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4 Ways My Life Has Changed Since I Was Diagnosed With a Chronic Illness

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About a year ago, I went from being a highly active 26-year-old to being completely bedridden, nearly overnight. I went from running half marathons to sleeping for what feels like marathons. I went from a successful career to getting let go for being unable to get out of bed to go to work.

Here’s a complete picture of how my life has changed since being diagnosed with a chronic illness:

I used to love mornings.

Now, mornings are the hardest part of the day, from being in the most extreme pain I face all day, to willing myself to go back to sleep, to looking longingly out the window at the beautiful weather and wishing I could experience the activity I used to enjoy. Mornings are the time when I’m faced with truly how limiting chronic illness can be.

I used to be defined by my career.

Now, I focus on working for myself because I’m unable to manage the demanding schedule of working for others. There is a huge blessing here, and I try to focus on this positive aspect that has come from my illness. I get to set my own schedule, do what I’m best at, punt work when I’m unable to, and get the rest I need to function, whatever functioning means for me that day. Some days, functioning is getting out to Starbucks and working outside. Other days, functioning can be something as small as being able to walk my own dog.

I used to have an active and social life.

Now, I keep my circle close and filled with those who understand my condition. My friends and family are so understanding, but I’m known for missing birthdays, ditching nighttime plans, and spending entire days in my pajamas. If and when I’m able to exercise, I’ve switched from intense workouts and long runs to calming yoga and brief walks. Doing anything that angers my illness can cost me days or weeks of pain, fatigue, fevers, and nausea.

I used to feel “normal.”

Now, I feel like I’m anything but. Some days, I feel like a 27-year-old trapped in an 80-year-old shell. I feel disappointed in myself and betrayed by my body. Other times, I embrace this “new normal” by rewarding myself for small accomplishments. I understand that though I’m limited, I’m still loved, successful in my own way, and have a bright future ahead of me. Though my illness has changed my life drastically, it has also opened new doors, taught me the value of self-love, and allowed me to help others through sharing the challenges I face. 

Originally published: October 10, 2016
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