A bit of a personal post today but hopefully an uplifting one. About 14 months ago, I posted my open letter to crohn’s disease. I can remember that at the time of writing it that there was one emotion that seemed to dominate at the time: hopelessness. I felt completely and utterly hopeless at that moment- like I was just trapped in a tunnel with no way out. Hopelessness was a new emotion for me- previously my response to IBD and had been largely anger and frustration. When I was diagnosed, I went through all the classic emotional responses and anger was one that stayed with me for a long time: I was angry at my body for putting me through this and, even more prominently, angry at everybody else who seemingly wasn’t going through this and thought they had it bad.The people that moaned about their weight, or how hard it was on Weightwatchers, or who moaned about hangovers after drinking all night. In other words, the people around me and were living their lives as usual; as they should be.
I remember at the time I was having CBT and my counsellor pointed out that I seemed angry- but I thought this was perfectly normal. Looking back now, it really wasn’t. I remember saying that I wasn’t ever going to accept my diagnosis because then I’d be letting it win. Well, she mentioned that acceptance doesn’t mean defeat; it just means you’ve acknowledged what you’re dealing with and you’re going to work towards living with it.
I don’t really think I had that lightbulb moment; perhaps it was when I was writing my book but I have realised that, somewhere, along the way, I have finally accepted my disease and the life I lead. I honestly don’t get angry or resentful anymore when people offer me food I can’t eat or someone moans about they’ve got an upset stomach after one too many beers. I know people get angry with comments like ‘are you better now?’ or ‘you look well’ but I honestly don’t mind those either. Because, I feel like I’ve learnt that just people in my life care about me, they don’t need to change to show that they care about me-in fact, in a way the fact that they treat me exactly the same reassures me that I am in fact that: exactly the same. I think the fact people haven’t ‘pandered’ to me or expected less of me has almost made me focused on living as normal life as possible; if that makes any sense at all?
The thing about this disease is it has actually changed my life in so many ways. I can’t really say if my life is truly better with IBD but to be honest, it was only after having crohn’s that I realised what was truly important: my family, my friends, my husband and my dogs. That’s pretty much it. I stopped trying to be something I wasn’t or try to achieve something that didn’t need to be achieved. I stopped putting pressure on myself to be perfect and just to do what I actually loved. Which lead to my blog, my teaching and I still can’t believe it…my book.
I would never in a million years have written a book if it wasn’t for my crohn’s disease. I can honestly see I never believed in myself as a writer truly until I started this blog and writing about my journey. You know on Gilmore Girls when Rory writes the story and says it just flows out of her? That’s how I felt about my book. In fact, I don’t quite believe it as a book as it was just me chatting on my laptop for a couple of months. They say every writer has a story in them, and perhaps, in a warped, strange way it took moving to China and getting diagnosed with a horrible disease to find mine (why I couldn’t bloody just write a romance novel, I don’t know!)
Although one of the things I struggle with the most is control (I hate blood tests, doctors appointments and genuinely fear that the next big health problem could be just around the corner- I am genuinely thinking am I jinxing things by posting this blog when I have to go get my latest blood test; in case it’s a disaster) it is because of IBD, that I began to take control and navigate to the life I want. I quit permanent teaching to do supply; cut down my hours to write and hopefully I’ve found a place in the countryside to move to in a month’s time which will hopefully have space for me to start nutrition consultations. I used to think that’s it’s because of my illness that people just let me get on with making these decisions for my health, but perhaps it’s not that. Perhaps it’s me having the strength to go after what I really want; something I don’t think I would have done if I didn’t have this disease.
I hope nobody is reading this and finds it offensive. I do appreciate that of course, I would much more blessed if I didn’t have IBD. And more importantly, most people would argue that not everyone needs to get a lifelong disease in order to find themselves- those Instagram gurus who do morning yoga on the beach seem to do just fine without one. Yet, I have always felt that we are always supposed to have a purpose– I know some people see work as just something to put food on the table but I’ve been incredibly lucky that I had the opportunity to go to university and try different jobs. But, despite this, I have felt like I was searching for the feeling of something I was supposed to be doing. I am not saying life is perfect; I am not saying I have got it all figured out. Life with IBD is hard, it’s scary and it can be limiting. I hate feeling poorly (or, more accurately, worrying about when I will be next feeling poorly) and I hate taking medication. But, despite it all, when I am here: sitting in my pyjamas, typing on my laptop, answering all your emails and facebook messages, proofreading my book, making a smoothie, finishing a nutrition essay- it feels like I am one step closer to finding my purpose after all.