An Open Letter to IBS
As I was writing another article about what you do to me as a person suffering with IBS, I decided to take a break from that article and write a letter to you to tell you what you do for me as a person. Before you came along, I was a fairly healthy person, besides a little underlying fatigue, stress, and anxiety. I never knew what it was like to be someone who suffered from a physically painful chronic illness on a daily basis. Therefore, I didn’t have as much compassion as I do now for people who live with chronic illnesses. Then you showed up. You made me a more compassionate person, and made me realize what’s important in life, and that’s your health. Chuck Pagano, NFL coach and cancer survivor, once said, “If you don’t have your health, you don’t have anything.” I believe this quote should be the mantra of life. Before you and the multiple chronic illnesses that followed suit, I took my health for granted. I woke up feeling good, and didn’t think twice about it. I didn’t have to try on five outfits every morning just to find one that would agree with my distended belly. I was lucky, and I didn’t even know it.
I still consider myself lucky, though. Through my journey with you, IBS, I have met some of the most amazing, resilient people on the face of the planet! Chronic illness will do that to you. It makes you a fighter, a warrior, because you are a survivor. You face every day with your body fighting itself, and you continue to live, despite your daily ailments. Don’t get me wrong, we all have our days where we break down and cry, and don’t want to get out of bed. But we do. We do get up, and we face the day no matter how we feel! As my Mom always tells me, “Fake it until you make it!” My Mom is one of my cheerleaders. When I’m not feeling well, or am scared about a doctors appointment, or something is not going my way, she sends me the blue and green fish Emoji, and tells me to, “Just keep swimming!” It’s such a simple gesture, but it really does keep me going. IBS, you have taught me resilience.
My other cheerleader is my husband. If it weren’t for my husband, I would probably spend twice as much time in the bed. I wouldn’t go to the gym in the mornings when I’m so tired that it literally feels like my stomach and eyes are on fire. I wouldn’t get dressed up and show up, travel as much, or live my life to the fullest, even if it does take every bone in my body to do so. You have taught me that you need people. I’m a middle child and independent by nature. I never thought I needed anyone else, until you came along. You have taught me that it’s okay to have problems, and have other people there to help you fix them.
You have also taught me to be less gullible. Before you, I would have believed anything any doctor ever told me. You and other chronic illnesses have taught me that doctors are humans and make mistakes, too. My illnesses, including you, have taught me to stand up for what I’m feeling physically, mentally, and emotionally, and to never give up on these things. “I’m thankful for my struggle because without it, I wouldn’t have stumbled across my strength.” -Alexandra Elle, Author, Words from a Wanderer.
You have allowed me to use my people skills to connect with other IBS and chronic illness sufferers, and share hope with one another on a daily basis. Every day, I get a message from someone thanking me for posting something that either made them not give up, or put a smile on their face, or educated them about a particular subject, and little do they know, they are the ones that keep me going. I’ve always felt that my purpose in this life was to help others, and IBS and chronic illness communities have allowed me to live out my purpose. For that, I am thankful for you, IBS.
As I sit here and close this letter, I want to thank you, IBS. Thank you for making me the person I have become with your more than pesky symptoms. Don’t get me wrong, IBS. I have a laundry list of negative things to say about you, but as they say, there’s good in everyone. It took me a long time to find the good in you, but this letter is to let you know that I have found it.