I wish I wasn’t sick. I think about it pretty much every day – what it would be like to feel wonderful and healthy and strong all of the time. To never be tired. To not be afraid of food and how my body will handle it. To not feel scared every time there’s a sharp pain around my stomach. But surprisingly, I know you wish this for me even more than I do. I know, without a doubt, that more than anything, you wish you could take it from me. You look at me in my hardest moments, and you don’t have to say it, but I know what you’re thinking: you would do anything to take it on yourself and leave me painless.
It could be so much worse. It’s not debhilitating (for the most part). It will not kill me. I will get through it and I will live a very normal life. But there are very ugly moments, moments that most people don’t see. It’s an invisible illness. I look healthy on the outside. So the ugly moments go unseen by pretty much everyone but you. The difficult moments build up one on top of another, to the point that every few months, it gets to be too much and I break down in front of you and no one else. I cry and I’m angry and I become childish – I get frustrated that I have to deal with this and I feel bad for myself and I tell you that it’s all too much to handle. When I get upset like this, it’s the most pained I’ve ever seen you look.
Yesterday we sat in a room that smelled like antiseptics and Clorox wipes. You smiled and made jokes with me and made me feel like I was a normal person who just happened to be in a slightly abnormal situation. We laughed in the middle of a hospital room, while a nurse hooked me up to an IV. She apologized while she jabbed a needle in my arm, but I barely paid attention. I was too busy laughing at you, as you tried to be supportive while simultaneously trying not to faint from looking at the needle.
You gave up your Saturday, no questions asked. You’ve done it before and you’ll do it again. You woke me up with a full breakfast, because you didn’t want me to be hungry during this long day. The monthly visits to get my infusion medication have become routine, but I still dislike them. You know they scare me a little bit, but that I’m too proud to admit it. So you grab my hand the minute we sit down, and you act like you’re doing it absentmindedly. But I know you’re doing it so that I won’t be scared.
The infusion is tiring. My arm is sore. They pump me with Benadryl too, so I’m in and out of sleep the entire day. But every time I wake up, you’re there. Sitting next to me in your cheap, uncomfortable chair. Reading a book, lost in your own world. But smiling reassuringly to me each time I open my eyes. Answering the nurse’s questions for me when she comes over to get my vitals. Speaking in that calming, knowledgable tone of voice that you have. I doze the entire time we’re at the hospital, always feeling a comforting sense of peace, because I know you’re right next to me.
I’m not a good enough of a person to say that I’m actually, truly “thankful” to have Crohn’s disease. But what I can say is that I’m aware of the realizations it’s brought me to. It’s reminded me of how lucky I am to have you in my life. Most people could only ever dream of being with someone like you. You’re not romantic in the most common sense of the word, but my definition of “romantic” has changed since I’ve been sick. You’ve made the 30-minute drive to my apartment at midnight when I’ve had a particularly straining day. You’ve learned everything you need to know about my diet, so you can cook meals that I can actually eat without feeling sick. You know how to comfort me when I have really bad days, without allowing me to fall into the easy trap of pitying myself.
It’s a tough disease. It’s ugly and scary and it can get in the way of trying to feel normal. But it has shown me what a special person you are. How lucky I am to have you. What’s actually important in a relationship. The type of person I should want to be with.
You don’t just love me when we’re in the hospital room or when I’m laying in my bed, where the setting is strangely tender because I’m weak and hopeless and you know that I need you. You also love me in the moments that aren’t romantic. Like when I’ve gone through several tough days or weeks, and I’ve been cranky and angry and a nightmare to deal with. And I’ve taken it out on you, because you’ve loved me enough to stay there with me while I’ve been at my weakest point.
This isn’t a phase. It’s a lifelong illness. Sometimes I will be okay. But sometimes, I really won’t be. And you know that. And you’ve seen the times when I’m really not okay. And you stayed. You comforted me and you loved me even when I was being a brat. You’ve taken care of me, but you’ve also refused to allow me to feel bad for myself. You’ve forced me to acknowledge that I have an illness without letting the illness have me. You’ve loved me in the ugly moments. And that’s the most beautiful thing about you.