Finding Strength Through A Chronic Illness

It’s like all of a sudden, everything you once knew is tainted with a different lens. What was once familiar feels foreign; it’s the same house draped with all your decor that made it your home, but everything suddenly feels out of place. It’s the same smells floating in the air, the same streets, the same you in the mirror, but the connection to it all is disrupted.

After I got diagnosed with my chronic illness, I felt like I lost a part of myself. I felt disconnected from everything I once knew. The simplest of tasks became a challenge. I could barely manage to do a load of laundry because of how dizzy and intensely fatigued I was. My life was flipped upside down overnight and I had no idea where to turn to find myself again. I went from being an active person who worked out and did multiple hobbies throughout the day to sitting in a chair for hours searching online for answers on how to overcome my chronic illness. While I have gone through my trials and tribulations in the past, this was by far the most isolating time of my life. I lost the ability to feel happiness and was absolutely heartbroken. I knew I didn’t want to end my life, but I didn’t want to continue living that way. I wanted to crawl out of my skin and find a new body to live in that would allow me to get back to living life again.

Before I was diagnosed with my condition, I thought I was losing my mind. I had no clue about what was happening to my mind and body. I was so dizzy that even walking to the kitchen took a tremendous amount of effort. I was extremely fatigued, my vision was completely distorted, and I was experiencing heavy depersonalization and derealization. I had an immense amount of pressure that felt like a viselike grip around my head. I had to stop driving since I could no longer gauge how fast other vehicles were moving. I couldn’t read anymore or look at screens due to extreme light sensitivity. Even going to the grocery store felt overwhelming due to not being able to properly process my surroundings; all the aisles packed with products and people was just too much. I developed a fear of closing my eyes, since my vision was completely fractured and the thought of not being able to see again absolutely terrified me.

After what felt like a never-ending hazy nightmare, I finally found a doctor who knew how to accurately assess and treat my condition. After an MRI of the brain and a series of tests, it was concluded that I had a rare chronic condition called Vestibular Migraine. Only about 3% of the population is diagnosed with this complex neurological disease. It’s an illness that is difficult to articulate to those who have not experienced it. It’s debilitating, life-robbing, and very isolating.

The worst part of this whole experience was losing my independence. I had to rely on my mother to help me with everything—cooking, cleaning, not falling over in the shower. I had never felt so dependent in my life. I’ve always thrived off of feeling free and experiencing new adventures.

Through the devastation, I managed to keep a fire lit within me to keep going. That small glimmer of hope that remained dimly lit saved my life. Through faith, determination, and the right medication, I now have my life back on track.

If you are currently struggling with a chronic illness, please know that you are NOT alone. Let your illness become your strength. When I was first hit with my illness, I felt like a failure, even though I knew it wasn’t my fault. I let my body take over my mind. The mind is a very powerful tool. It’s easy to get consumed by the darkness when it feels like you’re 10,000 feet deep down in the abyss of hopelessness. When you’re filled with insurmountable desperation, please remember that your mind has the power to turn your pain into passion. You are not your illness. It is a component of your life, but you are a separate entity. You may feel weak, but there’s a lot of power and authenticity in being vulnerable. It grounds you. It sheds light on the things that truly matter in life. It widens your heart to those who chronically suffer.

I have always been an empath, but my empathy for people, especially those who live with a chronic illness, is even deeper than before. I no longer dwell on the minuscule things in life that are not worth ruminating over. The old saying “never judge a book by its cover” has never held so true. While some people’s illnesses don’t display any physical characteristics, they may be suffering deeply on the inside. My illness has taught me to be even more patient with people who may be battling internally.

Living with a chronic condition is not easy by any means, but that’s what makes us stronger. We have to navigate through life a little differently than others who don’t have to worry about symptom triggers. We have to push ourselves a little more to get out of bed in the mornings when we don’t feel good. I don’t feel my best every day, but I try to do my best every day. We’ve had to learn how to dive deep within to accept that this is something we will have to manage the rest of our lives. But this realization should not instill fear. If anything, it should strengthen us. We have been forced to view life from a different perspective that is much more grounded and real. Living materialistically has lost its luster. My illness has made me gravitate more towards genuine people with kind hearts and humble souls who truly take the time to listen and understand others. I no longer put effort into those who mistreat me or others. I simply don’t have enough change in my mental and emotional bank account to waste.

Whenever you feel like your illness is your weakness, remember that if anything, it has taught you strength. You have the ability to see life through a different lens that some may never have the opportunity to see through. You are a fighter who has all the talent and capabilities to push forward, no matter how desperate and consumed you may feel. You are much more in tune with the meaningful aspects of life such as cherishing loved ones who always support you, helping others who are suffering, and appreciating the simple things in life that money can’t buy. When you feel like you’ve lost all hope and just want to give up, remember that you have an eternal flame deep within you that can’t be snuffed out. You have the power to turn your pain into something beautiful in this life. You have the strength within your bones, no matter how weak you feel, to carry on and fight through this dark chapter. You have the fortitude to pull yourself out of the darkness. All you need to do is turn to that flame deep within your core and ignite it once again with faith and determination until your light casts its radiance on a new perspective. You are so loved and much stronger than you realize. Don’t you ever give up.

Weaving my experiences into words.

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