Life Lessons from the Chronically Ill

While cleaning out my purse pre-vacation, I found not 1, not 2, but 4 Tiger Balms. What can I say? Ya girl is always ready to fight off a migraine.

While cleaning out my purse pre-vacation, I found not 1, not 2, but 4 Tiger Balms. What can I say? Ya girl is always ready to fight off a migraine.

Y’all already know about my wandering womb… but wait! There’s more!

Not a sob story, just a background story:

I was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis when I was 5 years old. When I was 4 til about 8 or 9, I spent weeks to months in the hospital every year. Then, I found a better doctor and went into remission. Anxiety, “PMDD” and weight management aside, with daily medication and yearly colonoscopies, gratefully, I’ve been more or less healthy every since.

Since I’ve had my fair share of blood draws, doctor visits, CAT scans and the like, I thought I’d share some of the biggest lessons I’ve learned from traveling down the winding road that is chronic illness:

  1. Dump Shitty Doctors

    Doctors are really smart, and really stressed. This combo makes them especially prone to also being really big assholes.

    I’ve had doctors yell at me during procedures. I’ve had doctors make me wait for 3 hours for appointments with no apology. I’ve had doctors laugh in my face when I suggest treatments or ideas. I’ve had doctors dialate my pupils then forget to call me back in their office. Hell, just last year a doctor’s assistant flirted with me (complimenting my eyes, my weight, and my smile) in the exam room.

    Yeah, it’s a pain in the ass to find a new doctor. But I don’t care who referred you, or how long it took you to get an appointment. No good doctor will EVER strip you of your agency, embarrass you, pressure you, yell at you, or not believe you.

    If you don’t like them, LEAVE.

  2. You don’t have a body. You are a body.

    Everything is connected. Mind-body connection is REAL. It’s not just about “why does my shoulder hurt?” It’s about examining all facets of your life, and striving to attain equilibrium.

    Before you treat your very specific ailment, as yourself the basics: how are you sleeping? How are you eating? How are your menstrual cycles? How is your stress? How is your exercise? Fix the basics before you move up to the more complicated and specific stuff. This is the single best way to PREVENT any random aches and pains from popping up.

  3. Know Thyself

    No one knows your body as well as you do. No one has better intuitions over what’s best for your body then you do. No one can make you follow a protocol you don’t agree with. Do your own research. Be your own healthcare advocate. Trust your gut. And don’t be afraid to DO WHAT FEELS RIGHT.

  4. Mindset is everything

    “You can’t go swimming, you have colitis!”

    Does that sentence make absolutely any sense to you? Me neither. But I remember when my dad told me that, my freshman year of high school. The moral is, people treat you differently when you’re sick. They treat you with kid gloves. You’re closely monitored. You’re worried about. You’re coddled, even.

    It’s easy, then, to stay in the mindset of, “I can’t. I’m sick.” Even when your ARE well. ESPECIALLY when you’re well. Because when you're well, it’s easy to think of it only as a temporary blip before you’re down and out again.

    Flip the script. Think of your illness as a temporary blip before you’re up and well again, so you do not become a victim of your circumstances.

    Relish and practice gratitude in your times of wellness, so you can truly rest and recover in your times of weakness.

  5. Wellness is a lifestyle, not a goal

    Wellness isn’t some magical life lesson you unlock. It must be a constant priority, always. Why? Because your health is your wealth. And without it, well, you’re dead.

As the baboon in BoJack Horseman says…

“It gets easier. Every day it gets a little easier. But you gotta do it every day — that’s the hard part. But it does get easier.”