To the Person Who Was Just Told, 'You Have Gastroparesis'

Are you ready? OK. Sit down. Hold on tight. Take a deep breath in. Now listen.

Your life is about to change. Everything you thought you knew, every single thing, from eating to walking to sleeping to breathing, will change. Your life will no longer be the same. If I’m not mistaken, you are relieved to be here today and hear this: You have a real condition. It’s not in your head. It is real and there is a reason. Your monster is called gastroparesis, and sadly, it will not go away.

Now, don’t be sad forever. Be sad now. Be sad sometimes. Scream. Cry. Do it when you need it and when you want to. But, don’t be sad forever, because you’ll learn with time that you’re not alone and that your disease is not you.

Gastroparesis is hard. This chronic illness comes in waves. Some tough and big, unridable, untamable waves. Some, though, will be easier — not easy, but easier. The trick to riding these waves is to not let yourself go.

Today you learn something new about yourself — not that you’re sick, but that you are stronger than you think. Keep that strong self in mind always, even when you’re weak. Allow yourself to be weak, to say no, to tell others when you don’t want to move or go outside. Allow yourself to cry, to be broken at times, to lay all night on the bathroom floor, to race to the ER. Allow yourself to live your new life. Those days when just getting out of bed is an accomplishment are when you need to remember that this is why you’re strong, because you’re true to yourself and your feelings.

Keep people close. Build a network you can rely on. If you don’t have one yet, don’t worry, you will soon know who is truly there for you, and who was never meant to be there in the first place. Know who you can talk to, who you can cry with, who makes you laugh and who can hold your hand throughout the way. Mourn your old self, the one you knew all along but is now gone. Prepare yourself for a new you, one that will not give up, one that will know more about struggling and pain, but also about spontaneous happiness and the small things that matter in life.

You may feel nausea almost all day. You may be bloated. You may be constipated, and then suddenly have awful bowel movements. Your heart might race. You may get dizzy. You might vomit more than you thought humane. You can lose a lot of weight, or perhaps even gain some despite starving. You may need help keeping your weight up and getting nutrients. You may have a tube in you or a central line in place, but just remember that these things are there to help you.

People will whisper; they may point and give unwelcome advice. But you will survive. You are a warrior. We, gastroparesis patients, chronically ill patients, we are cheering you all the way. You are not alone.

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