When I switched therapists after needing a new perspective, within ten minutes of my appointment with her, she said I needed to be in an “experimental phase” for a little while. I needed to stop searching for my path and get out there and try new things, get an idea of what I like, what I don’t like, and who I really am.
I never got the chance to figure out what I wanted to really be or do because my life was consumed by illness, hospitalizations, surgeries, recovering, getting back into life, getting sick again, etc. It was a roller coaster and it has only been recently that I have had a period of sustained health (knock on wood.)
Because of everything I have been through, high school took me five years since I needed to take a year off after pushing myself to go to school with drains, tubes and pic lines. Then I spent six years just trying to get through college and graduate. I didn’t have time to do internships, plan with my school adviser my end goal because every semester was simply about getting through it and doing as well as I could. Had I had the ability to do school right, I could have graduated in five years with my masters in social work. Instead, it took me six years and I had no plan, no idea of what I wanted to do other than knowing in my heart I wanted to help people.
So here I am today. Unknowingly or subconsciously, I have been in my experimental phase of life. It is causing me a lot of internal anxiety and I know affects my sleep because deep down, I know I should be out of the experimental phase by now. I should know what I want to do at this point in my life. I should have more of an idea of who I am but in all honesty, I am just starting to figure it out. I am just starting to figure out what kind of life I want to build for myself; something that was also mentioned to me. I needed to feel powerful again and in control; like what I said, felt and worked towards mattered. Not that my opinions were never considered before, but rather, my body had other plans so my control was stripped. I have felt utterly powerless over my body and my life for such a long time.
I thought this was an important topic to bring up because I think many people with inflammatory bowel disease lose out on the experimental phase of life and struggle to play “catch up” to some degree. Crohns disease and ulcerative colitis are usually diagnosed between the ages of 15 and 30, then again after 50 I believe. The majority of patients with IBD were children when they were diagnosed, young teenagers, and young adults whose developmental years were altered dramatically.
School is difficult for so many of us. When we hear friends talk about how college was some of the best years of their life, I know so many IBDers who think about how those years were some of the worst they experienced. I can’t even set foot on my college campus because it reminds me of fighting nonstop, getting beaten up, and getting back up, only for the same things to keep happening. I wanted out of there and into the “real world” so badly but within a month and half after I graduated, I needed to have major surgery again. Then a few months later, I needed another one. And then another auto immune disease diagnosis that took me out of the loop for a while.
I want everyone to know that struggling to find yourself and your place in this world is something every one of us needs to go through. Most get to during their high school and college years which help to set the stage for the rest of their life. However, when you’ve been struggling with health issues for years, it is going to affect you developmentally. It is going to probably make you feel a little behind the eight ball which is upsetting. I know it makes me sad and angry to think about.
One day at a time. I am trying to remind myself that no one’s journey through life is the same and we all go at different paces. At the end of the day, age doesn’t matter and you do grow and evolve every day, even if you don’t realize it.