From Diagnosis To Acceptance: The Grieving Process of Chronic Disease

From Diagnosis To Acceptance: The Grieving Process of Chronic Disease

So many chronic illness sufferers have had to watch the death of who they once were, but this doesn't mean their new self has to be any less amazing!
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Today is going to be spent doing the medication shuffle, a loving term I’ve given to the gargantuan task of predicting, organizing, and packing the cocktail of pills I’m going to need in order to successfully get myself through my vacation next week.

Before I was ill -- a phrase that should probably be in inverted commas due to the weight it holds -- budget travelling was my raison d’etre. My life revolved around scoring cheap flight deals, shacking up in hostels, and trekking for hours on end around wonderful and mysterious new countries. Now, life is very different.

I was ill for years before I knew I was ill. Let me elaborate: I was plagued with uncontrollable symptoms, endless fatigue, and shaky mental health, whilst simultaneously being told there was nothing wrong with me. If you need some perspective, the problems started when I was in my early teens; I didn’t get my first diagnosis until a year after I’d graduated university.

Like many who go through the long, arduous journey of finding and diagnosing their chronic health problems, as my illnesses began to stack up I fell into a sort of grieving process -- grieving for the life that I once believed I could have.

DENIAL

From my own experience, and what I’ve heard from others, there are two ways to react to your diagnosis. Either you feel like your life has fallen apart around you, or there’s an overwhelming sense of freedom from finally gaining an understanding of your ailments. I was pretty decidedly the latter; I ignored all the ‘incurable’s and ‘for forever’s and, instead, pictured my miraculous recovery. I saw myself gallivanting across the world again, after magically overcoming all of my problems. In short, I was in denial.

So time went on and I did all I was meant to. I stayed sober, avoided bad food, did regular yoga, and meditated when I could. Now I finally had a name for the condition and I had started to make headway with the doctors. It wasn’t long before I had three more shiny new labels to explain my myriad of symptoms, but still that didn’t deter me.

ANGER

Just before my diagnosis, I’d planned my trip for that summer. It involved a month inter-railing around Europe, before jetting off to Australia -- via Asia -- for another month or so. It was ambitious, even for the healthiest of travelers, but I was determined and on my leaving date I was packed and eager to go.

Four days into the trip, it was clear the plan was unsustainable. I was getting little-to-no sleep in the hostels, had no control over my diet, and the constant stress of packing up and moving on was taking its toll. After a disastrous train journey to Berlin, I had little choice but to fly home. Needless to say, I was an emotional wreck. I spent a long time beating myself up, hating myself and, even worse, blaming myself for the situation I was in. I felt useless, pathetic, and uncontrollably furious at the world for dealing me these cards.

BARGAINING

After a few weeks recuperation, I tried a different tactic. I decided I was going to go to Australia, but this time there would be no more hostels, no more overdoing it, and an extra effort to keep my diet in check. Surely, if I made all the necessary compromises then things would be OK, right? Wrong.

I did make it to Australia, and I did have an amazing time, but the deals I’d made with the universe were not providing me the shining health I was hoping for. Several outings on my trip ended at the hospital or doctor, and many more days were spent consigned to bed.

This period was perhaps the most difficult to deal with mentally, because I was so sure I could find a way around my health problems. This was not the plan; I was meant to have it all worked out; I prayed, I meditated and sent out good vibes, but every day still brought on the same familiar ache of constant symptoms and flare-ups.



DEPRESSION

When I got back, I was plunged into a pit of depression. Every-one kept telling me how amazing it was that I’d manage to get to the other side of the world and back, but for me all I could do was re-live how hard every moment had been and how much strength it had taken. I didn’t regret going -- far from it -- but I felt like I had finally been brought face-to-face with the stark reality that the budding young vagabond I once was, was now well and truly dead.

I spent most of the following year resigned to my bedroom, scared to attempt even the simplest trips for fear of struggling with a bad flare up. My travels were limited to the three-hour train journey to visit my parents and school-friends back home. Life as a recluse did not sit well with me, but it did afford me some valuable thinking time. Gradually, I began to see my new self: a warrior -- not due to my ability to overcome, but for my power to endure.


My health might always be bad, I might not be able to do the same things as other people my age, but I realized, with courage, wisdom, and strength, nothing can stop me from living the life of my dreams.

ACCEPTANCE

Everyone’s journey to acceptance is different; finding comfort within your illness is such a personal path. For me, it was about learning to take things slowly. To listen to myself and my body, and to throw away the unrealistic expectations and honor the hardships I have to endure with pride and grace.

This summer, instead of planning a trip to rival Marco Polo, I settled for 10 days split between Spain and Portugal. This means enough time to really soak up the sights, but not too long to make enduring any health problems into a living hell. If it goes well then I have another few potential getaways lined up for over the winter -- no pressure, no stress, just taking each day at a time and seeing how it all unfolds.

So whilst my vacation requires more planning than ever before, and the chances of me wasting at least one day exhausted or in pain are very high, that’s not going to stop me from doing the thing that I love most.

If there’s one facet of wisdom you can take from my experience, it’s to not beat yourself up. Yes, health conditions can change everything, but finding happiness in the compromises you are forced to make is a skill that, once learnt, will give you wings and the power to fly, no matter what life throws at you.



Cover Image Credit: Shutterstock

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11 Inexpensive Road Trip Destinations For College Students

Because adventure.
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College is a time to make memories. It is a time to set out and explore the world. The only problem is that it can be difficult to travel when you’re flat-out broke. Many college students are discovering that while the cost of textbooks and tuition increases, their travel funds sadly decrease. Since jet-setting to Paris or Rome may be out of reach at the moment, many students are resorting to road trips within the United States to fix their case of wanderlust. Not only are road trips much more affordable, but they also allow for more spontaneity and exploration. There are countless of hidden gems just waiting to be explored, so grab some friends, put on your favorite Spotify road trip playlist, hit the road and make memories at these 11 incredible places.

1. Havasu Falls, Arizona

It is hard to believe that such a breathtaking waterfall can exist in the middle of the desert. Thankfully, Havasu Falls is no mirage. The falls are located in a remote region of the Grand Canyon and can only be accessed through a 10-mile hike. The entry fee to the park is relatively low and the overnight camping fee is even lower, making it a great destination for college students on a budget.

2. Great Sand Dunes National Park, Colorado

Instead of spending a semester's worth of tuition on an expensive snowboarding trip, students can try a cheaper alternative - sandboarding. Located in Southern Colorado, Great Sand Dunes National Park is a unique destination that offers a variety of activities. Businesses right outside the park offer the rental of boards, sleds and even skis all specially made for the sand. This means that the rental and entrance fees are the only costs for a fun-filled day of surfing the dunes.

3. South Padre Island, Texas

Whether you head to South Padre for an exciting, fun-filled spring break or for a relaxing weekend getaway, renting a condo is the way to go. The cost of renting a condo can be very low if you split it among several people, which means you can enjoy a tropical beach vacation without breaking the bank.

4. Las Vegas, Nevada


Vegas can either be a very expensive destination or a very inexpensive destination. That's why it is important to play your cards right - and I'm not just talking about gambling. Skip staying the night at the high-end hotels and enjoy their free attractions instead. If you decide to hit the casinos, make sure to keep track of your money - those textbooks don't pay for themselves.

5. Smoky Mountains, Tennessee

In the fall, college campuses across America celebrate the chilly weather with football games, bonfires, and pumpkin-spiced everything. For those who want to switch things up, pack your bags and head to the Smoky Mountains. These beautiful mountains are a must-see in the fall due to the stunning scenery and fall foliage. Try renting a cheap cabin or camping at Smoky Bear Campgrounds to save money.

6. Austin's Sixth Street, Texas

Sixth Street is an iconic and historic street in the heart of Austin. From the exciting nightlife and multitude of bars to the live music and unique art galleries, Sixth Street offers a little something for everyone. For a truly unique Austin experience, stay at the affordable Firehouse Hostel, just minutes from Sixth Street.

7. Daytona Beach, Florida

Located about and hour and half south of Jacksonville, Daytona Beach is notoriously known as a wild spring break destination for college students. While exploring all the concerts, bars and clubs that Daytona has to offer, students can take advantage of the free party bus for easy and affordable transit.

8. Albuquerque, New Mexico

For the low price of only $10 per person, you can experience Albuquerque's annual Balloon Fiesta. A photographer's dream, the Balloon Fiesta offers tons of unique sights, shopping opportunities, and delicious food. If you can't make it to Albuquerque in October, when the Balloon Fiesta takes place, there are plenty of other affordable places to explore. From Sandia Peak to Old Town, Albuquerque offers something for everyone.

9. Rainbow Springs State Park, Florida

For water lovers, this Florida gem has it all. Kayaking, snorkeling, scuba diving and tubing are just a few of the many activities you can enjoy in the crystal clear water of the Rainbow River. Since this destination is off the beaten path, it is an affordable alternative to Florida's Discovery Cove.

10. New Orleans, Louisiana

Two words: Bourbon Street. Full of iconic bars, local jazz musicians and interesting cuisine, there is never a dull moment on Bourbon Street. As if this famous street wasn't crazy enough, in February thousands of college students flock there to celebrate Mardi Gras. Though the prices of drinks can be high during this time, students can save money by booking their hotel ahead of time. For under $100 per night, Astor Crowne Plaza offers guests a luxurious stay on a budget.

11. Pacific Coast Highway, California

Though this one is not quite a destination per se, it should definitely be high up on your bucket list. This coastal highway, also known as Highway 1, hits many of California's major cities such as San Fransisco and Santa Monica. As if a trip to these cities is not exciting enough, the drive itself is extremely scenic. To save money on this trip, try booking cheap hotels or even stay for free at hostels. Of course, with this trip and all of these trips, you are bound to spend some money. But the memories that you will make on these trips will be worth every penny.

Cover Image Credit: StockSnap

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Top 5 Cities To Visit In Germany

A wealth of history, artistic flair and diversity await you on your city break to Germany

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You might be marvelling at Munich's magnificent baroque palaces one day, and wandering around. Hamburg's trendy, redeveloped HafenCity the next. Meanwhile, in hip Berlin historic sites like the Brandenburg Gate blend effortlessly with contemporary art galleries.

1. Berlin

Berlin Under Starry Sky photo

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The capital is maybe Germany's most prevalent city break destination. Since Germany's reunification in 1990, Berlin has developed as a Catholic and exciting city, pressed with rousing craftsmanship, design, and entertainments. History is a vital portion of Berlin's character – don't miss the typical Brandenburg Gate and the Jewish Gallery which are strong updates of the Cold War and World War II. Berlin may be a superb put to wander around at recreation, and strolling is a perfect way the most perfect way to soak up the environment.

Each area in and around the city middle has its claim personality – from Mitte with its must-see sights and markets to stylish Kreuzberg, with its plenitude of bars and restaurants. Tiergarten is overwhelmed by the green stop of the same title whereas Charlottenburg is a popular retail locale and domestic to Schloss Charlottenburg, the biggest regal royal residence in Berlin total with lovely gardens and forest.

2. Munich

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Bavaria's capital is the door to the Alps and makes a great city break sometime recently set off to the mountains advertising world-class historical centers, castles and conventional German architecture too. For a taste of Munich's neighborliness and world-renowned lager, a visit in October for the world-famous Oktoberfest could be a must.

Whereas reservations for the celebration are fitting, you'll get a situate ad-hoc at off-peak times like weekday mornings Other attractions incorporate the Deutsches Museum (Transport Historical center), the Residenzmuseum, domestic to Bavaria's Wittelsbach rulers from the early 1500s, the Schönheitengalerie (Exhibition of Wonders) for representations, in expansion to the perpetual shopping and dining openings that Munich has got to offer.

3. Frankfurt

Frankfurt am Main Hauptwache photo by Christian Salow

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Frankfurt is the monetary middle of Germany, which accounts for its concentration of gleaming skyscrapers.

But Frankfurt is noteworthy as well and a journey down the Waterway Primary gives a great perspective of the city's movement, past the advanced sprawl and onwards to the conventional buildings of the city's Exhibition hall Dike.

Museums abound – Städel, Historisches Museum, Jüdisches-Museum, Senckenberg Naturmuseum, Geldmuseum der Deutschen Bundesbank to name but a few – while other cutting-edge artistic attractions like the Orfeos Erben independent cinema help define Frankfurt as a modern and innovative city.

Frankfurt boasts plenty of all-night fun, from trendy cafes and bars to clubs with jazz and dancing to keep you entertained well into the small hours. The nearby vineyards and spa towns like Wiesbaden are easy to reach, making Frankfurt ideal if you want to stay around for more than just a short city break.

4. Hamburg

Hafen City photo by Claudio Testa on Unsplash

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Germany's second largest city boasts one of the biggest ports on the planet, earning it the nickname 'Gateway to the World'. Amazingly, Hamburg also has more bridges than Amsterdam and Venice put together, thanks to several waterways running through its centre.

Hamburg is the nation's greenest city with two-thirds of its area covered by lakes or parkland, ideal for walking and cycling. Head to the vast Planten un Blomen botanical gardens and admire their abundance of fountains, lakes, lawns, and flowers. Greenery aside, Hamburg's Reeperbahn is where the Beatles played in the 1960s and its nightlife and live music scene is still renowned today.

You will find UNESCO wonders in Speicherstadt and the nearby Kontorhaus district, the largest historic development of port warehouses in the world. Meanwhile, the innovative, sustainable all-wood Wälderhaus (Forest House) is a shining example of Hamburg's environmentally sound outlook.

5. Cologne

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Founded by the Romans, Cologne is one of Germany's oldest cities. The iconic filigree spires of its famous UNESCO-listed cathedral, Kölner Dom, soar elegantly over the city. From beer gardens and river cruises to Cologne Zoo and Cologne Aquarium, there's plenty to keep you busy.

If you prefer a leisurely stroll through the city, you'll come across the ancient Roman wall and an abundance of medieval churches as well as magnificent avant-garde edifices and contemporary art.

There's an abundance of museums and galleries too: the Chocolate Museum (Schokoladenmuseum); the Roman-Germanic Museum and its Roman mosaics and relics; the German Sport and Olympic Games Museum; the Cologne Museum of Applied Art; and the Holography Museum are some of the most popular.

And if you can't make to Cologne's carnival, Düsseldorf's carnival in February is the next best thing.

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