6 Things You're Not Told About When You're Diagnosed

6 Things You're Not Told About When You're Diagnosed

What I wish my doctors would have told me when I began my life with chronic illnesses
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When doctors diagnose you with a condition, they tell you how it will physically affect your body. They will tell you the pain you may feel, the nausea that may follow, the rashes that can pop up, the way your body will respond to the disease that runs rampant throughout your body. Whether it be a case of the sniffles or a chronic illness doctors will be able to put a name to your symptoms--most of the time.

But during that window of diagnosis, you may walk out of your doctor's office or appointment feeling relieved that there is an answer to your symptoms, that there is a treatment or an understanding. When I began this journey years ago, it took a while to find my answers but once I did I was so relieved to know that there was a plan for me in the medical world. As the years passed I realized that even though the doctors sometimes understood my symptoms and my conditions, there was so much more that they didn't prepare me for.

1. Stigma

Right from my very first diagnosis doctors put me in the category of being "rare," not only were my conditions considered rare but they were rare in combination and in their presentation. I didn't realize that rare also came along with speculation and stigma. My conditions affect me in so many ways, one of the main symptoms is pain and a lot of the time that pain requires strong narcotics. To put it bluntly, when I walk into an emergency room in excruciating pain and require medications to control that I don't always get the most compassionate response. But this stigma doesn't only affect my physical conditions, but my mental health concerns as well. How can a 22-year-old possibly face severe depression? Believe me, we can. I can.

2. Identity

I'm not sure at what point my identity changed from being "Sabrina" to "sick Sabrina", but it did. It's not a choice because my illnesses are only a mere part of who I am. I refuse to ignore it, and hide it but being defined by it was something I never prepared myself for. Instead of hanging out with my friends, it became them "coming to see me." I deeply appreciate the sentiment but I crave the life of a normal 22-year-old that is defined by her personality and values, not the conditions I face.

3. Loss

I thought that when my symptoms finally had a name, and my condition was recognized I would be able to continue my life as I wanted it to. Truthfully, it has become anything but. My independence is completely limited, staying home alone has become a luxury and even at 22, I require supervision because we never know when the next allergic reaction or fainting spell will occur. I depend on people more now than I did when I was younger and that is such a difficult pill to swallow--no pun intended.

As if it weren't painful enough to lose my independence, but I continually seem to lose the people in my life who have promised to be alongside me. The list of people I trust has dwindled down to less than a handful of people. The invitations to social events have become merely non-existent. Because of my conditions, I can't participate in most of the things people my age enjoy: I cannot be in crowds of people because of my nerve condition that is triggered by contact, I cannot be in restaurants because the smell of perfumes and contamination of food can send me to the emergency room. My conditions are difficult to manage on my own, and most days I feel that it's unfair to ask people to accommodate my needs and that leads to feelings of loneliness and isolation.

4. Mentality

It seems that whenever I feel things couldn't get worse, they do. In surrendering my body to vicious conditions, I wasn't prepared to enter a world where my mental health was compromised too. Sometimes I swear that the mental pain I experience is worse than my physical pain. I've entered a world of depression and anxiety that manage to enter every aspect of my life I enjoyed. There are many nights that I cry myself to sleep because of the pain, because of how I alone I feel. I panic doing things I used to love because I've been so isolated from them for so long. When I feel a tingle in my throat I panic anticipating an allergic reaction. My thoughts get so jumbled up in my head, and sometimes I even manage to convince myself that this world is better off without me.

5. Self-Image

Chronic illnesses are sometimes referred to as "invisible illnesses" because though you may not always see the battle that I endure, it is so incredibly real to me. Often times it's difficult to convey my pain and discomfort to doctors because I look normal, I've been told countless times that my symptoms are "subjective" because doctors can't see them on lab results or just by looking at me. The frustration that causes me is almost as difficult as when my condition is visible. The wide range of medications I'm on come with a long list of side effects despite the resolution they may bring to some symptoms. The weight gain and weight loss can toy with your perception of the body you're living in, sometimes they can exasperate the depression and anxiety I face, sometimes there is hair loss or excessive hair growth to name a few. But the days where my illness isn't so invisible causes equal distress and chaos in my mind. The days when my face is bright red from my angered nerves, when my body is covered in hives from an allergic reaction, the tubes and lines that I rely on to deliver fluids and medications to my body--most times the stares from strangers can break my confidence and the anticipation of that can make me want to hide inside my house until my illness becomes invisible again.

6. Appreciation

Despite all the confusion and negativity that comes alongside living with chronic illnesses, there is beauty in all of this madness. I've learned to appreciate the little things; things like laughing until you cry, a hug that lasts a little longer, a thoughtful message from a friend, reconnecting with people from your past, getting a card in the mail, eating my favourite dessert, connecting with someone who understands, making someone else smile, a warm sweater on a cold day, or a rare, perfectly timed nap that leaves you feeling refreshed instead of groggy.

The list can go on, and on, but the point is that in a life surrounded by so many hardships and unpredictability, we are still able to find the beauty that remains in spite of it all. This life is a gift, no matter how it is handed to you there is always a reason to fight to see another day. Though we may not always have the answers or solutions, or make the best decisions; there is a purpose for each and every one of us and no illness or obstacle can inhibit us from reaching what we are destined to attain.


Cover Image Credit: Sabrina C.

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To The Girl Struggling With Her Body Image

It's not about the size of your jeans, but the size of your heart, soul, and spirit.

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To the girl struggling with her body image,

You are more than the number on the scale. You are more than the number on your jeans and dresses. You are way more than the number of pounds you've gained or lost in whatever amount of time.

Weight is defined as the quantity of matter contained by a body or object. Weight does not define your self-worth, ambition or potential.

So many girls strive for validation through the various numbers associated with body image and it's really so sad seeing such beautiful, incredible women become discouraged over a few numbers that don't measure anything of true significance.

Yes, it is important to live a healthy lifestyle. Yes, it is important to take care of yourself. However, taking care of yourself includes your mental health as well. Neglecting either your mental or physical health will inflict problems on the other. It's very easy to get caught up in the idea that you're too heavy or too thin, which results in you possibly mistreating your body in some way.

Your body is your special, beautiful temple. It harbors all of your thoughts, feelings, characteristics, and ideas. Without it, you wouldn't be you. If you so wish to change it in a healthy way, then, by all means, go ahead. With that being said, don't make changes to impress or please someone else. You are the only person who is in charge of your body. No one else has the right to tell you whether or not your body is good enough. If you don't satisfy their standards, then you don't need that sort of negative influence in your life. That sort of manipulation and control is extremely unhealthy in its own regard.

Do not hold back on things you love or want to do because of how you interpret your body. You are enough. You are more than enough. You are more than your exterior. You are your inner being, your spirit. A smile and confidence are the most beautiful things you can wear.

It's not about the size of your jeans. It's about the size of your mind and heart. Embrace your body, observe and adore every curve, bone and stretch mark. Wear what makes you feel happy and comfortable in your own skin. Do your hair and makeup (or don't do either) to your heart's desire. Wear the crop top you've been eyeing up in that store window. Want a bikini body? Put a bikini on your body, simple.

So, as hard as it may seem sometimes, understand that the number on the scale doesn't measure the amount or significance of your contributions to this world. Just because that dress doesn't fit you like you had hoped doesn't mean that you're any less of a person.

Love your body, and your body will love you right back.

Cover Image Credit: Lauren Margliotti

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Tanya Gold, Your Fatphobic Article Is Uneducated And Arrogant

BREAKING NEWS: Women come in all different shapes and sizes!

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Just recently, Nike released a plus-size mannequin at one of their stores in London that showed off their plus-size leggings and sports bra. And, because we live in a world where being fat or overweight or obese is somehow the worst thing in the world to some people, this has sparked a lot of discussion.

Tanya Gold wrote an article for The Telegraph saying that this mannequin “cannot run" and is “likely pre-diabetic" and “on her way to a hip-replacement." Not only is Tanya's article uneducated and poorly written, it's completely fatphobic and embarrassing.

What I would like to know is this: why can't plus-size women work out in Nike clothes just like a size 2 woman? People want to scream from the rooftops that plus-size women are fat because they don't exercise and when companies FINALLY start catering to plus-size women with clothes they can EXERCISE IN, people lose their minds and think that they're promoting obesity.

What are plus sized women supposed to work out in if they can't even wear Nike leggings without being fat-shamed?

Would you rather them wear jeans? Overalls? A parka, maybe? What about a garbage bag?

Let's also discuss the fact that being overweight doesn't equal being unhealthy, just like being at a “normal" weight doesn't make you healthy. Did you ever stop to think that some women have diseases that make them gain weight that they, in return, can't lose? Some women can eat salad for every single meal, seven days a week and they still can't lose weight.

Let's all say this together: SIZE HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH FITNESS. Being thin doesn't equal being healthy and being overweight doesn't equal being unhealthy.

Everyone (and yes, I mean EVERYONE) should be able to be comfortable in their own skin AND in their clothes.

You can't sit and pout saying that fat people don't care about their health and then when they want comfortable clothes to wear while they're EXERCISING, hell has frozen over and how dare Nike cater to people who aren't a size 2.

Tanya, be honest with yourself. You aren't anywhere near a size 2, either, so where is all of this coming from? Are you self-loathing? Do you have some kind of internal fatphobia?

Pick a side, Tanya. You can't hate people who are overweight because you think that they aren't exercising and then when they do exercise and they get clothes that cater to them, it's all of the sudden wrong and horrible.

We are damned if we do, damned if we don't. As if women (and men) weren't already being shamed enough for being plus size, we're now being made to feel bad because a brand caters to our size so we can wear the same clothes all of the other sizes can wear.

Thank you, Nike, for making your brand more inclusive for all shapes and sizes so we can ALL feel confident in our clothes.

I think it's worth mentioning that Nike released their plus-size line in 2017 AKA 2 years ago... Why weren't you mad then?

Oh, and, Tanya Gold, you might want to stop smoking since you're all about being healthy, right? You don't want to get lung cancer or anything, do you?

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