Journaling for 30 Days Taught Me How to Accept My Chronic Illnesses
If my life was written as a book or acted out in a play or movie, The Mighty’s My Mighty Month Challenge would probably be the climax or most important point of the story. I can’t find a way to explain how great this experience has been for me without some background as to how I ended up taking January’s 30-day journaling challenge.
When I was diagnosed with complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS), also known as reflex sympathetic dystrophy, back in 1996, no one I knew had ever heard of it. With the exception of the pain specialists that diagnosed me, most of the doctors and nurses I came into contact with didn’t even know what it was. As a 15-year-old, I wanted to know what my diagnosis meant, and began researching at school. Back then, the internet was fairly new and there wasn’t as much information available as there is today. I did find some information though, and I used it to explain my diagnosis to family, friends, teachers, doctors and nurses.
Fast forward twenty-years to 2015, when I was diagnosed with a second chronic illness: gastroparesis. At this point, technology has advanced enough that when I began researching gastroparesis, I found blogs, youtube videos and podcasts created by people living with the condition. I found comfort in knowing I wasn’t alone, and seeing others share their stories inspired me to do the same.
In September of 2016, I began sharing my story on my blog. I spent the first few months, writing the details of my diagnoses and life events – chronicling 20 years of my life. I quickly became bored telling my story and was happy to reach the present. I decided to continue blogging with the hope that my story would help someone following behind me, just like I have been inspired by those walking ahead of and alongside me.
One day, I came across a link to The Mighty. It felt like I had reached the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. I read story after story about living with CRPS and gastroparesis. Finally, I decided to submit a story, not really expecting to hear anything back from it. When I received an email saying my was published, I was really surprised. My first story “The Moment of ‘Normalcy’ I Craved as a Student with a Disability” was published on December 28, 2016. A few weeks later, I wrote a second story “What this Picture Won’t Tell You About My Illness,” which was published January 13, 2017.
As a contributor, I receive contributor emails from The Mighty. That’s when I received an email about My Mighty Month. I decided to try using some of those prompts for my blog posts. I knew I didn’t have to share my personal journaling experience with the world, but something inside kept telling me to. I must admit, by day four I had almost convinced myself to quit. However, the word “quit” does not exist in my vocabulary, I deleted it when I was diagnosed with CRPS. I told myself that no matter what I faced in life, I wasn’t going to give up and quit. Due to health issues, some entries were posted a day late, but I believe every one of them ended up being posted. I think posting them online pushed me to think about what I was writing and be more honest with myself.
Having just completed day 30, I’ve come to realize how much this challenge has helped me. By opening up and sharing my story, my true feelings, I feel like I’ve finally come to accept my life as it is, and am taking better care of myself mentally and emotionally. I’d always just survived life with my illnesses and have never really been honest with myself about how they affect me. I thought I was writing to inspire others, but ended finding myself somewhere along the way.
The 30-day challenge forced me to look at my life and realize what is really important. It doesn’t matter what diagnosis the doctor throws my way, what challenges I face on a daily basis, or what I am no longer able to do. What matters is that I take the life I have, challenges and all, and I step up as a warrior and choose to own it. I may not have control over the illnesses I have, but I can control how I choose to live my life them. As hard as it may seem at times, I must fight back and make the most of my life. It’s my life, and life doesn’t always offer second chances, I must enjoy every moment, every joy, no matter how big or small it may seem. This is what I learned from taking January’s My Mighty Month Challenge. I really do feel that it has helped me greatly.
Bring on February’s challenge!
Photo via Thinkstock.