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What Happens When Your Illness Derails Your Life Plans?


So there’s this thing…

When we’re little, we all have these ideas of what we want our lives to be. We want the house, the awesome job (I wanted to be a pop star), and the perfect person to marry and the kids that came along with it. We go through life with all these “plans” for our life. So what happens when you get a chronic illness that derails your entire life?

I’ve always thought of myself as an ambitious, driven person. I was the president of every extracurricular group, section leader in band, editor of my student newspaper and president of my fraternity. While I was a complete mess in my love life, I always knew I would have a great career and could do anything I put my mind to. But, when I was diagnosed with lupus, that all changed. My diagnosis was the beginning of a long line of tragic events that would change the course of my life.  I will admit, sometimes I can be overly dramatic and ponder the phrase “Why me!?” It’s easy to blame all of my problems on the universe. But I don’t believe there is a majestic being in the heavens out to get me and calling the shots in my life. This is just what my life is. I can either sit alone in a dark room and cry about it or I can be proactive.

Recently, I went through something pretty tragic. After acknowledging the trauma I had gone through and grieving the loss, I had to make a conscious decision to get out of bed, shower and see my friends so I wouldn’t slip further into depression. When I first moved to Washington, D.C. I was laid off from a job I loved, and two days after I slipped into a three-month depression that made my lupus much worse and ended up in the hospital for half the year. I now realize that lupus was definitely the cause for my lengthy hospital stay, but my depression and anxiety were the triggers that allowed my lupus to get out of hand.

When it comes to my illness, bad things will happen: Injuries, losing the ability to move, brain fog, fatigue… all of it. All I can do is try to be as healthy as I can to combat these things. The same goes with my depression. My life isn’t going to be the way I wanted it to be when I was imagining myself as the sixth member of ‘NSYNC. That’s going to have to be OK for right now. I will always have setbacks and they won’t be the average setbacks of a healthy 20-something — they will be harsher and harder to navigate. I’m willing to accept that… not willing… I don’t really have a choice.

So here’s the challenge: Accept your illness, own it, love it, have it be your best friend. Take your meds, go to therapy, eat healthy, and for God’s sake, be around people who love you. Stop trying to hide it in your job interviews and on dates. Accept yourself and your illness for who you are. Be sad, be angry, but most of all be present. Your mind will thank you.