It has been over two years since my diagnosis and more and more, people tell me that have changed. As a matter of a fact, a co-worker told me the other day that he noticed that I am “somewhat different.” I asked him what he meant, and he said my “passion level wasn’t what it used to be.” He told me that I used to be very passionate about the things I cared about and I always “held my ground” on the things that I believed in. These days, he felt like I took a more emotional response than a fair and non-bias one. I asked if he felt like that was a bad thing, and he told me that for other people, no, but for me, yes. I told him that “chronic illness changes us whether we want it to or not.”
Chronic illness does change us and we really don’t have a choice. I know that I see a different person in the mirror than I did a year or two ago, both physically and mentally. The physical changes seem to affect me the most, but mental and emotional changes are ones that I am gradually taking in. It is not the first time that I have been told that I am “somewhat different.” I am know that I am different and that I have changed, and sometimes, I know it is for the better, and other times, I just wonder how much my life would be different if not for chronic illness.
Like many, I am married with children and dealing with the trials and demands of raising a family. Like so many others, I also live with the struggles of chronic illness which leaves us vulnerable to the disease and at any given time, it could turn our lives upside down. That is the reality of chronic disease and it is what changes us, not the disease itself (the disease causes the physical change, but the reality brings about the mental and emotional).
We find ourselves trying to make sense of something that makes no sense at all or trying to control something we cannot control. Our reactions and emotions are so powerful and they change with the progression of our conditions. We go back and forth from understanding to not understanding than to understanding again, and then to not understanding. It is a vicious cycle. You learn to understand with experience but when your health is constantly changing, you realize that you are always new symptom or flare-up away from not understanding. That is where you realize you cannot control anything and everything you are trying to control.
Change happens whether we want it to happen or not. We will never be able to control what the disease does to us, but we can control how we feel. Regardless, it will change our feelings and our perceptions about the things that we once felt passionate about and it will force us to hold on to what really matters. I know that I have changed. I am not as passionate about the legal field as I used to be and I am now more passionate about chronic illness and advocating for it. I also learned that I have to conserve my energy where it matters the most – in my own personal life. A part of me is still mourning and grieving the person I used to be, and it does me make feel a bit depressed but I understand all to well that I have, for better or worse, changed. So, I have to work towards accepting and move on from there. That is something that is better said than done.