How Surrounding Myself With Family and Friends After My Diagnosis Helped Me Heal
October 8th, 2015, life threw a huge curveball at me. “Lupus” suddenly became a part of me that I had to deal with every day. Though this battle has never been one to be won, I still intend on fighting until I no longer can. Over time, I realized what really mattered in life and how to appreciate every form of happiness I could find.
But first, let’s not lie to each other. Being diagnosed with a chronic illness at the age of 17 sucks. It takes a huge toll on your life. It feels as though life put a road block right in front of you, just as you were advancing towards adulthood. Suddenly, the future is uncertain and you begin to question the point of it all. You begin to see yourself in your 20s spending more time with doctors than friends. Spending more nights in the hospital than out with friends. Taking as many pills as your grandparents, except the difference is you get to do that up until you’re their age.
I guess what I am trying to say is that suddenly, I became disappointed in the future ahead of me. I knew that from now on, I was going to have to be careful about my lifestyle. I had to eat healthier, sleep well, exercise if possible and avoid stressful situations or environments. I admit that as I was growing up, that’s what I planned on doing anyway, but knowing I had to be careful about those things made me realize just how fragile my life was if I didn’t keep that balance in place.
I guess when some people deal with issues, they tend to exaggerate and be focused on the bad instead of being optimistic. Lupus definitely had that effect on me. Being an optimist at heart, lupus defied that part of me that was always hopeful, happy and positive. Having such great supporting parents, the last thing I wanted was to let them know their support wasn’t enough for me. That something had broken inside of me. That I was putting a strong face for them when all I wanted to do was cry.
During the first year, my parents were 100 percent there for me. Hanging out more than ever with them and going to medical appointments with them gave me support. A part of me was always happy to have them around. But it wasn’t true happiness. It was that hopeful part me being awakened in their presence, only to be replaced by that broken part of me whenever I was alone. I guess my body needed to feel so great that it would focus on the presence of others to be happy. During that first year, when I was in my room, if I spent even more than five minutes thinking about lupus, I would bawl my eyes out.
But then, progressively, those episodes of sadness came less often. I had slowly accepted the fact that this is my life now. It’s not perfect, but even without my illness, it could have never been perfect. Because life is never perfect. There’s always something bad, that makes something else in comparison good. By having less of those dark moments, I realized how lucky I was to have my parents supporting me. Because of my lupus, I had become closer to my mom – she had become my confidante and my friend. Because of my lupus, I finally understood what the point of life was for me and what was important. Family. Friends. Health. Of course, in our world, having a job is pretty important, but I discovered that what truly filled my heart with joy was surrounding myself with the best people I could find. That’s it. Though I couldn’t pinpoint the exact moment I finally accepted my illness, I’m certain family and friends were involved in putting back together my heart.
And here I am, at 19 years old, two years later, with my heart mended, trying to make sense of what happened to me these last two years. Happy to have realized I am more than my illness. That happiness is when you can identify your source of sadness, accept it and live with it, without shutting everything that is better out. I think that happiness and sadness come together. How you’re feeling depends on how you balance those emotions. Once you know that, nothing will ever break you apart.
So if there’s any real advice I can give you, it’s that if you know someone who is dealing with an illness, your patience and presence are the key to hope. And if you are dealing with an illness, focus on what and who you love. I know how hard that is, but the best you can do is at least try. It eventually worked for me and I hope it works for you too.
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Photo by Sarah Breton