There’s a phrase I hear quite a lot in the chronic illness community. This proclamation, for many, is one that summons strength, brings comfort, and conjures an inner resilience.
The phrase is: “My chronic illness doesn’t define me.”
And while I understand why this statement cultivates courage in the face of chronic illness, I do not believe these words are true for every individual. Especially for me.
Instead, I strongly resonate with a statement that sounds similar, but breeds a vastly different result.
This is the phrase, “My chronic illness doesn’t define me, but it sure helps.”
Breaking it down
“My chronic illness doesn’t define me…”
No, I am not my illness. I am not a busted colon and joint pain linked by a series of colonoscopies. So in that way, this portion is true; I am not my chronic illness, therefore, my chronic illness does not define me.
But, by God, “…it sure helps.”
But, I am many things because of my chronic illness that I would not have otherwise been.
I am a chronic illness blogger.
I am a patient advocate.
I am bold. Resilient. Stronger than I was without IBD.
Because of my diagnosis, I am more articulate and outspoken, vulnerable yet fierce.
My chronic illness redirected dream career
When I meet new people at networking events and I when grab coffee with new friends, a common question I get is, “What do you do?”
I cannot say I’m a health blogger, a chronic illness advocate, or a medical copywriter without explaining why.
I mean, I went from wanting to be a human resources director to a registered dietitian to a medical copywriter and patient advocate. Now, I am these things, and I’m finally fulfilled by my career.
My chronic illness redirected my dreams. Clarified them. Improved them.
Also, I have never liked speaking in front of groups or making presentations. But since my diagnosis, I have an unquenchable desire to get into public speaking.
Because I’ve never been as passionate about anything as I am about medical writing and chronic illness advocacy.
So, when explaining who I am and what I do, I must bring in my chronic illness.
It helps define me as an entrepreneur, as a writer, and as a person.
It helps me define and express my dreams.
It helps define who I am at my core.
I am NOT independent of my disease
The phrase, “My chronic illness doesn’t define me,” may inspire some people, but it does not resonate with me. To me, this statement means that I am independent of my chronic illness.
This couldn’t be farther from the truth.
Because of my chronic illness, I am a copywriter, a blogger, a health advocate; I am tough, expressive, brave; I am more observant, appreciative, and grateful.
Therefore, I cannot describe who I am without mentioning my chronic illness.
I cannot explain my career choice without acknowledging my disease.
I am so much more than a busted colon, but because of my busted colon, I’m a different person than I was before my chronic illness diagnosis.
My chronic illness doesn’t define me, but it sure helps.
Do you agree or disagree with the statement, “My chronic illness doesn’t define me, but it sure helps.” How has your diagnosis improved or altered your life?