When you have a chronic illness, there are many stages you go through leading to acceptance. I know when I was first diagnosed, I was almost insane with happiness because I finally had an answer. There was finally a reason for all the sickness, all the weight loss, all the pain! I took my first type of medication with glee at the thought of getting better. From there, as I cycled through “remission” and “flares”, my attitude towards Crohns Disease changed many times.
A lot of the time, I took on a headstrong approach. I knew Crohns could very well put my butt in the hospital, but I was going to do what I wanted anyway. It was a take-charge-attitude. Nothing was going to get me down.
The other end of that spectrum, is more of a… careful approach. It took me years to get into this little “phase”. I spent so much time feeling almost invincible, pushing myself farther and farther, when in reality what my body needed was rest. These last few years I developed a stricture around my terminal ileum, which led to bowel obstruction after bowel obstruction. At first it was once a year, then twice a year, then all of a sudden, I was being admitted every other month. Which of course is what led to my surgery.
In the months leading up to my surgery, I started realizing that pushing my body so hard the previous years definitely took a toll. Now I’m not saying that you shouldn’t do what you want to do in life, just because of a chronic illness. However, you have to listen to your body and rest when you need to. There were many, many a time where I went with little sleep, or didn’t take a day to myself after a big event or trip. I didn’t pay as close attention to what I was eating as I should have, and I didn’t take care of myself.
The downfall of getting so sick, and thinking about all of the ways I hadn’t taken care of myself, is that I’ve more or less become a homebody. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve always enjoyed the quiet of my home, but I’ve retreated more of the last couple of years. I’m more often than not going to avoid places without easy bathroom access (which is pretty par for the course with anyone with active IBD), and after 2 years shy of a decade, the fatigue is so overwhelming that I get anxious about going to anything resembling an all day festival. By all means, I still *want* to go to festivals, markets, concerts and such.. but it’s almost like after years of “conditioning” it’s all to easy to just say no. It’s easy to just stay at home, where I can hurt in the comfort of my own bed, use my own bathroom, and have easy access to my medications.
Someone told me recently, that I had lost that “fight” I used to have, that it seemed like I had given up. When I heard that, to be completely honest, it broke my heart. I’ve been through a lot this past decade, not even just health related. The last thing I think when I look in the mirror at the bags under my eyes, the scars on my tummy, is that I’m looking at someone who has quit. When I look at myself in the mirror, I see someone who has fought the mother of all battles. I see someone who has been through hell and back, and has still managed to stand up every morning and face the day. I don’t think I’ve given up, I think I’ve just acclimated.
Sure, I need to work at my confidence, to get myself back out there. This time however, I will be taking care of myself, taking the down time I need, taking time for myself. I do want to get back out and “live life” instead of letting life pass me by, but I will do it on my own terms. I haven’t lost the fight, that fight that was so very much directed at not losing the life that healthy people lead, damn near destroyed the life I already had. The fight that I supposedly lost, isn’t missing, it’s just been redirected into getting well. It’s been redirected into saving myself. Now I just need to learn to shift some of it back to other aspects of my life.
By no means though, have I given up. I just learned to live how I needed to, to get by, not just keeping myself out of the hospital, but keeping myself sane. Unfortunately, it’ll take a little while to learn how to shift from this stage to something more in the middle. It’s going to take time to learn how to live fully, while protecting what health I have.
I have not given up, I’ve just learned to fight in every way imaginable.