When I wrote about someone in my life that had hepatitis C during invisible illness awareness week, I shared with you something that my friend Sara said to me which was how being diagnosed with a chronic illness at such a young age often turns someone into a fearful adult. This obviously isn’t the case for everyone, but I am starting to wonder if I fit in to this category.
I have had a bad cold/cough for a little over a week now. I know, poor me : ). I have been resisting taking cough medicine at night because it is not something I am used to. I finally gave in and took Nyquil earlier in the week and after I took it, my mind was flooded with all of these doubts. I haven’t put any alcohol in my body for a while since it always makes my head worse and since this had 10percent alcohol in it, I became nervous about having it in my body. I even have gone so far as to only use mouthwash without alcohol in it so that my head won’t have the possibility of being affected by it. My brain was filled with all of these questions. What if the tiny bit of alcohol in the cough medicine affects my head negatively? Is there too much Tylenol in the medicine? Will it affect my liver? Will I feel hung over the next day? Was putting this in my body the stupidest thing I could have ever done? I know what you are probably thinking…. I need to chill out right? Yeah, I really do.
Okay so since we have adequately established that I have some anxiety issues, I can start to talk about my main point. Obviously, Nyquil was completely and totally fine but this situation led me to think about what Sara had said a little while back about being a scared adult. I am afraid. I haven’t admitted to many people just how afraid of things I actually am, but I am a scared person. I have been knocked down more times than I can count. I have been disappointed and had to come back to myself more times than anyone else would be able to handle. I have been told something only to be unpleasantly surprised shortly after numerous times. I have had to correct medical personnel more times than anyone ever should. I am a fearful adult. In the beginning of this post, I thought I might fit into that category. Now, I realize, I absolutely do. This isn’t how I want to be and certainly isn’t how I ever was prior to being diagnosed with ulcerative colitis. I was never a risk taker but I was never someone who is as cautious as the person looking back at me in the mirror today either.
Ulcerative colitis changed me in so many ways. I went from a being the picture of health and a happy go lucky kid to a 13 year old who, within two months, was diagnosed with a chronic illness, hospitalized numerous times, had four blood transfusions and was on mega doses of steroids. This whole experience shook me to my very core. I am still not okay from it all. I wish I could say otherwise. I get down on myself for not being “fine” yet. I feel like since I am making progress and moving forward a bit, that I should be where I always thought I would be had I never gotten sick and was able to follow a more traditional path. I know how unrealistic that is. I know that I didn’t get this way overnight so I shouldn’t expect to be okay in a short period of time. I know it is all a process. But, I can’t shake the feeling that I am not doing well enough. I can’t shake the feeling that I have become too scared and too afraid of the world and its unexpected twists. I just can’t help but think that I do fall into the category of a fearful adult. But, maybe, just maybe… this is temporary. Maybe, just maybe, I will end up being closer to the person I used to be than the person I have become. Or maybe, I will end up being a blend of both. I don’t know.
All I really do know is that being sick when you are young is hard and really, really impossible at times. It alters you in ways that are different than those who are diagnosed later on in life. I wasn’t settled at 13 years old. No one is at that age. I never had the chance to figure out who I was, what I wanted to be, and be in experimental mode with life. I was never able to go away to school, be independent, travel, and just do “normal” things as a teenager and young adult. I became this illness. Because I got sick when I was trying to figure out who I was, my identity became ulcerative colitis. I was Marisa who had ulcerative colitis and needed to have a lot of surgeries. I used to be Marisa the swimmer who loved dogs but within a year, I lost myself. I lost myself and I am just starting to realize that I may have lost the person I used to be, but I am trying to create the person I hope to become. Being more fearful than I would have had I not had any of these experiences just comes with the territory. It is something I struggle with but have been trying to come to more of an acceptance about. Writing it out has helped me be slightly more at peace with who I am. I may be what my friend Sara calls a “fearful adult,” but that isn’t necessarily forever. It is just now…and now, I know I have every right to feel the way I do about things. I hope it changes but at least if I can be more okay with where I am now, it will help me come to terms with the process of getting back to the person I always hoped I would be.
“Maybe you have to let go of who you were to become who you will be.”- SATC