Why I Was Happy When I Was Diagnosed With a Chronic Illness
Happiness and relief are generally not feelings you associate with chronic illness. It would be a different story if you felt unwell, went to the doctor and were quickly diagnosed with a chronic illness. You might be devastated, shocked, depressed and anxious.
This absolutely was not the case for me. Why? Because after two years of fighting a nameless disease causing me severe discomfort and dysfunction to my life, I finally had a reason to explain why I was so sick. No more confusion. No more anxiety over painful, unexplained symptoms. No more doctors looking at me as though I was making my disease up. No more trialing incorrect treatment. No more difficulty trying to describe to friends and family what was going on. I was sick, and the disease finally had a name.
For me, that name was gastroparesis, a disease that delays the emptying of the stomach to a point where eating is an extremely difficult, almost impossible task. Not the kind of disease anyone would be happy about being diagnosed with. But when you’re fighting a battle against disease, it’s much better to know the opponent you’re facing. How else could you have any chance of winning?
Living your life sick but undiagnosed is living a life full of uncertainty. You can’t begin the process of understanding and accepting your disease. You’ve seen countless different doctors, only to be given tentative or incorrect diagnoses. Doctors often base their diagnosis on which category of symptoms you best fit in. Before being diagnosed with gastroparesis I’d been forced to come to terms with have several different gastrointestinal diseases that I did not have because of misdiagnosis. I’d researched and prepared myself for battling those diseases, only to be utterly depleted and disappointed after not responding to different treatments and medications. The side effects of these new medications worsened my health to a point I had to be hospitalized to change medications and receive help eating.
When my symptoms started to improve following my gastroparesis diagnosis, I could not believe it. Through my years of waiting for a diagnosis I began to believe there was no hope I would ever be diagnosed and find relief from my symptoms. Even though it’s a long road and I may struggle with gastroparesis symptoms for the rest of my life, I feel strong knowing what I’m facing. I am still sick, but I don’t panic when my disease strikes. I can feel my mental health improving and I am able to stay calm during flare ups. But the two years of waiting has cause significant physical and mental damage that can’t easily been undone.
Two years was too long to wait. More attention and recognition need to be given to all the warriors fighting undiagnosed diseases. No more waiting lists. No more doctors second-guessing patients’ symptoms. I can only hope that the system one day changes for others.
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