Crohn’s and Colitis Awareness Month is rounding to a close, so I thought it would be fun to share with you all 10 life lessons from living with Crohn’s disease for over half my life. Living with IBD has not been easy but I honestly don’t think I would have it any other way. Crohn’s disease has allowed me to learn some of the most difficult lessons and I am a much stronger person because of this. Without Crohn’s disease I would not be sitting here today writing to this audience, I would not be a patient advocate and I would not have learnt the following lessons.
Lesson 1: The Importance Of Organization
IBD has taught me that your life can change in the blink of an eye. So, this has helped me to learn the valuable lesson of staying organized and not leaving things until the last second. I never leave things until the last second because I like to have the cushion that if I do feel sick or need to take a break I have extra time. This is a good lesson for everyone to put into practice but especially people with a chronic illness who have unpredictable symptoms.
Lesson 2: Gratitude For the Simple Things in Life
It is easy to get stuck into a ‘woah is me’ type of attitude when living with IBD but I find that by simply practicing gratitude it can really change your life. Since starting a consistent gratitude practice I have become more insightful of all of the GOOD in my life and I have learned to really appreciate the little things in life. I highly recommend you try incorporating a simple journaling practice of writing down a handful of things you are grateful for every morning and night. This will help to redirect the way you see the world and think on a daily basis.
You may like to read this post to find out more about journaling and gratitude: 7 HABITS THAT BOOST WELL BEING FOR PEOPLE WITH A CHRONIC ILLNESS
Lesson 3: Self Love for What My Body Can Do
Instead of focusing on what my body can’t do or what it has a hard time with, I try to focus on what it CAN DO. This is not always easy and not always possible but by sending loving and healing thoughts to your body you will begin to think about how much you really CAN do.
A practice that I like to do when I am feeling discouraged or negative is to look in the mirror and list a minimum of 15 things I love about my body. They can be physical or emotional qualities, it does not really matter. I encourage you to use a high number so that you challenge yourself to find new things you love about yourself. Alternatively, you can do this practice by writing out a list of things you love about yourself in your journal and adding to this list as time goes on.
Lesson 4: How Strong I Really Am
Throughout my journey with IBD I have experienced some really bad pain, but this was tested to the max in the time leading up to my surgery. I experienced awful stomach distention and muscle tightening everyday and it really took a tole on my mental and physical health. Looking back I see how STRONG I AM and how much my body can do. It was fighting everyday to stay strong and alive and it didn’t let me down.
Lesson 5: To Never Judge a Book By Its Cover & Be Compassionate
We are all fighting our own battles and so growing up with an invisible illness I have learned to give people the benefit of the doubt. I try not to jump to conclusions or judge someone, but rather I try to promote compassion. I have been in the position where someone has not believed me or thought I was making up excuses with my illness and I never want to put someone in that position. You should never have to defend yourself and your illness to anyone. If they don’t take your story as truthful that is on them and their sheltered viewpoint on the world.
Lesson 6: Asking For Help is Okay
I am lucky to have an amazing support system that has always been there for me. So, asking for help was made a little bit easier, but it is still difficult for me to give up control and let others help. I had to learn to accept help from my family and friends in the time after my surgery. This was difficult but slowly I got better at it and I tried to remind myself of all of the things I still could do. In addition, I would remind myself that in order to come back stronger and better then ever I needed to accept help from others to let my body rest right now.
Along with learning to ask for help, I learned the importance of showing your appreciation to your support system. So, this is a friendly reminder to thank the people around you that support you everyday. Send them a card, give them a hug or just a simple thank you will do.
Lesson 7: How To Say No
Throughout time I have become better at listening to my body and what it needs. With this I have become good at saying no when it does not feel right. When my body is really tired or struggling I try my best to postpone plans and take some time for myself. If this is not possible I will show up to the event/meeting for a little while and opt to leave early.
As you begin to learn more about your body, how it reacts and what it needs you will learn when you need to say no. Saying no can be hard because you feel like you are letting your disease win. But, this is not the case. Instead shift your mindset to think about saying no as an ultimate form of self care and self love.
Lesson 8: How To Use My Voice & Advocate For Myself
This has been one of the most valuable skills I have learnt through my journey with IBD. It is critical that you advocate for health, your rights and your body. So, I have become very good at doing this through the years. In my experience I have found that it is important to be as open and honest as possible with your doctors, employers, teachers, family, and friends in order for them to understand.
This is particularly important with your doctors because if they don’t know your symptoms and problems they will dismiss you much quicker. So, be honest about your health and fight for what you deserve. It can be exhausting, but I promise you it is worth it. If I would not have advocated for my surgery, I would not be in remission as I write this for you now.
Lesson 9: To Never Take My Health for Granted
You only truly understand the importance of your health until you have had it striped away from you. So, IBD has definitely taught me to be thankful for my body and to never take for granted how lucky I am to go about my day and live a happy life.
Lesson 10: I Am More Than My Labels
This is something that I continue to learn as I move through life. I am more than Crohn’s disease, I am more than an architecture student, I am more than a blogger. I try to remind myself that I should lead any introduction with the qualities that I possess as a human because that is WHO I AM. Not my career and not my illness.
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QUESTION: WHAT IS THE BIGGEST LIFE LESSON YOU HAVE LEARNED FROM YOUR ILLNESS?
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Your trusty, gutsy gal,