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Accepting That My Path With Chronic Illness Won't Match Anyone Else's Journey

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In high school, I dreamed of moving to New York City. I loved the excitement, the Broadway shows, and the idea of limitless possibilities. After I got sick with Crohn’s disease my sophomore year of college, the idea of moving to a city where I knew nobody, would have to find a new doctor, and build a new support system was terrifying. What if I had a flare up and there was nobody there I could rely on to help me?

My dream began to change. All I wanted was to get a job where I could have health insurance and live near my friends and family. So that’s what I did, and I stayed in the city I grew up in and where I went to college. Most of my college friends stayed too, and some of my high school friends came back when they finished college. My support system stayed the same, and my health improved to the point where I didn’t need to return to the doctor for six months.

When my roommate announced she would be moving across the world in the coming year for an amazing job opportunity, I panicked. Who will I room with now? Can I afford to live alone? What if my other friends start to pack up and leave? Should I be going on an amazing adventure too? Am I falling behind? Will I get stuck while everyone else moves on?

As I panicked, I remembered that it’s more difficult for me to pack up and move across the world. I have an emotional support dog that would have to move with me, and a chronic illness that is triggered by stress. I would have to find a way to have my medications delivered. I would have to find a new doctor.

A friend of mine reminded me that since my diagnosis, I have been forced to grow up faster than some of my other friends, and because of that I have already found myself. I realized that forcing myself to move before I was comfortable or ready would be a disaster. While my personality does not like staying stagnant, I have to realistically understand the limitations of my diagnosis.

Having a chronic illness means trying to keep everything else in your life as calm as possible to try and prevent flare ups. Even if you don’t want to always stay in your comfort zone, the scariness that change brings can be stressful enough to put your health at risk. It can be hard to accept that, but it’s important to recognize that no one’s experiences are universal, and your path will not and should not match anybody else’s journey.

Lead photo courtesy of Stock Vault

Originally published: January 6, 2019
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