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8 Positive Things I've Learned After One Year With Ulcerative Colitis

As I reflect on my first year dealing with ulcerative colitis, I look at all the good and bad experiences I’ve had. Most of the time, while you go through a bad time in your life, you can hardly picture that something positive might come out of this. As the memories of last year are brought back to my head, I can now see every little positive thing I have gained this year. One year ago, my 15-year-old self couldn’t have even thought about something good coming out of this. I thought my life was about to be painful and hard, even though I was glad I could put a name on my symptoms. Today, to celebrate my first year coping with IBD, I want to share with you some of the positive things I have learned.

1. I’ve learned enjoy every little moment in life.

When you are perfectly healthy, it’s easy to take your health for granted. I myself never thought in a million years I would get this sick in high school. But when it happened, I immediately told myself that, when I got my health back to normal (well, a new normal considering the UC), I would never miss an opportunity to have fun and enjoy life. I would try to enjoy every minute of my days, and teach those around me to do the same, because most of them are perfectly healthy.

2. I’ve matured a lot.

I’ve had to grow up fast. And by fast, I mean racecar fast. I now need to watch what I eat, go to the hospital at least once a month, make decisions about what pills I think would be best for me and many more. I also need to take care of myself on a daily basis so I don’t run out of energy. It is hard sometimes, because you want to go do normal teenage stuff with your friends. But you simply can’t. Most people don’t have to do such things at 15. But you know what? Life happens. And it’s not because I’m young that I can’t be sick. It doesn’t always happen to others. It sometimes happens to you. And knowing that is the most difficult thing to process.

3. I’ve learned to manage my stress.

Before I got sick, I had a lot of anxiety. But I noticed that from the day I got diagnosed, my stress level lowered a lot! I personally think I just now had realized that stress made my symptoms worse. And because I didn’t want to have cramps 24/7, I unconsciously stopped worrying about every single thing in my life and just let life go on as it always should have.

4. I’ve learned that I’m strong.

Before I was diagnosed, the worst medical thing I had ever had to get done is a shot or two. And even though shots are really not that bad, I was always afraid to get them. So you can imagine that when I had to do my first blood test, I was petrified. And the fear didn’t stop there. About four days after that blood test, I had to get a colonoscopy, which was way worse. But that was the first and last blood test I was scared of. Twelve blood tests, three iron infusions, one colonoscopy and a year later, I can now proudly say that I feel very brave. Not only on the physical side, but on the mental side, too. I became much more calm and I don’t let my thoughts scare me as much anymore.

5. I’ve learned not to worry about others’ opinions.

Yes, people are going to think you are lying. They often think that when you can’t see someone’s illness, it’s fake. But when you see so many faces judging you and thinking you’re fake, you learnt not to care about what people think anymore. Whether they say that you could’ve done something to prevent the disease (which is totally untrue) or they think they can cure you with their magic wand, don’t listen to them, they’re not worth it.

6. I’ve learned who my real friends are.

You may lose friends. Most people don’t know how to deal with a sick friend. Especially not when you’re a teenager. My best tip would be to let go of these people. If you don’t, they might disappoint you on the long run. Concentrate your energy on building strong relationships with people who really want to be part of your life. They are the ones who are worth it. You don’t need to have a ton of friends, just a couple good ones will do. Trust me.

7. I’ve learned to be more positive.

I early on decided to have a positive attitude towards my UC. I find it a lot easier to fight this disease with a smile on my face rather than lay down and cry. Of course I can’t be positive all the time. Sometimes I do lay down and cry and just want to find a reason to the “why me” question. But because there really isn’t a reason why, I just figured that I would have a better life if I started to have a positive attitude early on.

8. I’ve learned to listen to my body.

Most importantly, I can now “read” my body. I know that some days, I have a little less energy than other days. And I know what to do on those days. I see the difference between a UC cramp and any other cramps that my body experiences. I never could have done that a year ago and find it very cool that I now know my body very well.

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Thinkstock photo by BalazsKovacs