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When I Stopped Hiding the Person I’ve Become Because of Chronic Illness

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Recently as I was looking at my social media accounts, I came across accounts from whom I had chosen to hide my content. As I looked down the list, I realized that many were people I have known for a significant amount of time. Most were people I had gone to high school or college with, or worked with somewhere along the line since nursing school graduation. These were people who were a significant part of my life at one point or another, not trolls or people from my past that I didn’t want to think about again.

But as I sat and thought about it, I couldn’t find a reason that any of them would have been on the hidden list. I finally came to the realization that I must have hidden my posts because I didn’t want them to see my life or my journey. But why? I spent a lot of time thinking about this over the next couple of days, and I realized I had done it because I was embarrassed by what my life had become.

The people who knew me 10 or 15 years ago probably don’t know that I am no longer working in my chosen field. That my marriage didn’t work out, that is a whole story for a different day. Or that I am not living my best life with kids, a husband and my dream job. Sometimes I still struggle with the path my life has taken. I know there are always going to be things we want to change, but my life is far from what I ever imagined.

That being said, there is no reason I should be embarrassed. The things that have caused such a change were nothing I did. Nor were they caused by bad decisions I made. A person can’t change their genetics or the hand they were dealt. So what? I may not be at a patient’s bedside 12 hours a day or working to teach future nurses, but I am still making a difference. I may not be calling doctors or drawing blood, but I am still touching people’s lives. Is it in the way I planned? Hell no! But I have made adjustments and found ways to share my knowledge and provide support in other ways.

Disability has a way of changing a person and their outlook on life. The things that once seemed so important no longer rank in the top five of the things I worry about.  That isn’t a bad thing, though. The version of me that was once embarrassed to let people from my past know the person I have become doesn’t exist anymore. That person has learned to hold her head up high and be proud of the things she has accomplished. To be proud of the life she has built despite the truly crappy hand she has been dealt. In the end, it really doesn’t matter what any of those people think of me, whether they knew the person I once was or the person I am now. The only thing that really matters is how I feel about myself.

That is what should matter the most to all of us: the opinion of the eyes looking out, not the eyes looking in. Paths change and so do people, and that’s OK. But we should never be ashamed or embarrassed about the person we became because of an illness. Chronic illness can take so much away, but it shouldn’t take that. It changes our paths, our hopes, and our dreams. It changes how we look at life as a whole. But it should never change the way we look at ourselves. We all deserve to hold our heads up high and be proud of the badass warriors we have become.

Getty image by Syhin Stas.

Originally published: March 30, 2021
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