Re-Evaluating My Identity as a Chronically Ill Person
“Tell us about yourself” was written in the empty box underneath my name. This question was one I had never struggled with before; in fact if anything I struggled to write about myself within the word limits that capped my answer short every time. This question was now one that brought tears to my eyes and churned my stomach. Why is it so hard to answer this simple question? I feel torn between holding onto my old identity and accepting my new one, but I have no idea what my new identity is.
It took me over six months to change my Instagram bio which stated I was a pole dancer/instructor and a law and psychology student amongst other things. This was because I was holding onto the hope that I would return to my old life eventually. The more time that passes, the more that hope fades and the more I fear I will most likely never be the young, active, successful and carefree girl ever again. It’s so hard to figure out where I belong in this world without knowing who I am anymore. All the things I identified myself with are now gone and I am left exposed, wondering who the hell I am without those things.
You don’t realize how much you define yourself by what you do until you lose the ability to do those things. Why was my identity based on my employment, hobbies and education and how the hell do I figure out who I am without all those things?
It wasn’t until I started writing this that I figured out how I was supposed to create a new identity – and the best part about this realization is that I don’t need to create a new identity at all. By stripping back those things I identified with most, I can see who I am. The truth is I haven’t lost myself at all; I’ve just had to learn to express myself in different ways.
Being a dancer for me was never about physical activity, that was just an added bonus. Being a dancer was all about having a creative and emotional outlet. Even though I have lost my ability to dance, I have managed to find a new creative and emotive outlet through my writing. I am channeling the same parts of me I used to use in dance, to write. I have not lost my creative energy, I have just learned to apply it in a different area.
I was studying law and psychology to eventually have a career that allowed me to help people who needed it. While I am most likely not going to become a lawyer or a psychologist anytime soon, I still have a passion and desire to help others. I believe I am still achieving this goal through my writing and creating awareness for both undiagnosed illnesses and chronic illnesses. This passion still drives me to work hard, only now I am not working towards a university degree, I am working towards a career as a writer who inspires others. I have always believed I was put on this earth to make a difference and help others. It doesn’t matter how I do this, just as long as it remains my biggest goal.
My social life was driven by my love and passion for people. I may not be the “social butterfly” I once was, but I still have the same love for others. My interactions may not be the same as they once were but I still engage with so many people – whether it be direct and face to face or through my blog and my videos. I am still driven by my love for people which is exactly why I am so passionate about helping others.
My physical strength is now non-existent but my mental strength more than makes up for it. My old body could physically meet any challenge it faced but now it is my mental strength that carries me through life. There is no amount of physical activity that could build as much resilience as my mind has. I am still just as strong as I was before, if not stronger; but this strength is mental, not physical. While I used to pride myself on my physical strength, I can now be proud of my mental strength.
So who am I? I am Ash; a young girl who has won more battles than years she has lived. I am potentially the strongest person I know. I am loving and caring to even those who do not show those things to me. I am honest and open. I am positive, but realistic. I am a warrior, a fighter and a survivor – never a victim. I am wise, even without my university education. I am happy despite the difficulties I face in my everyday life. I was born with a purpose and that purpose is to make a difference which I intend on doing no matter what. I am a believer in all things good. I have faith that the universe has put me on the path I need to be on and I will take advantage of that. I am a writer with an important message that I vow to show the world. I am passionate and I am creative.
I may not be healthy or “able-bodied” anymore but I sure as hell am so much more than just my illness. I would even go so far as to say that I am so much more because of my illness.
This post originally appeared on Finding Rainbows in the Dark.
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Thinkstock photo via Benderonny.