Jenny Jones

@jenny-jones | contributor
Jenny was diagnosed with familial adenomatous polyposis at age 8, and after six years with an ileostomy now has a straight pull-through. She has a master’s degree in social work and shares on her personal blog Life’s a Polyp.
Jenny Jones

The Truthful Answer I Give When People Ask How I'm Doing

When you have a chronic illness, sometimes it’s hard to know how to answer when asked how you’re doing. The odds are, we’re not doing very well. We have daily symptoms we’re contending with and most of the time we don’t feel well – but we don’t want to admit that to others. We question the sincerity of the question and what is considered to be too much information when we answer. So we lie, usually, instead of answering the truth – the truth being that we aren’t doing well. I always question if someone really wants the truth – or just the brief, expected answer so that conversation can move along. I rarely answer honestly. I entered the habit of answering “OK” or “good,” even though it was a lie. I was tolerating the moment even though internally, I felt like death warmed over. I became tired of answering with a lie and a superficial glancing over my daily health. I wanted a more sincere answer but I also didn’t want to dwell on the answer, particularly if my wellbeing is only being sought after on a superficial level, out of societal niceties. I hate the looks of pity when I answer with a truthful “I’m doing horrible” type of answer. I tried out different answers that felt genuine for me but none felt right. To say “I’m functioning” is true, but it invites additional questioning and feelings of pity I thought. “I’m alive” didn’t work well either for me. I finally settled on “I’m hanging in.” “I’m hanging in” provides a truthful answer without the invite for pity from others. It allows for further conversation, but doesn’t require additional questioning. It’s clear and to the point, “I’m managing, but I could be doing better – but I’m not worse either.” Getty Image by lekce

Jenny Jones

The Journey of Life With Chronic Illness

Jour·ney ˈjərnē/ noun noun: journey; plural noun: journeys an act of traveling from one place to another.“She went on a long journey”synonyms: trip, expedition, excursion, tour, trek, voyage, junket, jaunt Imagine yourself embarking on an adventure – exploring a vast land with only your mode of transportation and a map. This map can take you anywhere in this land. Whichever way you choose to go will determine what you encounter along the way. Each way you turn will vary in the experiences and people you encounter. Some ways will be similar while others will be substantially different in comparison. Individuals may join you and leave you at various points. Your experience along the paths you choose differ from those of others according to their chosen paths. No adventure will be exactly the same. There are too many variables, leaving each traveler with a unique experience, a unique reality. Life is a winding road of never-ending experiences and adventures. The synonyms of journey truly fit the uncertainty of life. You never know what life has in store for you, what will come to be with each decision you make in life. And so it is with chronic illness as it is with life in general. We never know from day to day if our chronic illness will change. If we will experience new symptoms or a reduction in symptoms. We enjoy our plateaus of good health while they last, but these plateaus are never guaranteed. Change is the nature of chronic illness. The doctors we see, the hospitals we attend, the medications we take and the foods we eat all play a role in our life with chronic illness. Each may be a positive or harmful decision for us that has the power to drastically change the development of our chronic illness. Unfortunately, like life, we don’t have the foreseeing power to know what the best decision is for our chronic illness. Instead, we must make the best decision based on the knowledge we have and the circumstance we are faced with at the time. And we hope for the best. Others disagree with using the word “journey” to describe living with a chronic illness. I, however, embrace this term for my chronic illness life. My life and my chronic illness are not mutually exclusive. For there to be one, there must be the other in my life. It is a fully inclusive circle. This isn’t my preference but it is the way it is and so I will embrace this journey. Just as we trek through life which is full of surprises, good and bad, so we trek through the journey of chronic illness. I have been overwhelmed by my encounters with others I never would have crossed paths with – physically or virtually – if it hadn’t been for my chronic illness. I have made lifelong friendships with many individuals on their own chronic illness journey. I have held very dear friendships that played important roles at key moments in my life. I have been blessed with some outstanding doctors who help me along my journey. I have also been cursed with some very devastating moments throughout my chronic illness, but with the support of family, friends, and medical providers, I have survived those dark moments and am flourishing along a good path at present. We all enjoy the smooth, easy paths on our voyage through chronic illness. However, we wouldn’t be able to fully appreciate the beautiful tours of life if it weren’t for the dark, trying passages. When we cross the bridge from the dark into the pristine, we are able to enjoy the ease with a new understanding, a new gratitude. Our eyes are reopened to the greatness of life and so we experience life with renewed senses. Unfortunately, we wouldn’t experience these fulfilling moments to the same degree if we didn’t trek through the difficult paths of life. And so these experiences go hand in hand to make the experience that is life complete. We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here. Image via Thinkstock.

Jenny Jones

Dating After Divorce With an Ostomy and Health Problems

I had left behind the dating world for nearly seven years and I thought I was leaving it behind permanently. However, after my marital separation and divorce, I found myself once again dating. I was suddenly thrust back into situations calling for me to decide when, what and with whom to share the details of my chronic illness. I previously shared how I’ve chosen to disclose my health and particularly my past with an ostomy. I am much more confident in my disclosures than I once was when I was younger. I’m now comfortable with someone not accepting me because of my health. I’ve learned that if someone can’t accept my health, then I don’t need that person in my life. In fact, events of the last year have lent to my improved ability to let go in general. Dating with a chronic illness after a divorce has been interesting, to say the least. I’ve become increasingly open about the details of my health and illness with suitors and I’ve been met with overflowing acceptance. I’ve always been accepted by those I’ve shared my health with previously; however, this time around the dating world has been filled with even more acceptance. Perhaps dating in my 30s is part of the difference, as we tend to view the world, ourselves and others in a different light than we did in our younger years. This may also explain the differences in reactions I’ve experienced since re-entering singledom. Although I’ve been accepted by each partner, there were some very different reactions. My suitors ranged from, “I’m ready to take care of you in whatever fashion required” to “I can’t lose you early on in your life.” While one suitor was eagerly ready to spend whatever amount of time my life holds caring for me and my health needs, another suitor was so concerned about losing me early in life due to the likelihood of cancer that he wasn’t sure he would be able to handle a romantic life with such a very real expiration date. I was shocked to actually encounter someone who was so concerned about being able to handle the real possibility of my own death at a relatively young age. I am accustomed to death, particularly the threat of my own, that sometimes I forget what others may feel or experience in relation to my own mortality. I also wondered if this person would be the individual those of us with chronic illness all dread: the person who leaves because of their own inability to handle life with chronic illness. I’m not sure how we guard ourselves against such individuals, as I haven’t truly been in such a situation. Guarding our hearts is a wise move to a certain degree. At some point, we either must trust our partner or we must let go. The degree to which we scrutinize our potential life partners varies from person to person and experience to experience. I can only urge others to be aware of their own comfort levels and move within those boundaries. We aren’t required to move past those boundaries until we are ready, whatever those boundaries may be. Dating isn’t always the easiest lifestyle and chronic illness can complicate dating life. However, I view loving yourself first and finding your own happiness as a fundamental key to tackling life, including the dating world. We don’t need to seek love and acceptance from others when we find love and acceptance within ourselves. Once we have conquered this feat, any love and additional acceptance from others becomes a shared joy rather than a request for validation and esteem we have yet to afford ourselves. I found part of accepting my life and, in particular, my divorce was to also accept the possibility of spending the remainder of my life alone. With marriage, I had a lifetime caregiver if needed. With divorce, I gave up that lifetime caregiver for a life of uncertainty on my own terms. I don’t know what the future holds, but I’ve accepted the unknown. I do know that no matter what is in store for me, I create my own happiness and I can survive. The dating world is no different — we hold within ourselves the power for happiness and survival. We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here .

Jenny Jones

Finding My Inner Strength After My Life Unexpectedly Changed

A year ago, my life was very different than from what it has become, and it’s drastically different from two years ago. I never would have imagined I’d be where I am right now in my life. I foresaw my life being very different in 2016 than what it presently is. And yet I’m full of  gratitude  and amazement as I struggle to believe my present life is reality. To fill you in, a lot has transpired in the last 24 months: • I decided not to have any  children  because of my health and familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP). • My husband was  diagnosed  and hospitalized with diabetes. • My marriage began to fall apart. • I entered a bout of extremely severe depression. • I was  hospitalized  for the first time in seven years. • I developed increased chronic  pain  and started having chronic  nausea . • I went on a dream family vacation to  Alaska  (highly recommended by the way). • One of my very beloved great uncles  died  at 99 years old. • Estrangement from some very dear friends and family members. • Marital separation. • Moved back home with my parents. • Divorced . • Bought a house. • Became independent once again. Not everything that has happened in the last two years has been a hardship. In spite of very difficult, trying situations throughout the last two years, every situation has held life lessons for me and has helped me grow as an individual. I psychologically survived situations I never imagined I would face and wasn’t sure I would survive at the time of their occurrence. And yet, with each hurdle, I became  stronger  and fiercer. I never saw myself as a survivor or as a brave person before in spite of surviving seven  surgeries ,  near-death experiences and the cancer that was developing in my body. I’ve lived through  PTSD , suicidal ideation and severe depression. I’ve survived the physical and emotional loss of many. I survived. I learned I am strong, and after facing physical and psychological challenges, I can survive anything. It’s true we don’t realize how strong we are until we have no other choice. Feeling on the verge of a mental breakdown for months on end last year, my mind somehow held onto the smallest amounts of hope and  strength  to keep me alive to fight another day. And now, I’m stronger than ever before. Now, I’m prepared to fight whatever future fights may be in store for me. I know I’ve survived the worst psychological challenges I’ve ever encountered, and it’s only up from here. Even my bad days aren’t my worst days because those are behind me. I’ve harnessed my inner strength that for far too long I didn’t know existed. It’s easy to ignore our inner strength. We tend to minimize our feats of mental strength. We become accustomed to survival mode without acknowledgement of what it actually takes to survive. We get caught up in surviving day to day without relishing in the fact that we are surviving. Let us stop cheating ourselves. Let us honor our strength and harness it. When we bear witness to our strength, we honor ourselves, our survival and our life. Follow this journey on Life’s a Polyp. We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here . If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page. If you need support right now, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. You can reach the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741-741. Lead photo source: Thinkstock Images

Jenny Jones

Being Judged for Short Bowel Syndrome Within Chronic Disease Community

“You don’t have anything wrong with you. You have no issue walking,” he said with disdain for what I shared with him as I tried to empathize. My word alone that I have a chronic illness wasn’t enough for another person with chronic illness, too. Mine just happens to be invisible. Sadly, I’ve become accustomed to others looking at me and automatically judging that I couldn’t possibly have health problems due to my appearance and age. It is highly frustrating and bothersome at times, but for the most part I’ve learned to shrug it off. After all, I do have an invisible illness. Others aren’t able to visually see that my body isn’t able to absorb nutrients fast enough to keep up with my short bowel syndrome (SBS) and that I frequently experience chronic nausea and pain. Or that my activities are limited and I have to carefully plan out my activities around restroom access. On occasion others may witness my difficulty walking when I’m experiencing a severe flare-up of my SBS when I’m forced to use the restroom every five to 10 minutes for hours and my body becomes so sore I can barely walk even if I wanted to, as movement agitates my short bowel particularly during a flare-up. Nor are others aware of my past medical treatment for colon cancer and the complications experienced or the future risk of additional cancers and complications. It’s not right for others to make assumptions and judgements about what a person may be experiencing based solely on looking at that person, but it is understandable that others wouldn’t be aware without asking. It’s harder to understand, though, when the person judging another also has their own chronic illness. Those of us with chronic illness tend to bond with others with chronic illness as we find understanding, comfort and safety amongst each other. So I didn’t expect someone in a similar situation to judge me by looking at me in the same way as others without chronic illness frequently do. There’s no question that continued education and awareness is necessary outside of the chronic illness community. And occasionally we’re reminded that continued education and awareness is also required within the chronic illness community. When sharing with others, I believe we need to weigh our timing and our content. With many things in life, there’s a right time and a wrong time for anything, and this includes our education efforts. If it’s the wrong time, our “audience” may not be as receptive. Assessing the moment and the surrounding circumstances can help us gauge the right timing. Determining what and how we say will vary from situation to situation, but is nonetheless important. We don’t want to present ourselves as victims or as comparing ourselves to another’s experiences. We want to be understood in our own right while respecting and gaining common ground with others. I think it’s important for our own peace of mind and well-being to remember that others may not be as open to understanding another’s chronic illness, and becoming angry and hurt in response is not helpful. Instead, let us try not to take this personally, but rather offer the understanding that we are not receiving from these individuals. And in the meantime, may we enjoy and encourage one another in our trials. Follow this journey on Life’s a Polyp. The Mighty is asking the following: Share a conversation you’ve had that changed the way you think about disability, disease or mental illness. Check out our Submit a Story page for more about our submission guidelines. *Sign up for our Chronic Illness Newsletter*

Jenny Jones

Balancing Work With My Chronic Illness

Balancing employment and health is a challenging experience. The demands of a job and the toll of stress and exertion upon a chronically ill body is a balancing act not to be taken lightly. But with proper care, the right circumstances and a bit of luck, it can be achieved. Although my pediatric doctor adamantly believed I would qualify for disability due to my health, I was determined to make my own career. I’ve been fortunate to have been able to maintain full-time employment for the last seven years, although there are times when I seriously worry about my ability to continue working. I’ve learned a lot about the importance of self-care during my career thus far to maintain my employment status. My parents instilled upon me a strong work ethic. Combine this dedication to my work with my own hard-headedness and determination, and a concoction is created for increased stress and susceptibility to illness. During my first year of full-time employment, I experienced firsthand the serious threat stress places upon the body. I was overworked and still learning how to handle working 40 plus hours a week while maintaining my own health. My body could only withstand the stress for so long. After about six months, my health began to suffer, and I was experiencing flare-ups on an almost daily basis. I was forced to quit my job. It took a month to find another job. During that time, my health recovered, and I have been able to work ever since after learning lessons in self-care. I can still struggle with managing my own self-care as I often accept additional responsibilities for a temporary period or insist upon working just a bit longer even when I’m ill. I’ve learned these behaviors place extraordinary stress upon myself physically and mentally and often result in a flare-up. Therefore, maintaining my usual responsibilities and taking time off when necessary are absolutely essential for my well-being. I’ve learned to pace myself in my work. There are days when I’m able to work 10 hours a day and other days when I can only manage four hours. Instead of pushing myself past my breaking point, I must assess my health and my capability and balance it with my work load, not only for the day but for the week before I recover during the weekend. If I need to work longer on a particular day, I’ve learned to lighten my load and increase my resting period on the day prior to my long work day. For the past four months, I have been battling anemia after a trial period without iron or B12 medication. I became so fatigued I could hardly keep my eyes open past 11 a.m. on average. I experienced multiple symptoms of iron and B12 deficiency, and my daily functioning was greatly impaired. I began to worry about my ability to remain employed as my work performance suffered and became unacceptable in my eyes. I voiced my concerns to my managers and restarted B12 medication on my own. I had to make a change before my functioning continued to diminish. My employers are aware of my health issues and work with me to help me balance my health and my work. Working for an understanding employer has been key to my employment sustainability. I’m able to flex my time as needed, utilize intermittent Family Medical Leave of Absence and continue my efforts to maintain a high work performance while monitoring my health status. My managers work with me on bad days and appreciate my good days. They have faith I will complete my responsibilities, if not today then within a timely manner. It takes a combination of effort and measures to maintain the best of health, particularly when undergoing additional demands upon your body and health. Finding the correct combination for balance takes time and effort of trial and error. It’s important to not compare your level of functioning to another as one person’s balance set won’t be the same balance set for another. It’s vital for our well-being to find our own balance and not push ourselves past that balance in order to thrive with whatever endeavors we’re pursuing. Follow this journey on Life’s a Polyp. The Mighty is asking the following: What’s one thing people might not know about your experience with disability, disease or mental illness, and what would you say to teach them? 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.

Jenny Jones

Dealing With a Broken Heart When You Have a Chronic Illness

After disclosing about my own journey through broken-heartedness and divorce while dealing with my chronic illness, I heard from several people who had gone through similar trials, and it touched my heart. Regardless of the type of relationship, I believe those of us with a chronic illness are more vulnerable in our relationships than our healthier counterparts. We open ourselves in ways others aren’t forced to expose. I believe we are more at risk of losing ourselves as we learn to lean on another to help us through our health struggles and we begin to share our health experiences with another. When the relationship ends, regardless of the reason, we are vulnerable as we regain our footing and independence. This is dedicated to all those who are brokenhearted and struggling. Your soul has been ripped apart as you stare down at the tattered pieces of your heart. The pain sears your soul, leaving your tender, hurt and confused. All that you knew changed in an instant, and you’re left not knowing where to turn or what to do. You fell into a spiral of lost control, frantically grasping to regain your footing. I’ve been where you are now. My soul was torched, my heart in pieces and my spirit broken. I didn’t know what to do. My sole remaining purpose was just to survive. My mind couldn’t handle more than mere survival. I was trapped, suffocating in my heartbreak, desperately clawing at my own spiritual grave. Clawing for relief, for light, for healing. One day, my heart mended enough that the suffocation began to lessen bit by bit, until one day I burst forth from my grave and found myself soaring with the strength of the eagles. A transformation was taking place, but it could only occur after the flames of soul-searing pain had burned long and hard until finally extinguishing themselves. With a newfound strength, I realized I deserved better — a better state of mind, better days, a better life. I accepted that I deserved happiness and that I could create my own happiness by being true to myself. I learned to accept myself, to do things for myself and to follow my heart. I was only able to learn these lessons after I felt my pain and survived it. I was stronger and better for it. You days may be long and your nights hard. Your tender heart is vulnerable in its current state. But you will not remain here. You will burst forth from the flames that presently surround you. You will survive and be better for your heartache. Let yourself feel the pain so that you may process the pain. Take the time you need for self-healing and self-loving. Make this part of your daily ritual for self-care. This is your time, your life. No one can steal this grand moment in the making from you without your permission. Savor this moment, relish in your self-worth. You are worth it and so much more. You are not your heartache. You are a survivor with a story to tell and a life to create. Follow this journey on Life’s a Polyp. The Mighty is asking the following: Write a letter to anyone you wish had a better understanding of your experience with 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. Lead photo source: Thinkstock Images

Jenny Jones

When You Interact With a Person With Chronic Fatigue, Please Understand This

With a hemoglobin of 9.4 that has likely continued to drop, I’m experiencing chronic fatigue due to iron deficiency anemia. Without enough iron, the body is unable to produce enough hemoglobin, which creates red blood cells to carry oxygenthroughout the body. Symptoms of anemia include weakness, fatigue and difficulty concentrating and headaches. I’m basically running on an empty tank. It doesn’t matter how much I sleep or rest, I’m constantly drained of my energy. Moments of rest or sleep are only temporary fixes that quickly lose their power within minutes. I continue to function with the best of my ability, and at times it’s all I can do to remain awake. My daily life suffers, my job suffers and I suffer. And yet, unless you’ve experienced chronic fatigue, it’s hard to imagine what it is like for that person. Even when others are aware of anemia or other conditions causing chronic fatigue, it’s hard to fathom the depth of fatigue one experiences. I’m regularly asked if I feel any better than I felt the previous day, as though a night’s rest will make the difference in my hemoglobin or fatigue. I appreciate the thoughtfulness and care of friends and family, but unfortunately, a good night’s sleep isn’t going to do the trick with the chronic fatigue caused by my anemia. Every day is a struggle. I awake from a restful night’s sleep, only to feel drained again within 30 minutes, begging for a nap. I must force myself to stay through the workday without leaving early just to sleep. If I sit too long, I’m overcome with tiredness. My eyelids become heavy, begging to close for a few moments of rest and hopeful sleep. All I think about is how much I want and need to sleep. My activities are limited and my social life is virtually nonexistent. I just don’t have the energy for talking, visiting or participating in social activities, especially if they are later in the day. I want to spend time with friends and family, but the mere actions of responding to an email or reading a letter taxes my energy. Every task becomes an “ I will do it later” action as I attempt to preserve my energy like a precious liquid that is evaporating before my eyes. Even thinking has become a chore as it becomes more and more difficult to think clearly and to focus on what is being said or done at the moment. When interacting with those of us with chronic fatigue, please understand we aren’t going to feel better after getting much needed rest. The fatigue stays with us; it’s a constant companion until we’re able to resolve the underlying cause of the fatigue. And unfortunately, not all of us will be able to resolve the underlying cause. We apologize if it takes us longer to respond or to socialize; we’re simply in survival mode at this point. We’re pushing forward the best we can with the least amount of interference possible. Follow this journey on Life’s a Polyp. The Mighty is asking the following: What’s one thing people might not know about your experience with disability, disease or mental illness, and what would you say to teach them? 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. Lead photo source: Thinkstock Images

Jenny Jones

When My Doctor Didn’t Believe I Knew What Was Best For My Body

Last year my pediatric gastrointestinal (GI) doctor of over 20 years decided to push me out of the nest and transition me to an adult GI doctor. During my hospitalization last year, I faired well with the change in doctors, as my new doctor and I started the song and dance of a newly established patient-doctor relationship. My doctor specializes in short bowel syndrome, which is one of my conditions courtesy of my surgeries related to familial adenomatous polyposis. At my appointment three months ago, my doctor explained that I have the proper sections of my small intestine required for absorption of iron and B12, and I therefore do not require these medications. My hair stood on end. I knew differently. I’ve been taking these medications since my first surgery at age 9. I knew better. However, in a stubborn fit of wanting to prove my self-knowledge and gaining my doctor’s trust in my knowledge, I agreed to forgo my medications for a three-month trial. I was unable to complete the three-month trial without my B12. I began to experience exhaustion, sensitivity to light and numbness in my extremeties. I began to worry about the security of my employment under these conditions, as well as my daily ability to function. Two weeks prior to the end of the trial period, I restarted my daily B12 microlozenges and started to return to my previous state of health. However, I was able to forgo the iron the entire three months. Lab day came, and it was a showdown between my doctor and me. Who would be right? Who knew me better? He argued my iron and B12 wouldn’t drop much in the course of three months from where my levels had previously been. My B12 level was excellent — but I had also restarted my B12 two weeks earlier. With the results skewed, we’ll never know how low it had been. I’m OK with that. I was more worried about my iron at this point. Ding ding, we have a winner. Without an ounce of surprise, my body held true to its trends. I do require iron and B12 and was ordered to immediately restart my iron. At my appointment I requested an ultrasound of my thyroid, as annual screening is recommended due to the elevated risk of thyroid cancer associated with familial polyposis. My doctor found annual screening to be overboard, but nevertheless consented. I’m grateful he proceeded to order my thyroid ultrasound for that day, as a small solid nodule was found in both lobes of my thyroid. Although most likely benign, it will be important to continue monitoring these nodules. With my body following my expectations, I’m hopeful my doctor has gained trust in my self-knowledge and understanding of myself. My body doesn’t follow textbook protocols and never has. The sooner my doctors realize and accept this reality, the better it is for my care. Perhaps now he will listen to me more, with less argument about what my body does. Sometimes doctor-patient relationships require give and take from both parties as the relationship grows into a partnership for care. Any new doctor-patient relationship may experience a few bumpy courses as both parties learn the ways of one another and progress towards a mutual understanding. If you are finding yourself on a bumpy course with your doctor, be open with your doctor about your concerns and work toward a compromise together. Although my doctor doesn’t always see eye-to-eye with me, I’m grateful he has been cooperative with my medical requests as our relationship becomes cemented. Follow this journey on Life’s a Polyp. The Mighty is asking the following: Describe a moment when you were at a hospital and a medical staffer, fellow patient or a stranger made a negative or surprising comment that caught you off guard. How did you respond to it? 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. Lead photo source: Thinkstock Images

Jenny Jones

6 Things People With Chronic Illness Share With Each Other

For those of us with a rare disease or other chronic illness, it doesn’t take much to relate to one another, regardless of the diagnosis. Our commonalities can create an instant bond, an instant understanding of another’s life with chronic illness. We don’t need the same diagnosis or even the same symptoms or experiences. I believe we experience enough and know enough to have an idea of what life is like with that condition. 1. We share a medical life: It’s not uncommon for us to share many of the same symptoms across conditions. We often simply feel sick — that blah, icky feelingthat leaves you drained of energy and good health. We tend to have susceptibility to common ailments such as a cold or the flu. Fighting for our immunity is a known battleground for our health. We likely experience some type of chronic pain. And within subgroups of conditions, we share even more common ailments. We have additional uncommon symptoms, but we have a primary source of shared symptoms with different causes. But no matter what, we can relate. 2. We share the balancing act between medical life and daily life: Our days are occupied with  an abundance of medications, medical appointments and more frequent hospitalizations than those of the average healthy person. We know the burden of medical expenses and the absorbent amount of time required for managing our health. We relate to the frustration and demands of balancing medical obligations and our everyday lives. We understand choosing between one activity over another because our bodies may not let us complete both. 3. We share the struggle of disclosure: Disclosure can be a tricky subject. Knowing what and when to share with the various individuals in our lives isn’t always easy. What and when do we share information with potential and present employers, potential romantic partners, friends and family? It can be difficult to know the right timing and amount to share our inner most health secrets. We share the same worries and concerns about if our disclosure will be met with understanding and acceptance or rejection and ridicule. 4. We share important life lessons and virtues: We know what it means to persevere, to have inner strength and determination. We’ve learned what it takes to survive on a daily basis. It takes real strength not to give up, to keep chasing our dreams and to make the most out of life. It’s hard business keeping up with life when you’re sick, yet we manage to every day. 5. We share a deep appreciation for life and achievements: We’ve learned not to take life for granted. We’ve all lost loved ones, and these losses teach us to cherish every day, especially the good days. And on those good days, we’re extremely proud of our accomplishments. It isn’t always easy to achieve your goals when you’re dealing with a chronic illness. We appreciate how far we’ve come in life in the midst of health issues and make the best out of each day that we can. 6. We share with one another and support one another: No one knows as well as another chronically ill person the difficulty one faces on a daily basis. We share our stories with one another, and we band together in whatever form available to create a strong support network. We honor and respect others for their achievements. We celebrate the victories of others, small or large, and we empathize during the bad days when life can be trying and discouraging. Follow this journey on Life’s a Polyp. The Mighty is asking the following: What’s one thing people might not know about your experience with disability, disease or mental illness, and what would you say to teach them? 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. Lead photo source: Thinkstock Images