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How I Came to Realize That Accepting My Illness Is Not Admitting Defeat

A thought taps at my mind – a thought I have carried with me throughout my life. It is something I have never been able to vocalize. It is something I feared I would never achieve, and something I am only just starting to find.

Acceptance.

I have never accepted my arthritis. I have never accepted that I suffer from a chronic illness and I did not accept that I needed a hip replacement. I dismissed the idea that pain was not normal. I understood when people gave me quizzical looks when I said it might happen – that at 22 years old, I might have to have my hip replaced – because I was just as skeptical.

For so long, I have actively ignored my arthritis. I have gone out of my way not to talk to people about it. I often associated acceptance with defeat. To fully acknowledge my illness was never an option. Throughout the years, I would find myself drifting in and out of hospital wards as if in a daze – my mind clouding over, often making me believe it wasn’t my body the doctors were probing, it wasn’t me who was in pain. When I injected myself every week, it would not be my flesh I saw the needle piercing but someone else’s.

I was sure that once I accepted my condition, it would never change.

That is why when I finally started talking about chronic illness and when I finally allowed myself to acknowledge its presence, it was so important to me. It was not just for the people who wanted to know how I felt in regards to my arthritis, but it was also a way for me to discover how I felt. I had often not thought about what I was writing until I saw my thoughts staring back at me on a screen.

But, I think something has changed in me now. There was a gradual shift in my thoughts when I discovered I needed a hip replacement, as though that was the moment I finally acknowledged my illness was part of me. Perhaps it is because the pain I had come to know has finally gone. Perhaps it is because I finally realized that it was never meant to be there at all.

I understand how someone struggling with a chronic illness may never find acceptance because, for most of my life, that person has been me. But I think I have finally discovered it is OK to accept something you do not desire.

I have realized that acceptance is not a sign of failure.

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Getty Image by mheim3011

This story originally appeared on Chronically Catherine.

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