What is a time of joy for many women was my darkest hour.
On several occasions, people have asked me if I am mad that I have Crohn's disease. They'll say things like, "Wow, I can't imagine how angry it must make you," or "You don't seem upset — don't let anger build up inside of you for too long."
But it never has dawned on me to feel angry. Actually, I can't remember the last time I got mad about anything.
It has been years since I have yelled out of anger or deemed a situation infuriating. I have not been consciously restricting these emotions; they just don't manifest. I'm extremely even-tempered, and it keeps me mindful of the things in life that are important instead of getting enraged over trivial — or even not-so-trivial — happenings. I don't know what anger feels like anymore, and I think that is a good thing.
In addition to being even-tempered, I've found that having a disease changes a person, and one of the ways mine has changed me is that it allows me to put everything in perspective. I can't change the fact that I have a disease, so why would I get mad over it? Don't get me wrong — my emotions definitely have surfaced as sadness as it relates to my illness, but I think that's a much less detrimental emotion to experience in response to this illness than anger.
Anger is scary. It intimidates and affects other people. Anger gets misplaced and taken out on others or turned inward — either way, it's not healthy. I have enough health problems to deal with, and I don't want to add high blood pressure to the list.
Moreover, I don't want anyone to think I'm mad at my disease because my disease is a part of me. I get sad sometimes when I'm in a flare — I think anyone in my situation would — but I refuse to beat myself up over something I can't control. I have no say over my disease and, consequently, some aspects of my life, but I do not see that as worthy of anger. I see it as an opportunity.
If I feel myself getting frustrated when I can't do something because of the limitations imposed on me by my disease, I remind myself of what I can do. When I'm sick, I can't always attend class or exercise or hang out with my friends, but I can always choose to see the brighter side of things. I can focus on the loving family I have and my exciting plans for the future, and find other activities to make me happy.
This process of reframing my limitations less as sources of anger and more as opportunities to find joy in life has become second nature to me.
My patience and composure in relation to my disease trickle down throughout all aspects of my life. I don't yell, I don't get mad at myself when I make mistakes, I don't engage in drama, and I refuse to hold a grudge. Life is way too short to be burdened by hostility, whether it's directed toward others or myself.
I can handle my chronic illness. I'm not sure a lot of people could. I don't want to say that I feel like I'm taking one for the team, but I do think that I was given this disease because I am capable of managing it both practically and emotionally. I can leverage it as a tool for personal growth. Once I started writing publicly about my disease, so many doors opened for me. The people I've met, the outreach I've received, and the love I feel daily make me so thankful to live the life I do, regardless of my medical situation.
I truly feel like I have nothing to be mad about. Sure, flare-ups suck. Missing out on life every once in a while, growing up too fast, and forgetting what it's like to be and feel "healthy" has been hard. I wake up every day and am reminded that I have Crohn's disease. It's on my mind constantly, especially in the midst of a flare. But everyone has "something." Everyone has a problem that's on their mind constantly; it may not be an incurable or chronic disease, but hardships exist in many forms. Setbacks and struggles have the potential to elicit anger, but they also have the potential to make us stronger people.
So when I'm asked if I'm mad about my disease, the answer is always no. No, I am not mad. I am stronger. I have been sad about my disease, I have been confused by my disease, I have lost a lot because of my disease, but I will never be angry about it because I love the person it has made me today.