I’m a woman who loves to move things around. To try out new colors and words as I stumble around this life I’ve been given. You’ve witnessed my compulsive need to redesign headers and change themes. I wouldn’t be surprised if you’ve reported me to an emergency psychiatrist, trying for a 72-hour hold. One moment I’m curled around my stomach, my sister on the phone asking me why in the hell I thought it was a good idea to blog about my butt, and the next I’m writing a list about all of the good things Crohn’s disease has given me.
Yes, people. I’ve become that person. The one who thinks chronic illness is a blessing in disguise. Because it is.
Chronic illness comes and goes and overstays its welcome. Pretty soon it settles in for the long haul and you realize that without it, you might not be the person you are today. And instead of filling you with regret, you panic at the thought because Crohn’s disease has helped you become exactly who you were always meant to be. Forget the bathroom trips and surgeries. What if I had never been given the chance to write this list? What if I had never experienced the depth of human kindness that can only be found in a chemotherapy ward?
The thought fills me with dread. On this journey, I have laughed and I have cried. I have bitched and I have moaned. But I have gained so much.
Crohn’s disease has given me life-long, compassionate, genuine, and completely wonderful and funny friends. We may be suffering together on this path, but we laugh a lot and talk about things that would make most people faint. These people are as important to me as family. I don’t even need to share their names because they are reading this and sending me waves of support.
Crohn’s disease has given me the deep understanding that life is precious. People without chronic illness can experience life-threatening moments that bring them closer to what truly matters, like the love of one’s family. But then that urgency to live a different way–to not obsess about material possessions and public perception–slowly fades. Crohn’s disease is a not-so-gentle reminder that petty concerns waste limited moments that could otherwise be used to learn and grow.
Crohn’s disease has taught me to love my body and to not be embarrassed by it. One moment I’m fat on steroids with chipmunk cheeks, and the next I’m losing weight and drinking Coke for empty calories. I’ve stopped stressing about how I look. I am no longer embarrassed that I have chronic diarrhea. I will tell my best friend from childhood that I have to get off of the phone because I have to go to the bathroom. (But I will NEVER go to the bathroom while I’m on the phone. I do have some pride after all, and I really want to keep my friends.)
Crohn’s disease has given me the chance to slow down and to reflect. (What else are you going to do in the bathroom besides fail miserably at Candy Crush?) I’ve been able to reevaluate relationships and priorities. I’ve come to conclusions about people I never would have been able to based upon how they react to my disease. It’s given me the opportunity to love deeply. And to let go when that love isn’t returned.
Finally, Crohn’s disease has given me the ability to say, “No.” I’ve grown into myself in so many ways and I have a confidence that I would never give back. It’s true that these gifts have come with some pretty heavy strings, but instead of pulling too hard on these strings, I’ve come to accept them. And, more importantly, to thank them.
What has Crohn’s disease given you?