Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Growing Up Sick

You could say I've always been a sickly kid. Growing up, I had pneumonia nine times before the age of ten. In junior high and high school, I had chronic migraines so bad that some days I couldn't see straight. And then senior year I was diagnosed with Crohn's disease. It's been kind of a crazy ride, but I've always managed to keep my morale up. Even if I'm not feeling great, there's always someone who's sicker than I am, so why complain?

This week, though, put me to the test. I spent all day yesterday in doctor's offices trying to figure out if my chest hurt because of a cough, or my stomach, or something else. I've had pretty much every medical test known to man done on me at this point, so I'm used to all that, but sometimes it's really hard to balance not feeling great with all my other responsibilities. When you're little and you miss school, your mom just calls you in sick. In the real world, it's a little harder to explain why you're out of commission so often. Luckily my problems turned out to have a pretty easy fix, but it got me thinking about how people deal with chronic illness.
This would be me this past weekend, ignoring how sick I was so I could go enjoy St. Patrick's Day with my friends
In spite of always being sick, I've also always led a super busy life. In grade school I was in every club imaginable. In high school, it was a juggling act with AP classes, friends, cheerleading, and a part-time job. Now in college, I'm busier than I've ever been. I take a full course load, I'm in a sorority, and I have three jobs. And in addition to all that, I try to go out and have fun with friends as much as possible so I can really enjoy my senior year. I kind of don't know what to do with myself when I'm not really busy.

That's why I think I get so easily frustrated when I do get sick: I go at life full speed ahead, so it's really hard when something out of my control slows me down. I want to be constantly on like all the healthy college kids around me, and I get flustered when I have to take a step back to take care of myself. I've been feeling sick for a few weeks now and chose to ignore it because I had too much going on, a decision that just ended up making me sicker. I have all kinds of plans for myself and my life, and none of them include letting any kind of illness get in the way. It's usually a good thing, but sometimes I need to learn that it's okay to not always be at 100%.

So for the fellow sick kids out there, keep on working at it. As much as you can, don't let being sick get in the way of life experiences, but also know that it's okay to acknowledge if you aren't doing your best. It's never fun to fall behind in school because of doctor's appointments, or to be the one who can't go out because you're not feeling great. But I also appreciate the things that growing up sick has taught me: it's made me optimistic by default, and I work hard for the things I want because I don't take the bouts of being healthy for granted. I promise you, there's a silver lining to any situation if you look hard enough.

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