7 Things Crohn’s disease taught me about life.
Chronic disease is difficult, it involves; complete lifestyle changes, hardships of every kind, mental and emotional challenges, all placed in situations you never knew existed. There are a lot of downsides to focus on, but chronic disease can also be helpful by forcing you to become a better person. Creating a new outlook and perspective on life through challenging everything you ever thought you knew about pain, both emotional and physical. My journey has been travelled by many and under many different names. Auto immune diseases, disabilities, and disorders can be a few of those names. Although the specifics and extremity of each disease or challenge may differ, the journey can be compared. Your challenges will not feel like anyone has ever, or could ever, deal with them. It’s true only you can feel what you feel, but there is no harm to hear someone else’s chosen path and thoughts, to use and apply to your own adventure.
Here is just 7 of the many things my journey has taught me so far:
(1) Life Is Not Fair.
Life is not the same for everyone; it is completely different for every person on this planet, comparing lives is useless. Fairness and justice should be practiced by everyone, but situations of one’s life are infinite and often do not follow that theory. Expecting anything from this world or thinking it owes you, will leave you right where you are, when you think like that, unhappy and defeated. You may be sick, you may not be a millionaire, you may not have what you want, doesn’t matter. You control your destiny and your direction in life. You did not choose the situation and body you were born into but that was just your starting point. You took over the wheel of life and can drive where ever you let yourself. Sitting in the backseat and complaining won’t get you out of the parking lot, grab the keys to life, smash the gas pedal and run free to where you want to go. You may encounter flat tires and fried piston rings; these can be fixed and overcome if you are willing. These problems are also a great excuse to upgrade to drag slicks and forged pistons, to travel even faster towards your goals.
(2) Go To The Doctor.
That weird thing happening to your arm, that odd feeling in your stomach, or in my case that toilet full of blood and vomit, means you should probably go to the person how knows what it means. Our best guess and self-diagnosis are not an acceptable cure. Even if you feel you do know what is going on, you should double check your answers with someone formally educated. Doctors and medicine are there to help. You can create excuses all day to mask your fear but doctors became doctors to help people. If you feel yours specialist isn’t there to help, go find one who you feel does care about you and your best interests. Hospitals are not scary places, everything they do is to help you get better and get out of there. The hospital is the best place to be when sick, every test they do is necessary and should be welcomed. Always remember there are a lot of people sick and the medical field is full of real people, not perfect robots. Instead of trusting everything they do, keep track of your treatment, ask questions, and call out anything you feel is forgot or wrong. Care takers cannot read your mind, you have to voice your opinion and it is not their fault if you do not tell them the treatment they pick, might not be right for you. How do they, or could they know. The doctors and hospitals need to be a happy place and frequent part of your life, if you have chronic issues, not places you avoid because it reminds you of bad memories or out of fear of what might happen. You are strong; you can deal with it, so go deal with it.
(3) Shadow Boxing.
The person you spend the most time with is unfortunately you. Might as well make that person the most interesting and well-rounded person you can. Challenge and compete with THAT person, not anyone else. Your life is unique; comparing yourself to anyone else is a waste of time for variables of life are infinitely different. When I compete with my bicycle or write an article, I push myself and I push against the last time I jumped on my bike or the last article I wrote, not anyone else’s tricks or writing. Using other people for energy, ideas, or motivation can be very helpful, but make sure you are never competing against them. Just seeing where you stand among someone else’s journey, then using that to beat yourself and your best time, not theirs. Try it; it will change your life.
(4) Health Is Life.
Feeling good is the best thing in the world. If you are healthy you tend to forget that quickly. All of a sudden escaping your reality and hurting your health becomes as fun thing to do. If I had normal health I would probably do the same because you can’t imagine the challenges life can throw your way in the blink of an eye. Getting drunk can be a fun time and make me dance, but why am I afraid to dance and be sociable without a drink? I challenge myself in every way I can. If I’m scared, unsure or even annoyed by something, I try my best to understand it, instead of turning and running away. I run into the things that offset me and knock down those small bumps of fears and problems before they become walls. I gain a lot of knowledge, wisdom and understanding in the process. So I’m going dancing, not drinking, and will embarrass myself and have a sober mind to deal with it. Challenging myself makes me stronger and able to perform under a lot of adverse situations. THC for some people can take away your pain, stress, reality and make you creative. I will never pay for my creativity. I would rather force myself to think outside of the box and try new things than to let a chemical do it for me. Pain is part of my life I should probably learn to deal with it instead of running away and hiding behind a release. I know enough about chemicals to figure out I will need more and more of those chemicals to make me feel the same. My body stops producing chemicals naturally after abuse, when I come back to reality those chemicals will be missing and the pain is going to hurt 10x as much. Of course when you feel good you feel GOOD! So realize that and if I was healthy I might indulge in those things, if I didn’t see the uglier side of life. Like shadow boxing, don’t judge people who do enjoy their chosen releases responsibly because you have no idea of the journey they are on and their priorities, so be healthy as possible for yourself and enjoy the days you feel even a little bit better than the last.
Go hug your family…RIGHT NOW, I don’t even care if this is as far as you read, just go. Family does not need to be blood; it can be your friends, teammates, Hell even your country men or the person beside you in your hospital room. If you don’t feel you have family and want something go become a big brother or sister to some children in need and let your “family” grow within a program. Someone else’s definition of family does not need to be your definition. When the time comes family will be the only thing you have in life that is important. You have to be really, really, close to death to fully understand, but when you think your eyes might not open in the morning. all you care about is that your family is at peace and knows that you love them, not your cars, bikes, house, or closest pet. Do not let your family break apart, be the bigger person take the emotional or moral hit and fix that shit, if you aren’t talking with one or a few of your family and can’t agree or forgive. Man (or Crohn’s) the fuck up, problem solve, and fix it. Family is more important than you can understand and if you do not maintain or fix those relationships right now and put it off, in that last moment you have in the end, may not be long enough, when you finally realize how foolish everyone acts in the naivety of health.
(6) Toughen Up.
There is a huge difference between having the flu for 2 weeks a year and having to live with a long term illness, do not try to mix behaviours of the two. It is perfectly acceptable for a family member to whine, complain, and be a big baby when sick with a cough for a week. It is not alright for you to act the same way for a year. The person with the flu isn’t used of feeling sick. The symptoms they feel can be scary and taxing on them, just like yours. Do not trivialize or belittle them by comparing problems to your own disease, it is not the same. You do not want people to see your disability as just another common cold, so don’t act like a person with a common cold. Your life is not here to be easy, get up and get your own food and fill out your own forms, book your appointments, be polite and thankful and do every possible task you are capable. Don’t let the disease win and let you become a burden on the people who love you. Now that is a generalization, for some people writing, eating and planning are implausible tasks due to real physical or mental restrictions, that does not make you a burden at all. I’m saying do the most you can and challenge yourself. The people around you will love and care for you but show them some respect and respect yourself by not acting like this is the first time you have been sick and cannot deal with the menial tasks and need to be catered to. Being unpleasant, whining or being negative to your care takers while acting like the world owes you something is terrible and is just making two lives harder. The people around you will always care for you, but if someone doesn’t appreciate my help I have a much less fun time helping them again, same goes for most people.
(7) Make Every Day Count.
Think about the worst part of your day, if it wasn’t A) getting sand in your wet jeans then stepping on Lego an falling down the stairs landing in the splits with kneecaps touching your ears, after finding out you are related to your spouse (and didn’t plan it…weirdo) or (b) literally going blind after seeing the movie Gili and having to drive home yourself, without eyes, in a car full of venomous animals and hedgehogs. Your day wasn’t bad and your problems aren’t that big. You make your problems big. Your issues might seem very real and impossible, but in the reality of it, you are breathing and alive, there are 1000’s of people who actually stopped breathing today and I imagine they would take all the; embarrassing moments, gossip, failures, asshole people and messed up food orders in stride. Just to breath once more and experience another day. Cherish what you have and realize that what you have is this entire world!
Most of these points I made you have probably seen on a motivational poster hanging in an institution or heard a personal trainer say. Words like that bounce off you conscious like they were never even there. It takes life experience and challenges to appreciate such cheesy and cliché words, but there is a reason and truth behind them. If you can learn these lessons, I have written about, without having to truly experience them first hand I envy you. I hope that just one person reads this and can miss out on the bad experiences and appreciate some of these lessons without the hardship attached, like in my journey, or if you are sick maybe these things I’m saying might help you figure out something you were already on the way to discovering yourself, I just helped put your finger on it. Anyways these are just a very few things I learnt and there is something new to learn everyday so I’m sure more posts will touch on the lessons of my life.