The Mighty Logo

I Decided to Stop Being Passive When It Comes to My Illness

The most helpful emails in health
Browse our free newsletters

A part of me feels like I’ve been chronically ill my entire life, mainly because I can’t remember what it feels like to be healthy. I first started having symptoms when I was 15, and I can’t even bring myself to think about what life was like before that. When I see pictures of me before I got sick, it’s like a person I can’t even recognize. My health is so much a part of me now, as it has played a major role in my life for the past six years.

Upon reflecting on this, I’ve come to realize that I’ve been very passive throughout my illness. I feel like I have spent so much of my time dragging my feet to doctors appointments, skipping taking pain pills, and avoiding recommended exercises to slow the disease process. I guess a part of me has always felt like it wouldn’t help, that there was no point. Looking back, I feel like I have let myself be such a victim to illness, like I’ve never given myself the chance to really fight back. Even though my illness and pain have been completely out of my control, I realize that I haven’t done whatever I could to make it better, and I haven’t been the kind of person I’ve wanted to be – one who persists anyway, despite illness. I look in the mirror and I see a person who is tired and lethargic, and has just let all of these things happen without even trying to fight back, to maintain some state of health, and feel better.

About five weeks ago, something shifted inside of me, and I realized that enough was enough. I was sick of being sick. Tired of feeling helpless and powerless in a situation I couldn’t control, being too careless to modify factors that I had the power to change. I had the power to change my lifestyle, my outlook, and my motivation. And I was ready. After six years of doing nothing, I was ready to push back, and I know that it was the best decision I ever could have made for myself.

In the beginning of September, I drastically changed my diet. I started eating whole, organic foods, and cut out all of the things that my doctors had told me to from the get-go. I swore off foods that were causing excess inflammation and worsening my symptoms. It wasn’t easy, but I knew that I was worth it, and my health was worth it. I deserved to give myself the best version of myself. I owed it to myself to do  what I could to maintain my body as long as I could, to slow the disease process as much as I could.

I started a low-impact fitness regimen, to keep myself moving and active, which my doctors had always said would lower pain and reduce inflammation. Why it took me six years to listen to what my body was telling me, I will never know. Maybe it was out of stubbornness, or fear, or just fatigue. But what I know now is that having a chronic illness doesn’t give me the permission to just sit back and watch it happen. I have the power to give myself a better life despite this burden I’ve been given.

It’s been five weeks since I started my new lifestyle. I eat whole foods for every meal, and I’ve cut out a majority of the things in my diet that had been exacerbating my symptoms. I no longer get sick after every meal, and it’s been life-altering for me. This has changed the way I perceive mealtime and it’s changed my attitude too. I no longer have to dread meals or silently wait for the onset of symptoms. I can tell my body is thanking me too.

I’ve learned how to listen to my body and understand what it needs, and that truly feeling better starts with how I fuel my body. I exercise six days a week, and every workout is a challenge for me. At first, there were so many times when I really struggled and wanted so badly to give up, but each day I can feel myself getting stronger. There are things that I can do now that I never would have been able to do five weeks ago. I still have a lifetime to go on fighting this illness and fighting to maintain my health, but I’m proud of myself for being able to take the first steps.

Overall, I know that with each step I take from here, I’m heading towards a stronger and healthier me, and I’m grateful for every step.

Getty Image by Adkasai

Originally published: October 12, 2018
Want more of The Mighty?
You can find even more stories on our Home page. There, you’ll also find thoughts and questions by our community.
Take Me Home