Happy September everyone!
This September is very special to me because, in September of 2014, I was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis, an inflammatory bowel disease.
That means I’ve had this chronic illness for FIVE years, which is crazy to me! I can’t believe it’s been half a decade!
So, in honor of these past five years and the wild ride it’s been, I’m doing a 5-part series of the five most significant lessons this chronic illness has taught me.
Ready? Let’s dive in!
Lesson 1: Acceptance isn’t a one-time thing
Being diagnosed with a chronic illness is a tough pill to swallow. It’s likely going to change, well, just about every aspect of your life. And it’s likely going to take a while to accept this and to accept your new body and your new normal.
But I don’t believe that accepting this is something you do just once.
I don’t believe there’s a single moment of understanding or a brief lightning strike from the heavens that create a split second epiphany; I don’t believe there’s a single turning point in your chronic illness journey.
I believe that coming to terms with your diagnosis occurs in a string of moments of acceptance. Accepting your disease is something you’ll do again and again and again.
Acceptance and Self-Actualization
In fact, I’d equate acceptance with the top tier of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs—the self-actualization category.
In the words of this article’s author, Saul McLeod, and the psychologist Maslow himself, the aspects in the self-actualization tier include, “Realizing personal potential, self-fulfillment, seeking personal growth and peak experiences. A desire “to become everything one is capable of becoming.”
Because the ideals in this tier are literally infinite, realizing your full potential has no end.
Once you attain one thing in your own personal self-actualization category, you can set another goal and pursue that, and then another, and another.
You can potentially experience hundreds of moments of acceptance, each one building your character, your worldview, your drive, your dreams.
What is Acceptance?
Now that we know where my definition of acceptance stands in the order of things, let’s chat about what it is exactly.
I believe acceptance is: little moments that encourage you to dive deeper into accepting the place your illness has in your life, and, therefore—in your own unique way—choosing to turn it into something good.
Let’s take a peek at some real-life examples.
Example 1: Creating The Comical Colon
My first moment of acceptance (or self-actualization as it relates to chronic illness) occurred in March 2018 when I launched The Comical Colon.
The thought of creating this blog had been on my mind for a loooong time, but I had never been convinced that my story would inspire or help others.
But after many months of mulling over the idea, I launched it anyway.
Launching The Comical Colon was a very real moment of acceptance because seeing the words written down was like seeing it written in stone.
And hitting publish was my way of saying, “I have a chronic disease. It will be with me forever, but I’m going to use it for good and I’m going to use this blog to help others.”
Example 2: Quitting My Job
Another moment of acceptance was in May 2018 when I decided to quit my job in human resources to go back to school for dietetics.
It would be a financial risk. It would be an adjustment returning to the full-time school setting instead of working a 9 to 5. I didn’t know exactly where it would take me, but I knew it would be amazing.
HR wasn’t bringing me happiness; in fact, it was actually draining me of it. Deciding to quit was a moment of accepting my illness because I knew my diagnosis lead me toward this decision; I wanted to find a career closer to health, nutrition, wellness, chronic illness, patient advocacy.
I would not have chanced this career leap without this diagnosis.
These are the main ones that come to mind.
What Will You Do With Your Moments of Acceptance?
Acceptance isn’t a one-time thing. I believe you’ll experience many moments of acceptance throughout your life and over the course of your unique chronic illness journey.
Perhaps with every new symptom you learn to manage…
Maybe with each additional diagnosis you get from your medical team…
Maybe with a new networking connection you make…
You’ll choose to take each new way your chronic illness shows up in your life and you’ll use it to make something good.
I’d love to continue this conversation with you in the comments!
- Do you agree or disagree that acceptance is more than a one-time occurrence?
- Have you had a single moment of acceptance or many?
- How have your moment(s) encouraged you to bring good out of your illness? I’d love to hear your thoughts below.
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