Thank You, Ulcerative Colitis, For Showing Me Who I Am
Dear ulcerative colitis,
It’s me, your truest fan and biggest hater. Those things can actually coexist when it comes to us.
Even on our worst days, I’d never want to see us part. Not because I’m codependent on you being part of my identity; quite the opposite actually. I’ve worked hard to not feel any form of enmeshment with you. But it took a minute — I hope you don’t take it personally. I just wanted us to reach a healthy place where we could coexist, learn from one another, and never let one define the other.
After all, we’re stuck together forever, right?
So allow me to thank you — for giving me the space to learn and grow when we had our first big fight way back in 2007. I was feeling so sick from all of your neediness for attention, and you were relentless in making me sicker.
It took us a while to reach an agreement — a year, actually — but once we did, you let me rise back to my healthiest self, take the reins in our relationship, and educate myself on what it’s like to be with someone like you. I met others in similar situations. I got back into exercise the way I did before our blowout. I listened to my body and to you to see what I needed, even when I didn’t want it (and vice versa on a good day). We had a good decade together after that.
Then we fought, albeit briefly, that second time. I felt like our disagreement was more over emotions than anything else. I was neglecting you, and you needed me to know it. So once again, after the initial explosion of symptoms and exchanging of words (mostly on my end), you gave me the space and grace to grow from the experience.
I realized that what you were showing me wasn’t that I’d have to live in flare fear; it was that I had the power within myself not to. By focusing on my mental health and getting my head on straight that second time, I calmed us down and calmed myself down. A flareup may come again for us, but I don’t worry about it every single day anymore.
I often wonder if people who don’t live with a partner like you still have these same opportunities to evolve over the course of their lives. I know I wouldn’t have had them, had it not been for you.
So thank you, UC, for showing me who I am, who I don’t want to be, and who I can become.