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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If You've Ever Been Called Overly-Emotional Or Too Sensitive, This Is For You

Despite what they have told you, it's a gift.
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Emotional: a word used often nowadays to insult someone for their sensitivity towards a multitude of things.

If you cry happy tears, you're emotional. If you express (even if it's in a healthy way) that something is bothering you, you're sensitive. If your hormones are in a funk and you just happen to be sad one day, you're emotional AND sensitive.

Let me tell you something that goes against everything people have probably ever told you. Being emotional and being sensitive are very, very good things. It's a gift. Your ability to empathize, sympathize, and sensitize yourself to your own situation and to others' situations is a true gift that many people don't possess, therefore many people do not understand.

Never let someone's negativity toward this gift of yours get you down. We are all guilty of bashing something that is unfamiliar to us: something that is different. But take pride in knowing God granted this special gift to you because He believes you will use it to make a difference someday, somehow.

This gift of yours was meant to be utilized. It would not be a part of you if you were not meant to use it. Because of this gift, you will change someone's life someday. You might be the only person that takes a little extra time to listen to someone's struggle when the rest of the world turns their backs.

In a world where a six-figure income is a significant determinant in the career someone pursues, you might be one of the few who decides to donate your time for no income at all. You might be the first friend someone thinks to call when they get good news, simply because they know you will be happy for them. You might be an incredible mother who takes too much time to nurture and raise beautiful children who will one day change the world.

To feel everything with every single part of your being is a truly wonderful thing. You love harder. You smile bigger. You feel more. What a beautiful thing! Could you imagine being the opposite of these things? Insensitive and emotionless?? Both are unhealthy, both aren't nearly as satisfying, and neither will get you anywhere worth going in life.

Imagine how much richer your life is because you love other's so hard. It might mean more heartache, but the reward is always worth the risk. Imagine how much richer your life is because you are overly appreciative of the beauty a simple sunset brings. Imagine how much richer your life is because you can be moved to tears by the lessons of someone else's story.

Embrace every part of who you are and be just that 100%. There will be people who criticize you for the size of your heart. Feel sorry for them. There are people who are dishonest. There are people who are manipulative. There are people who are downright malicious. And the one thing people say to put you down is "you feel too much." Hmm...

Sounds like more of a compliment to me. Just sayin'.

Cover Image Credit: We Heart It

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Buying New Clothes Every Month Has Been The Key To Helping Me Become Happy With My Body Again

Loving my body in new outfits has boosted my self image so much.

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Being body-positive has been really hard for me to do throughout 2019, despite there being an overwhelming surge in body-positivity around me, whether through my friends and family or YouTube. I look in the mirror and what I see is someone I want to make a jean size or two smaller like in the past. That being said, I've slowly been coming around to accepting the body I have now, instead of bashing it constantly. A key way I've come to accept the body I'm in now is through buying myself something new every month, like a new T-shirt or a pair of jeans or sneakers that help me see myself in a positive light. When I'm in a new outfit, I feel invincible. I don't think about how pudgy my stomach is, or about the hair I have growing in random places, like my neck or on my nose (yes, not just in, but ON too).

My bank account tends to suffer as of recently because of this, but it's worth it when I can genuinely feel good in what I am wearing every day. I like to wake up and think about how many outfits I can put together, ready to post my #OOTD for Snapchat without caring what anyone thinks. I've let social media dictate how I feel about myself more than I care to admit. I see how perfect all the models are in everything they're wearing from brands I know and love, yet when I try the same thing on, it's a whole different ugly story.

I don't enjoy trying things on to avoid the shame I feel when things don't fit me right, or if something that I thought would flatter me actually makes me look like a sack of potatoes. Instagram has really hurt my body image a lot — enough to make me delete it for a week after one post sent me spiraling. Going through those bumps made me finally realize it's not my fault if something doesn't fit. Sizes range depending on the item, it's the clothing items fault, not mine. Now that I see that, it's easier to brush off something not fitting me as it should. I know my size very well in the stores I frequent the most, so it's easier for me to pick out things I know will look good and not have to worry about the sizing issue.

Buying yourself something new is not something you should limit to every few months or longer. You shouldn't be afraid to go out of your comfort zone price wise every once and a while either. Coupons exist, stories always offer you them when you first sign up to receive emails and even texts. You can be crafty and still get a high price item for less. If you treat yourself to cheap things, you won't feel half as good as you want to. Granted, sticking to a limit is important but there's no shame in going over the limit every once and a while.

I love shopping as much as I love country music and writing short stories — a lot. Yes, I get yelled at almost every time I get something new. I need to save my money for important things, like for my sorority or for medical issues that could suddenly arise, or for utilities at my house next year off campus.

However, my mental well-being is not something I can ignore.

I can't push the good feelings aside to save 30 or 40 bucks a month. I don't want to feel as low as I've felt about myself anymore. I'm tired of feeling sad or angry at who I am, and I want to learn how to accept myself as I am. Buying myself something new, like clothes, is what offers a positive light to view myself under.

Whether you treat yourself to dinner at your favorite restaurant, or to face masks, or to a new movie when it comes out — don't be afraid to do it. Put yourself first and you'll realize your worth and how much you've been ignoring it in the face of poor confidence.

My confidence isn't back up to where it used to be, but it's getting there.

It may not be the most cash efficient method of self-love, but my body positivity is better than it was a few months ago. Aerie and American Eagle have really helped me become happier with my body, and I can't thank them enough for being more inclusive for people like me who are learning to love themselves again in a new body.

There is a light at the end of the tunnel for all of us hoping to promote our own body positivity, and it could all start with a simple purchase from your favorite store after you read this.

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