If you've ever suffered from a chronic illness, or even a surgery or injury that involved a lengthy recovery, you too may have had this thought more than once. Dealing with the mental and emotional burdens that come along with this territory are often more difficult than the physical
struggles we endure.
When I was first diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease about 10 years ago, I experienced Elisabeth Kubler-Ross’s Five Stages of Grief. Though I had not suffered the loss of a loved one, I had certainly lost (or perceived to lose) a lot of the things…the person I had
been up until my diagnosis, my freedom, my health.
My Five Stages over the course of a year:
Denial – they never got a “positive” test reading for my Crohn’s (a surprisingly small percentage of Crohn’s patients ever “test” positive for the disease in a blood test…it is most often diagnosed visually). I was convinced the doctor had made a mistake.
Anger – I was pissed at my body. As I experimented with the best ways to manage my disease, I was in and out of flare-ups. Some days I was fine, but often my joints hurt, I couldn’t keep food in my body, and I was weak and exhausted. There were times I hated my body. Not the way it looked…the way it was breaking down on me. Not reliable. I had always been incredibly healthy and in shape. I had never experienced illness before, and I had a hard time dealing with it. My body had betrayed me.
Bargaining – Me speaking to a “higher power”: “I promise I will take the best care of myself possible if you just take this disease away. I will never drink again, I will get 8 hours of sleep a night, manage my stress, and exercise every single day. I promise!!” It didn’t work.
Depression – As symptoms continued, I began to feel sorry for myself. Why me? This is not fair. I am “damaged” and will be a burden to my husband and family for the rest of my life. Now I am dependent (something I hate being) on insurance, and on others to take care of me at times. I am just going to be “that girl who has Crohn’s” to everyone. During this phase, there were days I had a hard time getting out of bed. I wondered if this was going to be my life now…forever.
Acceptance – This was the realization that I can either play the victim, or wake the hell up, take charge of my health, and live the best life I could possibly live regardless of this little setback. I was finally ready to take my power back from this disease, and that is what I did…ten-fold!!
If you’ve ever spoken to me about my journey through living with Crohn’s, you know that I now view this diagnosis as an opportunity. I believe the Universe only hands us things we can handle, and they are given to us for a reason.
At the time, I had no idea the impact Crohn’s would have on my life. As it turns out, living with this chronic illness was the catalyst for me to experience an amazing personal transformation over the last 10 years.
I am stronger physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually than I’ve ever been.
I re-evaluated everything in my life, made changes, and I live better as a result.
Crohn’s led me to discover my “calling” and I made a HUGE career change last year to follow my passion of helping others who struggle with chronic illnesses or pain, or just want to live healthier lives. I now spend my days doing what I love and I truly believe I have the power to create the life I want, as well as help others do the same.
I now live empowered. I am no longer a victim.
Over the past two weeks I’ve been thinking a lot about the first year I lived with Crohn’s, as the Universe has given me yet another challenge with a blockage in my large intestine, which is a pretty serious complication.
At first I allowed some of those negative thoughts to creep back in. I was again angry at my body for betraying me…maybe even more so this time than ten years ago.
I started to let the disease have my power. “I take amazing care of myself and this STILL happens?? It’s just not fair!!”.
The truth is that if I didn’t eat a certain way, sleep enough, and manage stress (amongst many other things), this complication would have happened sooner. Also, the symptoms I experience regularly would be worse and happen more often. I quickly realized that THIS is the power I haveover my disease.
Why am I sharing this with you? Those who know me now may not believe I was that depressed victim ten years ago.
I talk to people every day who are struggling with their own personal challenges (illness or otherwise). Many are stuck in the same victim role I played all those years ago.
If you are one of those struggling, my hope is to inspire you to shift the way you are viewing your challenge.
Your situation cannot be changed, but youCAN change how YOU approach it. I encourage you to look for the positive in your situation.
Why has the Universe given you this challenge?
It may not be immediately apparent, but it is there waiting for you to discover it.
Once you’ve found it, you’ve got the power! You are no longer the victim. You are embracingyour challenge and responding from a place of positivity. YOU get to determinehow your situation affects your life, not the other way around.
You can now take on your challenge with strength and empowerment. YOU are in charge and this fact changes everything.
What amazing things will your challenge inspire in your life?
As for me…I have decided to never let this disease take my power again.
The Universe gave me my new challenge to keep me humble and to fuel my fire.
Mission accomplished! Bring it on!!!
In addition to helping people thrive while living with Crohn's or Ulcerative Colitis, I have a secondary goal of giving back through the Crohn's and Colitis Foundation (www.ccfa.org).
CCFA is a non-profit organization focused on providing supportive services to help people cope with these chronic intestinal diseases. They are also leading the fight to find a cure for these horrible diseases that affect more than 1.6 million Americans.
Janelle is a Certified Health Coach, Certified Personal Trainer, and Group Fitness Instructor who is passionate about helping people find their best health and happiness. She specializes in helping those with Crohn's or other Autoimmune diseases. Whether you want to make big changes, or simply want to learn how to bring healthier choices and more energy into your life, she can help!!