What I've Learned from Having a Chronic Illness

What I've Learned from Having a Chronic Illness

It's time to stop just surviving and start thriving.
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When you get diagnosed with a chronic illness, mental or physical, your life becomes different than those of healthy people. There may be medications, there may be frequent doctor visits, there may even be blood tests, shots, scans and more.

Sometimes it gets hard to look at yourself and accept the fact that you are dealing will an illness. You may live in denial for a while and you may even get upset with yourself, asking “why can’t I just be healthy?” Your body doesn’t always cooperate with you- whether it be the foods you eat, the movements you make, or even the thoughts you have. You can treat your body, and mind, with self-love, healthy foods, exercise, and everything it needs, and still it can fight back.

The unfortunate reality of chronic illnesses is that there will be some nights that you just can’t go out with your friends, some days that you struggle to get out of bed, sometimes that life will just seem to suck. You may have to go back and forth with your doctors, go through multiple tests and evaluations and much more.

In my personal case, I was diagnosed with hypothyroidism and Polycystic Ovary Syndrome. My diagnosis didn’t come easily, though. It took me years to convince my (ex) doctors that I was actually ill. I went through countless doctor’s appointments, explaining my symptoms, just to be not heard. Most doctors refused to test me for anything, claiming my symptoms weren’t enough.

The most hurtful situation I went through with a doctor was actually when I got diagnosed. I sat there and explained to my new doctor (at the time) of my symptoms. I was always tired, taking naps when I used to have so much energy. My hair was falling out all the time even though I grew up with strong, extremely thick hair. I could not lose weight to save my life; I would restrict my diet, see a nutritionist, exercise all the time. I even bought a Fitbit to prove that I was extremely physically active (as if my tennis matches, dance practices, hours in the gyms and all the walking I did each day didn’t prove enough). Despite my efforts, all I would do is maintain weight at best, gain at my worst.

When I told the doctor all of my symptoms, she suggested that it was all caused by being overweight and stressed. I suggested that it may be my thyroid, having both family history of thyroid problems and classic symptoms of such. I suggested getting the blood work to multiple previous doctors and got nowhere; they would usually say no and look at me like I was on a fishing expedition to explain my overweight body. However, even though this doctor seemed skeptical, she sent me to get the testing done.

After a stressful blood test (like all of my blood labs are) I waited for some answers. I went back to the doctor’s office and she confirmed that my thyroid was extremely off. The normal range for a thyroid (TSH levels) was between 0.3 and 3.8. My thyroid levels were 6.9. As I sat in her office, she prescribed me a new medicine at a high dosage (Levothyroxine at 112 mcg). She said that the medicine would help balance my thyroid and I may see some results in weight loss too.

This is the part that really hurt me: my doctor wanted to just retouch on my eating habits just to double check (even though I had seen the nutritionist, who literally praised me for the way I was eating). The doctor listened to me and at the end of the conversation told me a story about when she was a body builder. She told me that she would only eat tuna and eggs and drink water. With a completely straight face, she told me about how she would lose weight and tone up rapidly because she was only eating 200 calories. She blatantly said to my face that it could be dangerous. And that’s when she recommended it to me. She looked me straight in the eyes and said: “I’m not saying that it is the safest diet ever, but it works.” And she fucking winked.

My doctor basically just encouraged me to develop an eating disorder. I was so upset that when she left the room that I grabbed my aunt (a nurse in the office) and pulled her into the room I was just insulted in; I exploded into tears and anger and told her what had happened. Due to a conflict of interest, she grabbed another nurse for me, who I explained the situation to. As I sat in tears, she grabbed someone of importance (not sure who it was, just someone above the doctors) and I told her what had happened. This woman explained to me that it was not at all okay, and asked me if I wanted to switch doctors. Immediately, I switched to my current day doctor and scheduled a new patient appointment.

I felt relief that I finally had a diagnosis and a new doctor that would hopefully treat me better than the previous one.

When I met with my new doctor, I finally felt that someone was taking me seriously. She recognized that I had an illness and she helped me understand what it was and how to live with it. She even helped me discover that I had PCOS as well, and how to treat it. Of course, it was scary to think about the symptoms and side effects. It was scary to think about surgeries if the medicine doesn’t work. It was scary to think I may not be able to have children one day (even though at that point I didn’t want them at all). However, even with the fears, I felt so much relief.

But after the diagnosis, you have two choices: Stand up and fight back or let your illness conquer you.

I wasn’t going to let anything stop me from my dreams; I take my medicine, adjust my life a little and keep pushing. In a way, my chronic illnesses have taught me about myself and what I can do.

I learned that I am much more resilient and determined than I believed I was.

I learned that my chronic illness is another life lesson in which I will grow stronger.

I learned that it is okay to slow down every once in a while.

I learned that I should trust my instincts.

I learned that there are always people who will doubt you and that I will show them they are wrong.

I learned that it’s okay to focus on myself sometimes. My health is important.

I learned that my life is a blessing, and so are the people in it.

I learned that it’s okay to open up to people. (My fraternity family is the first group of people that I discussed my illness about intimately and I cannot thank them enough for the support they gave me during my first huge meltdown.)

I learned that it’s okay to actually feel your feelings. (Your chronic illness will cause you to accept, express and explore Intense feelings of anger, frustration, overwhelm, fear, sadness and even self-pity. But also strength, courage, happiness, acceptance and perseverance.)

Most importantly, I would say that I’m learning to love my illness. I’ll never fully accept that I have to live with an illness, but I can learn to adapt. I've learned when the best time to take my medicines is, I've learned how to read my body better, I've learned how to lose weight with my conditions. Honestly, I’m still learning to this day, and I don’t think I’ll ever stop.

I'm no longer just surviving, though: I'm thriving.

Cover Image Credit: Buzzfeed

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8 Reasons Why My Dad Is the Most Important Man In My Life

Forever my number one guy.
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Growing up, there's been one consistent man I can always count on, my father. In any aspect of my life, my dad has always been there, showing me unconditional love and respect every day. No matter what, I know that my dad will always be the most important man in my life for many reasons.

1. He has always been there.

Literally. From the day I was born until today, I have never not been able to count on my dad to be there for me, uplift me and be the best dad he can be.

2. He learned to adapt and suffer through girly trends to make me happy.

I'm sure when my dad was younger and pictured his future, he didn't think about the Barbie pretend pageants, dressing up as a princess, perfecting my pigtails and enduring other countless girly events. My dad never turned me down when I wanted to play a game, no matter what and was always willing to help me pick out cute outfits and do my hair before preschool.

3. He sends the cutest texts.

Random text messages since I have gotten my own cell phone have always come my way from my dad. Those randoms "I love you so much" and "I am so proud of you" never fail to make me smile, and I can always count on my dad for an adorable text message when I'm feeling down.

4. He taught me how to be brave.

When I needed to learn how to swim, he threw me in the pool. When I needed to learn how to ride a bike, he went alongside me and made sure I didn't fall too badly. When I needed to learn how to drive, he was there next to me, making sure I didn't crash.

5. He encourages me to best the best I can be.

My dad sees the best in me, no matter how much I fail. He's always there to support me and turn my failures into successes. He can sit on the phone with me for hours, talking future career stuff and listening to me lay out my future plans and goals. He wants the absolute best for me, and no is never an option, he is always willing to do whatever it takes to get me where I need to be.

6. He gets sentimental way too often, but it's cute.

Whether you're sitting down at the kitchen table, reminiscing about your childhood, or that one song comes on that your dad insists you will dance to together on your wedding day, your dad's emotions often come out in the cutest possible way, forever reminding you how loved you are.


7. He supports you, emotionally and financially.

Need to vent about a guy in your life that isn't treating you well? My dad is there. Need some extra cash to help fund spring break? He's there for that, too.

8. He shows me how I should be treated.

Yes, my dad treats me like a princess, and I don't expect every guy I meet to wait on me hand and foot, but I do expect respect, and that's exactly what my dad showed I deserve. From the way he loves, admires, and respects me, he shows me that there are guys out there who will one day come along and treat me like that. My dad always advises me to not put up with less than I deserve and assures me that the right guy will come along one day.

For these reasons and more, my dad will forever be my No. 1 man. I love you!

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Being Sick In College Is A Real Struggle

Being sick in college is definitely not as fun as having a sick day in middle school or high school.

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Something that I have had to deal with multiple times these past two semesters is being sick while in school. It can be a real pain especially depending on what type of sickness it is. I have had tonsillitis, mono, and I'm pretty sure I also had the flu.

Being at school and away from home can make being sick worse because there is nobody to take of you such as your parents. Another thing is having to make the decision to get the rest that your body needs in order to feel better or staying on top of your assignments to avoid falling behind. My parents will always tell me to get a good night's sleep so my body can feel better the next day. However, sometimes I will feel more stress if my work isn't getting done and I feel like I'm falling behind and leaving things to get done in the last minute.

Currently, I am sick now and the past few days haven't been easy, but I still attended all my classes so I wouldn't miss any material or assignments that were given. I usually end up feeling the worst at night when trying to fall asleep, and by that time the doctors are not present at the student health center. Even though my health is important I usually don't like taking too much time out of my day to go to the health center to see a doctor. Some days I don't really have much free time before the evening.

I don't believe I have been over-exerting myself, but I don't want to just stay in my bed all day and sleep, even though that may be what is best for me. Most professors will be understanding if I email them and provide them a doctor's note as well, but I also just got back from a conference where I had to miss two days of classes next week.

I have been trying to keep hydrated so that way my body can fight the sickness. Also, I have been told if you stay hydrated you can flush the virus out of your body quicker.

Eating can also be a pain when you have a sore throat, for the past couple of days I have tried to have some soup in order to help. Most meals I would have to force myself to eat something of substance in order to give my body some type of energy in order to get through the day. It's also never fun not being able to breathe out of your nostrils. If it wasn't my nose being stuffed, then it would be constantly runny so there was no winning that battle.

Looking back, I probably should have done a bit more work over spring break in order to get ahead in the case that something like this would happen. I wanted my break to be exactly that, a break. After not being home for a few months I just wanted some time off to relax.

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