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What Getting Out of Your ‘Comfort Zone’ Means With Chronic Illness

Someone once told me that anytime you are uncomfortable in life, you are experiencing growing pains. You shouldn’t be afraid of them or run from them; you should embrace them. They told me it’s called your “comfort zone” for a reason, and the only time you grow as a person is when you push yourself outside of your comfort zone. If you don’t do this, you risk staying stagnant throughout life instead of evolving.

After being diagnosed with Crohn’s disease my sophomore year of college, my health was up and down. Every time I started feeling better, I pushed myself to act how I did before I was diagnosed. As soon as I felt a grasp of normalcy, it was impossible for me to resist, even if it wasn’t something my body could handle.

As time passed, I worked hard on self-control and tried to appreciate my new comfort zone. I went on road trips, but brought my own food instead of eating fast food like my friends. When my roommates went to the mountains for fall break, I went with them, but when they hiked I read a book at the bottom of the trail.

The more I compromised, the better my health became. I wasn’t just experiencing grasps of normalcy; feeling good became my normal and I was terrified of losing it. Compromising transformed into staying in a comfort zone. I had my routine that worked for me, and I worried that straying from it in the slightest way would be catastrophic. Because of how much I resented not being able to control my body, I wanted to control as much as possible, and in my comfort zone, I could.

Except… the more I held myself back, the more restless I became. For the first time in years, I had energy, and I was too scared to use it. My friend reminded me that life is filled with peaks and valleys; there was no way I could prevent every bad thing from happening. I realized the more I lived in fear, the more I would miss out on. Slowly, I started branching out. I allowed myself the occasional food indulgence, went to the gym more, and booked trips with my friends. In a way, I allowed myself to live again instead of just surviving.

It’s still a balancing act, and I constantly find myself fighting the battle of what I want to push myself to do versus what I know my body can handle. It feels like I’m standing on the edge of a diving board. Before being diagnosed, I could see how far below the water was and how deep it was; I always knew that if I chose to jump, I would be OK. Now, because of the uncertainty having a chronic illness brings, I can’t see any of that. The most important thing I’ve learned in the past few months is that sometimes it is OK to not know what is going to happen. While I sometimes feel the need to take a step back and compromise to make sure my health isn’t harmed, I’ve learned to embrace the uncertainty. There is no way to prevent bad things from happening, but I realized blocking out the bad meant I wasn’t allowing myself to experience any of the good.

Photo by Sydney Rae on Unsplash

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