No One Knows How Sick I Am

No One Knows How Sick I Am

Maybe it's okay to speak up a little.
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The headline of this article might seem a little dramatic, but the thing is, it's true. I don't even know how sick I am yet, because I'm stuck waiting for months before big appointments get here and we're able to run tests for the rest of the conditions we're suspicious of.

In the midst of everything, it has gotten too overwhelming to share over and over again, so my mom and I recently started a Caring Bridge page, so we only have to share things once. I logged on today and read through some sweet, sweet responses from people - some of whom I haven't seen or talked to in so long. One particular response stuck out to me: "Oh my word, I had no idea it was this bad." In the midst of someone's encouragement was a sentence that made me stop and think even more about what I had already been feeling.

No one really does know how bad it is.

I feel like those with chronic illnesses are caught in a horrible tension between wanting to share what they're going through and being scared others don't want to hear it. Constant questions fly through our heads: What if they don't believe me? What if they think I'm complaining? How do I prove my pain? And constant opinions from others follow us: But you don't look sick. It could be worse. Are you sure it's not all in your head?

The truth is, my illness still takes me by surprise, too. I get another diagnosis, and it's a weird confirmation that I am actually sick, that I don't have to worry that I'm faking it even though I know I'm not. I have a horrible flare, and it shocks me that my pain can get worse than it already was. New symptoms arise, and with them come more panic and fear.

But no one sees any of that. I get another diagnosis, and I just spout it off to people. I'm having a bad day, and I smile anyway. My pain is debilitating, and I sit in silence. And I know I'm not the only one. It's too much to explain. It's too much to understand. No one wants to hear it. Or do they?

We have invisible illnesses. We are silent sufferers. But maybe it's time to speak up a little bit. Maybe it's okay to say, "yes, it is this bad" and stop feeling the need to sugarcoat every thing about what we're going through. Maybe what others call "dramatic" is actually necessary, and maybe there are more people than we think who want to know the truth, no matter how messy it is.

Cover Image Credit: Matthew Henry

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To The Senior Graduating High School In A Month

"What feels like the end, is often the beginning."
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It wasn’t too long ago that I was in your shoes. Just a little over a year ago, I was the senior that had a month left. One month left in the hometown that I grew up in. One month left with the friends that I didn’t want to leave. One month left in the place that I had called “my school” for the past four years. You are probably thinking the same things I thought whenever it came down to only 30 days left. You’re probably scared, nervous, worried, or anxious. Maybe you’re like me and are dying to get out of high school, ready to start a new chapter. Or maybe you aren’t so ready yet. Maybe you’re wishing for a little more time.

As scary as it is, this month you have left will fly by. You’ll blink and you’ll be standing in your cap and gown, waiting for your name to be called to receive your diploma. You’ll look back on your last four years at your school and wonder why time went by so fast. It’ll be bittersweet. However, trust me when I say that you have so much to look forward to. You are about to begin taking the steps to build your future. You are going to grow and learn so much more than any high school class could teach you. You are going to meet amazing people and accomplish amazing things. So, as scared as you might be, I encourage you to take that first step out of your comfort zone and face this world head on. Chase your dreams and work towards your goals. You are smart. You are brave. You are capable of achieving amazing things. All your life, the lessons you have learned have prepared you for this point in your life. You are more than ready.

There are times when you will feel alone, scared, or confused. There are times when it won’t always be easy. But those are the times when you will shine the most because I know you will work through whatever problems you may face. Don’t think of the bad times as a terrible thing. Use them all as learning experiences. As author Joshua Marine once said, “Challenges are what make life interesting and overcoming them is what makes life meaningful.”

You might think that this is the end. However, it’s not. This is only the beginning. Trust me when I say that the adventures and opportunities you are about to face are nothing compared to high school. Whether you are going to college, going to work, or something else, this is the beginning of your journey called life. It will be exciting, it will be terrifying, but it will all be worth it.

So, as you walk out of your high school for the very last time, I encourage you to take a deep breath. Relax. You’ll always have the memories to look back on from high school. But your time is now, it begins today. Embrace it.

Cover Image Credit: http://i.huffpost.com/gen/1152445/images/o-HIGH-SCHOOL-GRADUATION-facebook.jpg

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My Eating Disorder Was A Secret, Even From Me

No one ever talks about it, and if they had my life might be different.

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I remember ninth grade health class very well, specifically one day in particular. The day we talked about eating disorders, I was ready to hear about anorexia and bulimia. I was not ready to walk out of that classroom with confirmation that I had an eating disorder, but that is exactly what I did that day.

After speaking on anorexia and bulimia, my teacher told us about Binge Eating Disorder.

My 14-year-old ears perked up. I had never heard of this disease, but I was immediately interested. I knew anorexia and bulimia well, they were the diseases that, at the time, I wish I had the determination to try, but I was too scared to hurt my body.

Binge Eating Disorder was new to me. My teacher described it as continuing to eat after you were full and eating for hours at a time. As the signs and symptoms continued to be read, I realized... that the last three years of my life had been plagued by binges. There was a lot I couldn't control in my life, but eating was one thing that I always had control over. It was the one thing that always brought me comfort.

Most binges would start after I came home from a hard day at school, or maybe after I got in a fight with a family member. Maybe I felt insecure about the growing number on the scale, but I ate.

It always started with half a bag of chips, then maybe a cookie or other sweet treat, and then I would finish with something else I could find in the pantry. My mother would come home and begin making dinner.

Ashamed, I would hide the food anywhere so my family could not tell I had been eating and then I would go eat dinner.

This was a common occurrence for me, but I had no idea that my habits were wrong or should point to an eating disorder. The only thing that I knew was wrong with me, was that I was gaining weight.

For the longest time, I thought an eating disorder was something that helped you lose weight unhealthily, not gain weight. It wasn't until I sat in a health class that I realized that there was anything wrong with me.

Education is so important in overcoming eating disorders. We are making such great strides about informing people about the dangers of eating disorders and positive body image.

It is so important that we start making Binge Eating Disorder a topic that is as known as anorexia and bulimia. No one ever discusses Binge Eating Disorder, not even the dangers of it, maybe if they had my life might have been different.

Maybe I would have found out about it earlier and could have gotten help before it got out of hand.

I wish I could say that I left that health class that day and never had a binge again. The truth is I binged several times after that, and still to this day I have an episode, although they are very rare.

It would be unrealistic to tell you that I overcame my eating disorder that day because it is a journey I am still completing. Every day presents a new challenge, and sometimes I fail, but I will succeed, and succeeding is worth a few failures.

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