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How I Learned to Trust Myself and My Body With Chronic Illness

I will start off by saying, I did not think this day would come. I did not dream of a day that I would have a “normal” job. Of course normal does not exist to me, but you know what I mean! Living with a chronic illness, you can get caught up with the forever circling thoughts and only focus on your illness. When you fight so hard for day to day things you can catch yourself not looking into the future, not dreaming of what could be. I got lost in the routine, I got comfortable with the “bubble” I was living in. Sadly, I had lots of doubt in what I could accomplish. I was OK with just surviving.

It took a lot of time, maybe too much time, to trust in myself and trust in my body. Time led to understanding my illness and adapting skills to listen to my body, to “trust my gut.” It took me years to be comfortable feeling unwell. Comfortable feeling unwell… it’s hard to believe that is what describes me today. But it’s true, I can go out in the world and I am no longer afraid of feeling unwell. I lived life terrified to do anything that would make me feel “worse,” and I carefully calculated my everyday in hopes to prevent feeling terrible. It’s hard to believe how far I have come, actually I haven’t really thought about how far I have actually come. So here is a little peek into my past.

June 2012 marks the month my life changed forever. I used to despise thinking about that time in my life. However, today I sit here and feel proud, humbled, gracious. Everything I have been through, has brought me to where I am today; I am who I am as a result of my journey to get here.

If I could go back and talk with the girl sitting at home in June 2012, I would have so much to tell her. I would start off with the cheesy yet classic, “you got this girl,” and then I would look at her in her eyes and say, this journey will be the hardest, most challenging journey you will go on, but please with all you heart, trust yourself, believe in yourself. I spent my first couple years on my chronic illness journey doubting what I felt, doubting what I knew and ignoring what was happening. I do cut myself some slack as I was only 15 years old, a baby in this big world, but I will always wish that I trusted myself sooner.

If I could have one moment with my 15-year-old self, I would give myself the biggest hug; I really needed it back then. One thing is for certain, I wish I could tell myself that my journey doesn’t have to be fought alone, it’s OK not to push everyone away but I understand why I did and I forgive you. I forgive you. I truly wish I could tell my 17-year-old self that I forgive you. There is no handbook for this thing called life and there is no reason to be disappointed in yourself, you are doing the best you can.

If I could send a snapshot of myself today to my younger self, I think I would be stunned, I would laugh in disbelief, but after I stared at the picture for a while, I would be so darn proud of myself.

Life with a chronic illness is a roller coaster, it’s a journey less traveled and an adventure not many sign up for on purpose. Just when you feel like you’re getting stuck in your chronic illness routine, stop and take a moment, think about where you started, where you came from and how you get here. Turns out, it’s more powerful than I thought.

Image of Hannah from 2013

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