Anna Evenosky

@annaevenosky | contributor
Anna is 21 years old and suffers from complex regional pain syndrome, postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome, gastroparesis, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, anxiety, depression and other chronic illnesses. She is currently a full-time student looking to pursue a career as a Physical Therapist.
Community Voices

The Importance of Loving Yourself

So many of us, #ChronicIllness or not, have aspects of our lives we aren’t satisfied or happy with. You may have spent weeks, months, years trying to figure out what you are doing “wrong” with little to no answers. No matter who you are and what your background is, I would like to challenge you to read to the end, and you may walk away feeling different

than you did when you sat down.

It is no secret that life puts each and every one of us on a roller coaster full of ups and downs. When chronic illness initially showed its face in my life it took me quite some time to wrap my head around everything going on. It wasn’t just a matter of learning about my diagnosis. In fact I can confidently say that was the least of my issues. It was all those seemingly little things that I previously gave no thought to. I went from being healthy one day from having nearly everything taken away from me the next. It was a mystery to me how I could go on and live a life where I would be successful and happy given the responsibilities that seemed to be piling up like dirty dishes in a sink right in front of my eyes.

Anyone can relate to that endless cycle of waking up restless and having no choice but to take on responsibilities throughout the day that consume all your time, then going to sleep just to do it all over again tomorrow. Needless to say, consumed by our responsibilities and the 24-hour days, it is no wonder people put their happiness on the back burner.

From the very first day I became ill the reality of the world we live in became apparent to me. My 13-year-old self was overwhelmed, to say the least. Life is no walk in the park and despite being naïve, this is something I was well aware of. Although, I underestimated how difficult life can truly get. I quickly began to lose touch with all the things that brought me happiness. I was baffled at how to balance life, responsibilities and my health, and to be completely honest I hit rock bottom. Friends dropped me, I had to say goodbye to just about every hobby that put a smile on my face. I had so much to learn about managing my illnesses, and my responsibilities had tripled.

As days, weeks, and months passed I thought I was finally doing all right. I was more easily tackling my responsibilities and the chores that filled my days. After all, there is no better feeling than completing that mental checklist right? Wrong. As time went on, it became more and more clear to me that I was far from happy. In fact I was physically and mentally exhausted, and completing my mental checklist day after day was just another toxic cycle. My priorities were very wrong and all sorts of out of order. Reflecting on my past was only confirmation that at the time I did absolutely nothing for myself and it helped shed light on the adjustment my life and mindset needed.

Everyone has different ideas in mind when it comes to what it means to be “successful,” and as humans we all have passions and goals that serve as our drive to success. With that being said, it is nearly impossible to achieve whatever these may be if you aren’t truly happy and don’t love yourself. Often, we overlook the obvious, and by that I mean we forget how unique and special each and every one of us is. Nobody else in this world is and will ever be a replication of yourself. If you let that sink in you may realize  you are pretty freaking amazing. But without happiness I couldn’t fully accomplish this, and without self-love I couldn’t have happiness.

I think self-love should be everyone’s top priority, and needing to take care of my body and

health at a young age has taught me that once you love yourself everything around you becomes a bit easier and clearer.

Self-love can consist of a wide variety of things — maybe self-love starts with confidence

and body image, or maybe self-love means not waking up with bags under your eyes restless after restless night, or maybe self-love means finding the time in every day to partake in an activity that is going to leave a smile on your face. I like to think of self-love as a medication. Taking care of yourself in more ways than one is so important and far underrated. For those reading this who are not ill, I want you to treat yourself in the same way you care for yourself when you have that flu that just won’t cut you a break, and for those affected by chronic illness consider treating your life with the mindset that loving yourself is the most important medicine out of all the pills you need to take. You would be surprised by the various aspects of one’s life that may drastically improve solely because they made sure caring for and loving themselves was always without a doubt their top priority. This is

one of the few times in life where it is acceptable to be completely selfish so take advantage of the opportunity and own it.

I understand you may be sitting there with a chip on your shoulder feeling as if you just wasted the past five minutes reading what turned out to be common sense… and yes, you are sort of right with that statement. This is common sense but the majority of people would be lying if they said they believed this so called “common sense.” If it was a common belief that you should be your top priority then people wouldn’t constantly be trying to take short cuts in life, people wouldn’t constantly have complaints coming out of their mouths, and people most definitely wouldn’t view things with such a negative mindset and poor attitude.

Let me ask you a few questions: would you attempt a 5K with a broken ankle, would you go

present your newest and greatest idea at work after coming down with the flu, would

you consider going on a road trip when you could barely keep your eyes open because you’re running on 3 hours of sleep? Of course not! So why do we think

we can deprive our bodies and our physical and #MentalHealth from the love and

care they deserve and have our performance and success in life remain

unaffected? Self-love is just as pivotal as healing that broken ankle, taking

medicine to free your body from the flu, and getting an appropriate amount of

sleep. In fact, these things fit under the category of self-love. Remember exactly

this when you go about your days throughout life, it’s easy to get caught up in

more complex situations and forget the importance of loving yourself. Although,

at the end of the day the concept is the same, self-love is not something to be

forgotten about, and if you want to live that happy and successful life you

have always dreamt of it definitely should not be sitting on your back burner.

Community Voices

The Greatest Lesson being Chronically Ill Taught me

So many of us, #ChronicIllness or not, have aspects of our lives we aren’t satisfied or happy with. You may have spent weeks, months, years trying to figure out what you are doing “wrong” with little to no answers. No matter who you are and what your background is, I would like to challenge you to read to the end, and you may walk away feeling different than you did when you sat down.
It is no secret that life puts each and every one of us on a roller coaster full of ups and downs. When chronic illness initially showed its face in my life it took me quite some time to wrap my head around everything going on. It wasn’t just a matter of learning about my diagnosis. In fact I can confidently say that was the least of my issues. It was all those seemingly little things that I previously gave no thought to. I went from being healthy one day from having nearly everything taken away from me the next. It was a mystery to me how I could go on and live a life where I would be successful and happy given the responsibilities that seemed to be piling up like dirty dishes in a sink right in front of my eyes.
Anyone can relate to that endless cycle of waking up restless and having no choice but to take on responsibilities throughout the day that consume all your time, then going to sleep just to do it all over again tomorrow. Needless to say, consumed by our responsibilities and the 24-hour days, it is no wonder people put their happiness on the back burner.From the very first day I became ill the reality of the world we live in became apparent to me. My 13-year-old self was overwhelmed, to say the least. Life is no walk in the park and despite being naïve, this is something I was well aware of. Although, I underestimated how difficult life can truly get. I quickly began to lose touch with all the things that brought me happiness. I was baffled at how to balance life, responsibilities and my health, and to be completely honest I hit rock bottom. Friends dropped me, I had to say goodbye to just about every hobby that put a smile on my face. I had so much to learn about managing my illnesses, and my responsibilities had tripled. As days, weeks, and months passed I thought I was finally doing alright. I was more easily tackling my responsibilities and the chores that filled my days. After all, there is no better feeling than completing that mental checklist right? Wrong. As time went on, it became more and more clear to me that I was far from happy. In fact I was physically and mentally exhausted, and completing my mental checklist day after day was just another toxic cycle. My priorities were very wrong and all sorts of out of order.
Reflecting on my past was only confirmation that at the time I did absolutely nothing for myself and it helped shed light on the adjustment my life and mindset needed.Everyone has different ideas in mind when it comes to what it means to be “successful,” and as humans we all have passions and goals that serve as our drive to success. With that being said, it is nearly impossible to achieve whatever these may be if you aren’t truly happy and don’t love yourself. Often, we overlook the obvious, and by that I mean we forget how unique and special each and every one of us is. Nobody else in this world is and will ever be a replication of yourself. If you let that sink in you may realize  you are pretty freaking amazing. But without happiness I couldn’t fully accomplish this, and without self-love I couldn’t have happiness. I think self-love should be everyone’s top priority, and needing to take care of my body and health at a young age has taught me that once you love yourself everything around you becomes a bit easier and clearer. Self-love can consist of a wide variety of things — maybe self-love starts with confidence and body image, or maybe self-love means not waking up with bags under your eyes restless after restless night, or maybe self-love means finding the time in every day to partake in an activity that is going to leave a smile on your face. I like to think of self-love as a medication. Taking care of yourself in more ways than one is so important and far underrated. For those reading this who are not ill, I want you to treat yourself in the same way you care for yourself when you have that flu that just won’t cut you a break, and for those affected by chronic illness consider treating your life with the mindset that loving yourself is the most important medicine out of all the pills you need to take. You would be surprised by the various aspects of one’s life that may drastically improve solely because they made sure caring for and loving themselves was always without a doubt their top priority. This is one of the few times in life where it is acceptable to be completely selfish so take advantage of the opportunity and own it.
I understand you may be sitting there with a chip on your shoulder feeling as if you just wasted the past five minutes reading what turned out to be common sense… and yes, you are sort of right with that statement. This is common sense but the majority of people would be lying if they said they believed this so-called “common sense.” If it was a common belief that you should be your top priority then people wouldn’t constantly be trying to take short cuts in life, people wouldn’t constantly have complaints coming out of their mouths, and people most definitely wouldn’t view things with such a negative mindset and poor attitude.Let me ask you a few questions: would you attempt a 5K with a broken ankle, would you go present your newest and greatest idea at work after coming down with the flu, would you consider going on a road trip when you could barely keep your eyes open because you’re running on 3 hours of sleep? Of course not! So why do we think we can deprive our bodies and our physical and #MentalHealth from the love and care they deserve and have our performance and success in life remain unaffected? Self-love is just as pivotal as healing that broken ankle, taking medicine to free your body from the flu, and getting an appropriate amount of sleep. In fact, these things fit under the category of self-love. Remember exactly this when you go about your days throughout life, it’s easy to get caught up in more complex situations and forget the importance of loving yourself. Although, at the end of the day the concept is the same, self-love is not something to be forgotten about, and if you want to live that happy and successful life you have always dreamt of it definitely should not be sitting on your back burner.

Anna Evenosky

15 Tips for Coping With Chronic Pain

Anybody who lives with chronic pain is likely all too familiar with the need to have coping mechanisms. They can help us push through our worst days, and without them, many of us would be lost about what to do and how to help ourselves. A lot of times there is nothing we can do to get rid of our pain altogether, but many things can help us push through and put us at ease. Below I have created a list of 15 ways to cope when chronic pain takes over. Not all of these will work for everyone, given that everybody’s situation is a little different, but chances are you can find a few things that may give you a positive outlook next time you’re pushing through a pain flare and are at a loss. Some of these coping mechanisms are directly related to pain itself, while others are related to situations you face when living a life of chronic pain. 1. Create a “bad pain day” playlist full of motivating, soothing songs that you can connect to and that will help you relax on those especially bad pain days. 2. Exercise! Despite how hard it can be to get up and moving, exercise can help you keep functioning, and over time can hopefully lower your pain level. Not to mention the feeling that comes from working out is refreshing, to say the least! 3. Start a journal or blog. Getting your feelings out on paper or on the Internet can help the negative energy leave your body and make you feel a bit refreshed and help clear your mind. 4. Pick up the phone and call someone else with chronic pain to have a vent session over call or text. Having somebody to talk to who can relate may help you feel less alone. 5. If you don’t have anybody who knows what you’re going through, go online and find a support group and vent there. Support groups are filled with people who are going through exactly what you are and will be there for you with open arms. 6. Rest! This one I can’t stress enough. We are so used to pushing through and fighting, but sometimes rest is exactly what we need. We don’t have superpowers and our bodies need rest to be able to keep going. Listen to your body. Sometimes a relaxing day in bed is exactly what you need! 7. Have some “thinking time” and reflect back to a time when you felt equally helpless and remind yourself that you made it through that time and you can do it again, just for a little motivation. 8. Stop comparing your life to others! This is going to make you beat yourself up and leave you in a state of depression. Instead, tell yourself that your life is different and you are strong enough to live it. Also, sometimes the friendly reminder that everything happens for a reason might put you at peace. I believe God has a plan for you. 9. Cry! What, I’m telling you to cry? Yes, if you are holding in tears you are just contributing to a storm building up in you. Crying is not a sign of weakness. Think of it as a sign of strength. You are allowing yourself to release what has been building up inside you so you can have a fresh start. 10. Communicate! Communication can be key since a lack of communication more often than not leads to added stress, which might ultimately make your pain worse. Whether you must communicate to your employer, teachers, doctors, family, friends, etc., say what you need to. After all, they only know what you tell them and sometimes we think people are mind readers, when in reality they have their own lives to focus on. Once a situation is brought to their attention, you may be surprised by how kind they are about it and how well they handle it. 11. Get out of the house! I know a lot of times when our pain is bad we may prefer to sit in and grieve. Getting out and getting some fresh air, no matter how bad you feel, sometimes helps get your mind off things and serves as a distraction. 12. Speaking of distractions, they are key in coping with chronic pain! Find a hobby you can do and enjoy doing. There are so many different hobbies, so don’t be nervous to try something new; after all, it could be the thing that clears your mind for an hour or so. Anna walking in the woods. 13. Delete any source of negative energy from your life. Negative energy means stress and stress is no good for anybody. Do what you need to do to pinpoint the causes of negative energy and do whatever it takes to get rid of it. After all, your priority should be helping yourself. 14. You’re an inspiration! Sometimes this reminder is what helps us push through. Be open about your chronic pain to people. Chances are you will leave them inspired, and knowing you are inspiring even just one person can put a smile on your face and motivate you to keep fighting. 15. Take care of yourself. Days are hectic and many of us have close friends and family we want to make happy and do things for. It is so easy to forget to do what is best for ourselves. Remember that your health always should come first. This list is limited to just some of my favorite ways of coping, but there are many more out there. Next time you’re caught in a funk or your pain leaves you crying in agony, consider picking something off the list and try it. It can’t hurt. Please share your ways of coping in the comments below. I’m sure you can teach me a few things, too!

Anna Evenosky

15 Tips for Coping With Chronic Pain

Anybody who lives with chronic pain is likely all too familiar with the need to have coping mechanisms. They can help us push through our worst days, and without them, many of us would be lost about what to do and how to help ourselves. A lot of times there is nothing we can do to get rid of our pain altogether, but many things can help us push through and put us at ease. Below I have created a list of 15 ways to cope when chronic pain takes over. Not all of these will work for everyone, given that everybody’s situation is a little different, but chances are you can find a few things that may give you a positive outlook next time you’re pushing through a pain flare and are at a loss. Some of these coping mechanisms are directly related to pain itself, while others are related to situations you face when living a life of chronic pain. 1. Create a “bad pain day” playlist full of motivating, soothing songs that you can connect to and that will help you relax on those especially bad pain days. 2. Exercise! Despite how hard it can be to get up and moving, exercise can help you keep functioning, and over time can hopefully lower your pain level. Not to mention the feeling that comes from working out is refreshing, to say the least! 3. Start a journal or blog. Getting your feelings out on paper or on the Internet can help the negative energy leave your body and make you feel a bit refreshed and help clear your mind. 4. Pick up the phone and call someone else with chronic pain to have a vent session over call or text. Having somebody to talk to who can relate may help you feel less alone. 5. If you don’t have anybody who knows what you’re going through, go online and find a support group and vent there. Support groups are filled with people who are going through exactly what you are and will be there for you with open arms. 6. Rest! This one I can’t stress enough. We are so used to pushing through and fighting, but sometimes rest is exactly what we need. We don’t have superpowers and our bodies need rest to be able to keep going. Listen to your body. Sometimes a relaxing day in bed is exactly what you need! 7. Have some “thinking time” and reflect back to a time when you felt equally helpless and remind yourself that you made it through that time and you can do it again, just for a little motivation. 8. Stop comparing your life to others! This is going to make you beat yourself up and leave you in a state of depression. Instead, tell yourself that your life is different and you are strong enough to live it. Also, sometimes the friendly reminder that everything happens for a reason might put you at peace. I believe God has a plan for you. 9. Cry! What, I’m telling you to cry? Yes, if you are holding in tears you are just contributing to a storm building up in you. Crying is not a sign of weakness. Think of it as a sign of strength. You are allowing yourself to release what has been building up inside you so you can have a fresh start. 10. Communicate! Communication can be key since a lack of communication more often than not leads to added stress, which might ultimately make your pain worse. Whether you must communicate to your employer, teachers, doctors, family, friends, etc., say what you need to. After all, they only know what you tell them and sometimes we think people are mind readers, when in reality they have their own lives to focus on. Once a situation is brought to their attention, you may be surprised by how kind they are about it and how well they handle it. 11. Get out of the house! I know a lot of times when our pain is bad we may prefer to sit in and grieve. Getting out and getting some fresh air, no matter how bad you feel, sometimes helps get your mind off things and serves as a distraction. 12. Speaking of distractions, they are key in coping with chronic pain! Find a hobby you can do and enjoy doing. There are so many different hobbies, so don’t be nervous to try something new; after all, it could be the thing that clears your mind for an hour or so. Anna walking in the woods. 13. Delete any source of negative energy from your life. Negative energy means stress and stress is no good for anybody. Do what you need to do to pinpoint the causes of negative energy and do whatever it takes to get rid of it. After all, your priority should be helping yourself. 14. You’re an inspiration! Sometimes this reminder is what helps us push through. Be open about your chronic pain to people. Chances are you will leave them inspired, and knowing you are inspiring even just one person can put a smile on your face and motivate you to keep fighting. 15. Take care of yourself. Days are hectic and many of us have close friends and family we want to make happy and do things for. It is so easy to forget to do what is best for ourselves. Remember that your health always should come first. This list is limited to just some of my favorite ways of coping, but there are many more out there. Next time you’re caught in a funk or your pain leaves you crying in agony, consider picking something off the list and try it. It can’t hurt. Please share your ways of coping in the comments below. I’m sure you can teach me a few things, too!

Kyle Attard

Pityriasis Lichenoides (PLEVA): Disliking Summer Due to Skin Condition

When I was just 4 years old, I was diagnosed with pityriasis lichenoides (PLEVA, in short). I woke up fine in the morning, but as I got home from school, my mother noticed I was covered with red spots from head to toe. My parents took me to countless doctors and dermatologists, only to be told multiple times they have never seen anything of the sort. Lo and behold, after a few months of being told it was an allergic reaction, the top dermatologist in my country at that time officially diagnosed me with PLEVA, and said I was his first and only patient with this very rare chronic skin condition. Most (including my parents) tell me I’m lucky to not be in constant pain. And while, yes, I could be considered lucky, that does not make it any better for me. I have spent 15 years of my life ashamed of my skin. Everywhere I go, I get paranoid thinking people are looking at me and wondering what kind of disease I carry (most assume it is chicken pox). Sometimes I do get painful ones that bleed when peeled, and I actually have some scars here and there, and I also get an itchy irritation in summer, but for the most part, it is just a visual annoyance. Chlorine also makes them burn for the first few minutes of being submersed in it, and as a result of PLEVA, I have also contracted eczema.   Truthfully, I have a much less visible version of it now, as the outer area of my arms and my whole face do not have any spots anymore, and so it might be hard to notice. After a while, the spots dry out and a white-ish spot is left, but new ones appear all the time. But the paranoia is still conscious. Since there is no cure for it, I have all of my life living like this. I remember being very young and daydreaming about cutting out the spots with a knife, because I thought having scars would be less of an embarrassment. Throughout the years, I have learned to live with it, as one must do. But I will always wish to have normal skin, just like everyone else. Going to the beach is a pain. The envy I feel for the people with clear, smooth skin is unreal. And although it might seem easy to just ignore the rash, it really isn’t when your whole body is covered in it, every day of your life. Loving myself has been tough, especially now that summer is coming up. And I still struggle with it, and a part of me thinks I will never be at peace with myself because of it. Throughout my life, I have never met or seen anyone with PLEVA, and that obviously creates a dark cloud over my head. Thankfully, I joined a Facebook support group for PLEVA a few years ago, and it has made me feel less alone. There is no cure for this, and to be honest, I don’t think there ever will be. The doctor had suggested light therapy, but the rash would just show up again in a few weeks time, and so my parents shut it off. Maybe one day I will learn to ignore it. But although it has been 15 years, I am so far from that happening that that day seems impossible. We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here. Thinkstock photo via Digital Vision.

Anna Evenosky

The Disconnect Between My Body and Mind With Chronic Illness

It’s times like these that I’m unsure how I’m supposed to carry on and keep fighting that fight I know oh too well. I say this, not because I don’t want to continue that fight, but because I don’t know how much longer my body is going to allow me to keep fighting. It’s scary, living in a body that fails you every single freaking day. Inside, somehow, I really don’t know how, is a happy soul, a soul that has far from shattered. I remain happy even in the worst of times, times that I have every right to be a complete mess, yet I don’t allow that of myself. Not because I don’t want to break, because I break all the time, and while that used to be a fear of mine, that fear no longer remains. I more just feel that it’s a complete and utter waste of time and energy to wish for the most unrealistic thing – to be healthy. I mean, that’s practically asking for a whole new body – it’s like asking to trade in your straight black hair for red curly hair, it can’t be done. Sure, you can go get a perm and a bottle of red hair dye, but at the end of the day those straight black roots will grow right back in. Unfortunately, there is no store or salon I can go into to “exchange” my defective body for a new one, and there aren’t quick temporary fixes that can provide me with even a glimpse of relief. My life is a life I have truly accepted and learned to love, my ability to handle my struggles with such grace is a pretty amazing thing. But, the amount of pain and fighting that my body has no choice but to go through every day is rather disgusting and upsetting. I think this is where I struggle. It’s not that I feel bad for myself, as I truly believe my life has taught me some rather humbling lessons, but it’s almost as if I feel bad for my body. I feel as if there is this disconnect between my body and soul. My body and soul are in a constant fight with each other and I’m not going to lie, it is the worst feeling for my being as a whole to be the host of it. To have that conflict living not only on your surface but deep down inside of you will really wear you out and take a toll on you. I must learn to cope with this disconnect, to cope with the dreams and desires of the young, free soul that I am while not feeling discouraged and let down by the sad excuse of a body that I live in. I am hopeful that with time and learning this balance will come peace and serenity, and I therefore will work tirelessly to master it. No human should ever need to endure this fight, but keeping my mental health in check will sure as hell help me endure it.

Anna Evenosky

When People Ask When I Won't Need a Feeding Tube for Gastroparesis

Ever since the diagnosis of gastroparesis crept into my life, so did the norm of being bombarded with questions on the daily such as, “ How much longer until you can get rid of the tube? ” and “ Are you doing (or feeling) better now? ” If I was being completely and brutally honest, this is a norm that tears me apart while managing to fill me with fear, anger, and sadness all at once. Imagine trying to run a race while having people make light of your weaknesses at every checkpoint along the way; it’s almost as if the people who you are relying on to cheer you along, are the ones who are tearing you apart. It’s running a race with a finish line that seems nearly impossible to reach. Now don’t get me wrong… I’m overjoyed to know they are thinking of me and care enough to check in; and that is something I’ll forever be thankful for. Although, I would like to challenge them to put themselves in my shoes and to understand what these questions prompt in the mind of someone with gastroparesis. To give a bit of background information, gastroparesis is a condition that affects the stomach muscles and proper stomach emptying. It is commonly explained and understood as paralysis of the stomach, meaning that one’s stomach muscles do not perform as they should. There is a broad spectrum when it comes to the severity of gastroparesis. Gastroparesis can both slow and completely stop the movement and flow of food from one’s stomach to their small intestine. Treatments can help make someone more comfortable but cannot cure gastroparesis altogether. More often than not, gastroparesis is a chronic, long-lasting and relapsing condition that can be very tricky to treat and manage. It often requires frequent hospitalizations due to the unpredictability of it and the possibility of going downhill real fast. Since I’m asking people to put themselves into my shoes, it would only be fair to give some insight on what a day in the life of someone with gastroparesis is like. Although, since this is not the focus of my article be mindful that I’m only going to highlight a portion of it. Gastroparesis means not being able to go out in public without a complete stranger making a comment about your “slender” figure; often they think they are complimenting you, although, little do they know you have barely any “meat on your bones” because you’re ill and your body is withering away on you against your will. On a similar note, strangers will stare at your tubes and you as a whole as if you are some different species, and it doesn’t stop there… they will talk about you in close proximity as if you can’t hear them — news flash, I can! Gastroparesis means enduring a pain that sometimes feels as if someone is taking a knife at your stomach and sometimes feels as if someone is twisting your insides. Gastroparesis means being so bloated that you can fool your friends or family into thinking you’re pregnant. After all, it quite literally appears as if you have a baby in your belly. Gastroparesis means acid reflux and nausea every hour of every day, often leading to puking fitting right into your daily routine. Gastroparesis means the inability to eat and needing to get used to sitting down with family and friends watching them devour the foods you miss the most, holidays become your worst nightmare. You may also have days when your stomach decides it can’t even handle liquids and you’ll burp or throw up anything you try to put down so don’t even try, it’ll end up being a waste of your time… I’m telling you now. I’m sure it’s hard to imagine a life like this when you are not the one living it. I ask those people to please try your best to imagine this being your everyday, and then somebody asking you when you are able to get rid of your tube. I cannot stress enough how much I wish I could give an answer to this, but truth be told — it is more likely that this tube is going to be a long-term or permanent thing than something that is temporary. Plus, even if I was to be able to “get rid of this tube” in a few weeks it’s not to say I will never need it back again in the future. My weight is extremely hard to manage and I can take steps backwards way quicker than I can see improvement. Although, what irks me most about this question is that it implies that they feel as if my feeding tube hinders my life. While it may be a nuisance at times, I’m so thankful to have something that gives me the ability to wake up every morning. Reality is that without it, I would be dying. I would be withering away little by little and I would end up literally skin and bones, malnourished, and extremely weak. My feeding tube allows me to be healthy and it allows me to enjoy some normalcy, so when this question is asked I can’t help but to get a bit angry. While they seem to believe that life can’t go on with it, I can assure you that they have it all wrong and completely backwards. My life is going on because of it. Don’t be so quick to believe that taking it away is the best option. Sure, if it was a matter of being healthy regardless of a feeding tube or not I would have it taken out in a heartbeat. Although, I owe finally feeling a bit better again to it and it has become a part of me. Despite it being the biggest pain in the ass at times I love it for keeping me healthy — you learn to own the tube taped on your face or in your stomach, and you become your own favorite nurse. Trust me, the pros outweigh the cons and the nuisance of it is a small price to pay for the gift it gives you. “ Are you doing (or feeling) better now? ” is another question that leaves me stumped and dumbfounded. For the obvious reasons mentioned above, I’m not sure that my definition of “feeling better” or “doing better” is the same as theirs. Therefore, I am never quite sure of the response they are looking for. I also don’t believe that they understand how quickly my condition can change. I may never be better, and I know this isn’t the answer they are looking for. I’ll simply leave this off by saying that life with gastroparesis is no walk in the park. I’ll have good days and bad days, highs and lows, maybe if I’m lucky I’ll go into remission for a month or two but likely I’ll relapse shortly after. My best advice to others would be to expect the worst and hopefully you and I both will be pleasantly surprised, to take everything I say with a grain of salt since my condition can change quickly, to be there for me when things get bad but also be by my side when things are good, and to remember that my feeding tube or whatever treatment I’m receiving that is helping me is most definitely my friend. We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here . Lead photo by Thinkstock Images

Anna Evenosky

Why I'm Thanking My Diseases This Thanksgiving

I think it’s pretty clear to everyone, thanks to the endless text messages from loved ones, never-too-many Instagram posts, Facebook posts, and tweets that Thanksgiving is a time of thanks. Nevertheless, this Thanksgiving I will be indulging in the festivities with an entirely new perspective and thought in mind, and I have my chronic illnesses to thank for that. This Thanksgiving, the bulk of the population will take a few minutes out of their day to have a moment of thanks or shed light upon how grateful they are for their loved ones; they will let somebody in front of them on the road while driving to dinner and due to their high spirits, they will perform little random acts of kindness throughout the day. Reality is that despite the meaning behind this holiday, when the word “Thanksgiving” comes to mind, many automatically associate it with parades, turkey, delicious food, family time, dressing up, and oh, how could I forget, Black Friday! As I sit here affected by more chronic illnesses than I can count on one hand, I’m precisely and carefully planning out my week, day by day, so I have enough spoons to assure that I will be able to maneuver my body out from under the covers Thanksgiving morning. Come Thanksgiving morning thanks to postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome (POTS), getting into that upright position most definitely won’t be a speedy process. As I inch myself upright little by little, I’ll grab my phone to make the time go by faster. I’ll gather a list in my head of people who I want to thank and quickly realize this task is going to be a lot easier than I originally thought. As names pop in and out of my head I’ll be reminded of the harsh words and accusations, the people who never checked in during my times of need, the ones who spoke badly about me the second I turned my back, the ones who told me “to get over it” or to “just be happy,” and the ones who will simply never get it. An overwhelming feeling of thanks brings tears to my eyes for the ones who stayed by my side when everybody who I thought loved me turned out to abandon me. I could not be more thankful for the ones who have stuck by my side and continue to. I know more often than not you find yourselves asking how you can help because you’re dumbfounded. I want you to know and believe that when you’re lost for words when tears are falling from my eyes, the way you wrap your arms around me and simply let me cry is the most comforting action. I feel bad and feel that I’m dragging you along on what seems to be a never-ending roller coaster that is full of more stomach-dropping moments rather than climbing the hills. Although, reality is, you understand that I did not choose this life that I live. You hate to see me in pain, both physical and emotional, through those falls on the roller coaster that I can’t seem to get off. You know that more than anything I want with all my heart to be healthy again, I want that glow on my face, and smile and positivity that catches the eyes of others. You know, trust, and believe that what I’m going through is real. You could easily abandon because it’s all simply “too hard” and “too depressing,” after all that is the route many do choose. Although if I have taught and proved anything to you over these years, it is that I am a fighter. I think Thanksgiving is a time to shed light on the fact that you are just as much of a fighter as I am. You are not tied down to this life like I may be, yet you choose to not leave my side no matter how hard it gets. You don’t even give yourself a break, and come and go as you please like some think they can, because after all I don’t get a break. This Thanksgiving you deserve to be recognized and I am beyond thankful to know that I have found the ones who truly mean it when they look me in the eye and tell me, “I love you.” I know who my support system consists of, who has my back, who will be there not only through the good times… but ugly ones, too, who will let me vent, who has my best interest, but most of all the ones who I should choose to devote my time and energy to. A lot of people don’t learn who their true friends are at a young age and if it wasn’t for a life of chronic illness I would be right there with them. While to my surprise I still run into a rude awakening every now and then, for the most part I believe that thanks to my chronic illnesses, I have a pretty good handle on who I should be thanking this Thanksgiving. Once finally out of bed, I’ll scan my closet for a Thanksgiving outfit. Most girls my age are grabbing dresses out of their closet that’ll show off their legs or maybe their opting for the low V-neck, showing a tasteful amount of cleavage, to hopefully catch that cute guy’s attention when they post their “Thanksgiving Picture” to their social media accounts. I will very differently be grabbing the most conservative, least-skin-showing outfit I can find. I’ll do this in hopes of covering the lesions that cover my body, head from toe, thanks to pityriasis lichenoides et varioliformis acuta (PLEVA), in hopes of hiding the blood pooling from POTS and color changes of my limbs from complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS), and in hopes of distracting those from the malnourishment my body is enduring from gastroparesis. I’ll make every last attempt to appear healthy to avoid the “are you OK” and “You don’t look well” comments. Despite it being very easy to let visible signs that scream “I am ill” get the best of you, I have learned that sometimes you must learn to walk around with your chin held high, ignoring the gawking stares, and truly not giving a crap about what people think. I’m thankful for my chronic illnesses giving me the confidence to go out and not let anything visible of my illnesses define me. Branching off of that, I’m thankful for the ones who look past the visible signs of illness and realize I am much more than that. The ones who accept me and tell me I’m beautiful despite it being a PLEVA flaring day. Thanksgiving is the perfect reminder that despite everybody glowing in the newest trends (and looking fabulous doing it), the truth is, we take a lot for granted and not until you are thrown into a situation similar to the ones my life has shown me do you realize that there is a lot more to be confident about and thankful for than what is visible to the human eye. So as we dive into this holiday of thanks I encourage each and every one of you, both sick and healthy, to have an open mind. After all, there is a lot to be thankful for in this life we live. To those who are sick and affected by chronic illness, whether it is a good or bad day, I’m sure Thanksgiving makes you view everything a little differently due to your illness. It’s easy to let negative energy get to us and drown in the thoughts that will ultimately get us down. Please remember no matter how many times it has been said to you that everything happens for a reason, and despite what you think, you were given this life because you are strong enough to live it. I know at times things seem unfair and the holidays tend to trigger that thought, but you have been exposed to so many things and have learned so many lessons and have grown to be a warrior, and this Thanksgiving you should be forever thankful for your strength, the lessons learned, and the ones who never left your side. If you are healthy and reading this, I sincerely hope from the bottom of my heart you don’t take a single thing for granted this Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving is associated with a huge meal full of perfectly cooked golden browned turkey, melt-in-your-mouth stuffing, fresh roasted veggies, mashed potatoes, and whatever else you will be devouring. It is easy to sit at the table eating heaping plates full of your favorite food and not think twice about it. I’m guilty of doing that in the past as well. Although despite what I thought I learned that even more could be taken away from me, due to my recent diagnosis of gastroparesis, my Thanksgiving dinner will be atypical and probably half of your appetizer. When stomachs are full, happy faces are on, and Thanksgiving is coming to a wrap, most kids my age will be texting their friends and gathering their money to go out and partake in the Black Friday Madness. Although my body won’t allow me to do this. Instead, when the clock hits 10 I’ll probably be getting into my pajamas and crawling into bed thanking God for giving me the strength to make it through another day. I’ll have mixed emotions as clearly it is no fun missing out on quite a lot, but one thing for sure is that a huge part of me is going to realize that I should be and am so thankful for the lessons chronic illness has taught me and for the ones who have been by my side through it all. I truly can’t put into words how thankful I am for the people who keep my spirits up, chin high, and a smile on my face. To be completely honest I have no idea where I would be if it wasn’t for them. To whoever may be reading this, sick or healthy, have a happy Thanksgiving. You have a whole lot to be thankful for! We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here .

Anna Evenosky

Depression: When You Want to Give Up

I know how you feel. That pit in your stomach that leaves you nauseated and you can’t seem to get rid of it no matter what you try. The burning in your eyes and clenching of your fists as you hold back the tears. The wanting to go into hibernation so you can escape from everything and anything. The loss of appetite and desire to stay in bed for days on end. I have been there. I understand the frustration of not being able to shake the feeling you’re unsure of why you’re experiencing in the first place. Depression is like a thick cloud lingering over your head and following you everywhere you go. Although, I promise, eventually you will have a sunny cloudless day. There is no predicting when this day will come, but, when there seems to be no hope, hold onto the thought that it is in your future. We all face times when we have episodes, some lasting days, some weeks, maybe even months. Depression: a mood disorder causing a persistent feeling of sadness and loss of interest. Ironic that the only way to explain episodes is that depression gets depressing. It feels as if there is no out and sleeping is your only escape, if you can even sleep. Do yourself the favor of doing absolutely everything you don’t want to during an episode. I know the thought of that seems impossible, but it makes one hell of a difference. Next time you want to be alone, go out with some friends. Next time you have no appetite, go out to dinner with your family. The next time your clenching your fists and holding back tears, let them go. Instead of protecting others from seeing you break down, let them protect you. Utilize everything you have. Your loved ones, even though it may frustrate them and they don’t get it, may willingly comfort you with open arms and a shoulder to cry on. Takeadvantage of this. After all, holding feelings in is the worst thing you can do for yourself. Cry if you need to. It is far from a sign of weakness. If anything, it is showing your strength and the constant battle you face. Please never forget how strong you truly are to go through what you face every day. I know it feels unfair at times, but there is no rewind button in life, and you can’t change that chemical imbalance in your brain so you might as well make the best out of the life you were given to live. Every life is worth living. Despite how bad things seem right now, you would be lying to yourself if you said you never have experienced a joyful moment. Those little things in life, the small pleasures — seeing your friends and family, taking a walk in the park, laying on the beach, doing your favorite activity — those things are all worth living for. I want you to know your strength does not go unnoticed. You, my friend, are a warrior. Never let anybody tell you differently. Hold on because happy times follow the dark ones. An arrow can only be shot by pulling it back, so when life seems to be dragging you into some of your darkest days, please know it is solely because it is going to launch you into something much greater. Sincerely, A fellow friend whom suffers from depression If you or someone you know needs help, see our suicide prevention resources. If you need support right now, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

Anna Evenosky

Dating While Coping With Chronic and Mental Illness

Not everyone understands and knows how to deal with someone who is living with an ordeal of medical problems. I can assure you myself along with many others have lost more “friends” and “loved ones” than we can count. All because of fallacious labels that have been given to us: “faker,” “attention-seeker,” “over-reactor,” etc. Finding somebody who can love me, care for me, and support me and trust that what I’m going through is real seemed impossible. On top of that, having anxiety and depression made trusting somebody and giving myself to them even harder. Anxiety meant that I would always sit there questioning if I was loved and if I would get hurt. I would put a wall up in fear of letting somebody in. But once they were in, they would be in for good and I would love them unconditionally with every last bit of energy my illnesses allowed me. I would constantly be in a fight with my heart and mind and would crave reassurance and clarity. Depression meant that my heart could be broken and I could be thrown into a bad mental state with issues and problems that may arise. I’ve found it is something that you must take a risk with after you reach a point of trust and dedication. Dating somebody while coping with illness requires a tremendous amount of trust and love. Thank you to the boyfriend who proved to me that he understands and is willing to be there for me and pick me up when I’m down. It is comforting and leaves me feeling safe to know you have proved to me that you will be there no matter what and will go above and beyond to make me happy. You have worked to show me I can trust you, and that has given me the reassurance I no longer need. Understanding can be such a difficult thing to come across these days. I feel blessed to know that you will strive to not only understand what I go through, but you will be understanding when it comes to me needing a night in, a bad pain day, a time when my anxiety and depression kicks in, and so much more. Please know that I’m thankful for everything you do, and the little energy I have will go towards making you happy. I will work on becoming a better and healthier me in hopes of becoming a better girlfriend for you. Some days it kills me to know that I can’t always give you what you give me, but bear with me because the happiness you have given me is something that I’ll consistently be trying to give back to you. I couldn’t ask for anyone better to put me at ease and leave me feeling happy, healthy and safe for once. Thank you for bringing out the best of me and thank you for proving to me that love really does exist. I truly couldn’t ask for anybody better to welcome me with open arms and a kiss everyday. I love you. Anna with her boyfriend. The Mighty is asking the following: What do you want your past, current or future partner to know about being with someone with your disability, disease or mental illness? If you’d like to participate, please send a blog post to community@themighty.com. Please include a photo for the piece, a photo of yourself and 1-2 sentence bio. Check out our Submit a Story page for more about our submission guidelines.