prednisone side effects, which country has the best public restrooms (apparently it’s Japan), and which colonoscopy prep is the best. Being in a group of people where the reaction to “I had a colonoscopy a few weeks ago” is not “Really? But you’re so young” but “Oh me too!” is a great feeling.

Do you agree with the author? What lessons would you add?