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To My Newly Diagnosed Self, Don't Lose Sight of the Light Inside of You

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Dear 11-Year-Old Me,

You were just told you have Crohn’s disease. You’re scared. You’re anxious. You feel guilty. Most of all, you feel isolated. I wish I could say it gets easier. I wish I could say that those feelings go away after a while. Yes, it gets better. But, nothing goes away permanently.

Crohn’s is very isolating. People will tell you they know someone who has it, but that’s about it. You may not knowingly meet anyone else who has a chronic illness. I hate that I’m saying this to you, but it’s true.

You’re probably going to develop some form of anxiety because of this. It’s normal, but you shouldn’t have to struggle. Please tell someone about it. Don’t suppress how you feel because it sucks. It sucks to always hold it in.

There are so many people who love and support you. They may not understand it completely, but it’s better than not talking at all.

It’s going to be a rough road, not going to lie to you. You will face this disease head on and it will take you for the ride of your life (think scariest roller coaster at Hershey Park). You’re going to feel terrified because you’ve lost control. When that happens, please reach out to your support system. So many people have your back. And tell Mo, when you start losing your appetite freshman year of high school. You’ll be glad you did.

Speaking of mom, please talk to her more. She is your biggest supporter. She loves you more than you know. Yes, she can be hard on you, but she just wants you to be your best. You should really start being honest about how you feel now. She is there for you no matter what.

I know fifth grade was awful and middle school looks scary, but you should look at as a new slate. A chance to start over. Don’t sit at your sixth grade homeroom table for the next two and a half years. That will just make you miserable. Find your friends from elementary school or make new ones. Just give people a chance, please. Not everyone is mean like the bullies in fifth grade.

I know it doesn’t feel like you have an illness. I also know that those swollen lips make you really insecure. Crohn’s is a serious disease. The immune system that is supposed to keep you healthy is attacking all the good stuff in your intestines. It’s frustrating, I know. Plus, you’re going to have this illness for the rest of your life. So, you need to saddle up because this is going to be a rough ride.

I really don’t want to seem harsh, but you can’t dwell on it. The more you think about how horrible it is to have Crohn’s, the deeper you’re going to get in the social anxiety hole. So, journal more, focus more on your school work (you’re actually a good student), read more books, and make friends. Distract yourself. You’ll feel better mentally.

The most important thing I want you to know. You are so strong. It may not seem like it now, but you are. Every time something feels like it’s chipping away at you, it’s actually pouring more cement into your foundation. You may have some low moments in your life, but you get through all of them because you’re surrounded by people who love you. You’re so powerful. I know it doesn’t seem like it now, but you’ll realize it eventually. No one’s story is exactly like yours. So, stop beating yourself up because you have an illness that you can’t control.

In short, you are a superhero. You’re strong, love to help people, and most importantly, help yourself. I know that things are a bit difficult right now, but don’t lose sight of the light inside of you.

19-Year-Old Me

P.S. I know you would rather not have Crohn’s right now, but one day you will realize that you wouldn’t change your diagnosis. Not even for a million dollars.

Getty Image by Grandfailure

Originally published: September 28, 2018
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