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When I Realized My Illness Shouldn't Be the Only Thing That Identifies Me

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Whether you get diagnosed at age 10, age 45 or beyond, living with a chronic illness can be a major part of how you identify in life.

Your days are full of routine.
Your calendars are full of appointments.
Your cabinets are full of medications and supplements.

Chronic illness is all you think about.

But did you forget that you are a person too?

I know I did for a long time.

All I had room for in my mind was my fear of food, my anger at my body and the limitations Crohn’s disease put on my life.

While all my healthy friends were living “normal” lives, I was in excruciating pain with no answers. I was taking many medications daily to manage inflammation. Socializing gave me intense anxiety. I had no idea how to relate to other people who didn’t get what I was going through.

I never thought about anything else.

And I never knew that there was another way to be in life with a chronic illness.

That is until I got to a point where my symptoms were manageable and my health was stable. It was then that I realized I had no idea who I was as a person. I spent so much time in my late teens and all my 20’s focusing on chronic illness. Being chronically ill didn’t give me the time or energy to grow into myself as a person.

And now — here I am, a week away from being 28, and I have only just begun to figure all this out. I’m finding out who I am, what I enjoy and what I want for myself and my life.

But I don’t want that for you.

I want you to figure it out much sooner than I did. I want you to make yourself – as a person – a priority in your life right now. Not just your chronic illness. Not just your medications. Not just your doctor’s appointments. And not when you achieve remission. But you, as a whole, right now.

So you’re up for it. Are you wondering how to do that?

  1. Change your mindset. Realize and believe that you are worthy of being more than someone with a chronic illness. You are more than your diagnosis story. You are more than your symptoms. You are more than your medical chart. If no one has told you yet – there is so much more to you than the illness that you live with. You are worthy of being more than that.
  2. Take time to figure out what you love. What makes you smile big? What makes you light up when you talk about it? What are you passionate about? What do you see yourself doing in regards to career, hobbies, etc.? What do you love learning about? What are you doing when you lose all track of time? Write it all down. Brain dump all ideas onto paper. Realizing that you love so many things shows you there is so much more to your life than chronic illness.
  3. Do more of the things that you love. Have you ever heard “what you focus on grows?” While that quote applies to many different things, it also applies to this situation. We all have to focus time and energy on illness and treatment. That is a fact. But who told us that we had to focus 100% of our energy on being a patient and forget to be a person? Adding things you love into your days, months and years with a chronic illness will help you focus more on the true you. It doesn’t matter if you add things in small bits or big leaps. All that matters is that you’re infusing what you love into your life.

Just because you live with chronic illness doesn’t mean that your life as a person can’t be full of things you love. It doesn’t mean that you have to embody the energy of a patient 100% of the time you live on this Earth. It doesn’t mean that your life has to be 100% full of misery, suffering and dark days.

You get to choose what you focus on.

Yes, you are a patient.
Yes, you live with a chronic illness.
Yes, you have a routine because of it.
And those things are huge parts of your life.

But you are also so much more than that.

You are also a person — a person with interests, passions and goals. And you deserve to have those things in your life too, in any way that you can.

Not tomorrow, next month or five years from now. But right now.

Right now is the perfect time to feel a little less like a patient, and a little more like the person that you are.

I’ll leave you with this:
How can you get closer to the “true you” today?

Originally published: July 16, 2019
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