Self-Realization: The Thought-Provoking Side Effect of My Illness

One seemingly random Saturday night I was hanging out with several of my friends before we went to a party. I hadn’t been around this group of people for a long while, so we quickly started chit-chatting. Not long into our conversations, we began discussing new and broken relationships and friendships since we had last seen each other. As the college student I am, I immediately started complaining about guys, relationships, going to a school that is 70 percent dominated by girls, and how chronic illness somehow fit into all of it. Specifically, I mentioned how each time I got close with a guy, I would become highly annoyed with what I felt was a lack of consideration for my conditions, which are a huge part of who I am.

“No, I don’t want to party until 3 a.m. with you. I’ll get sick, and I’d prefer not to.”

“No, I don’t want to drink tonight, because I’ll get sick and I’d prefer not to.”

I’d catch myself repeating these phrases over and over and over again to every potential love interest, and I was frustrated. Highly frustrated. And upon expressing this anger to my dear friend Elana, she outright told me, “Noelle, you are more introspective than most people. You have to be. I even notice this when we get together and catch-up! You’ll immediately ask not only about my physical health, but my mental health as well, and not many people ask that right off the bat when catching-up. They normally, I don’t know, talk about the weather and stuff. You skip the small talk and ask the hard-hitting questions pretty much immediately. You need people in your life that can ask those questions back to you because you’re always asking them to yourself.”

You know those few times in your life when you hear something for the first time and it feels someone just solved all the unanswered mysteries as to why you were feeling a particular way? I had been trying to pinpoint this feeling for a while, couldn’t and those words effortlessly floated off her tongue as if they weren’t, you know, life changing at all. And she was right. She was so right. And it was divinely enlightening.

Then it hit me. I have to, and I do, put my body first. I put it before grades, socializing, anything, because, well, I know the consequences that can happen if I don’t. From this, I realized that chronic illness has a thought-provoking side effect. Self-Realization. Chronic illness, regardless of the condition, forces you to morph your mind and thought process into one that considers your health more acutely than the healthy person. And that’s OK. It’s actually wonderful, in my opinion, because it highlights all the variables in one’s life.

For me, as I was diagnosed with type one diabetes when I was 4 years old, I got used to asking myself questions regarding my mental and physical health, when others didn’t have to. That’s why I was annoyed when people didn’t consider my health, because they may have never really need to consider their own.

So, I’d like to thank you, Elana, for expressing words to me that I couldn’t quite put together myself.  These words that probably seemed insignificant, minor, and evaporative to you left an astounding impact on me.

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