Friends, this entry is more emotional than informative. Sorry.
I feel compelled to write about this topic because I am currently so lost and confused, and I know my emotional state is not unique among the chronically ill. Most of us experience serious physical effects of the stress that accompanies failed relationships, forced time away from school or work, family tensions, and our less-than-fabulous health. Since we are all so unique and complex, I plan to post about a variety of stress-reduction ideas.
As you may have guessed from my previous entry, my current efforts to get myself out of this funk involve diving into IBD and ostomy activism. I don’t feel like my story is inspirational, and I will not tell you that life is going to be fantastic if you just think happy thoughts. I am desperately trying to seek and dwell on the joy in my life, but I have decided that we are allowed to be frustrated, scared, and anxious sometimes. I have also decided that we need to stop focusing on self-reliance.
I have already extolled the virtues of seeking gut buddies, but we need more than online communities of understanding sufferers. My faith is vital, but weak enough that I do not fully trust God to get me through this mess. I focus more on my weaknesses and my doubts about my future than on his faithfulness to His children and power to sustain me. Illness tends to affect faith one way or the other: distancing yourself from God, or drawing you closer. During my darkest times, things tend to fall into place in time to drag me up out of my sadness just enough. Some things are just too perfect to be coincidences.
A few people believe in my strength and potential for impacting lives, even when my faith in myself is at its lowest. The nurses and doctors who know me best refuse to believe that I am uninspiring or useless, so they sing my praises to focus group organizers and fellow board members. I kept thinking their enthusiasm for dealing with me was a bit insane. They still might be a little delusional, but the evidence to the contrary keeps growing.
Several of my healthy friends know about and support my writing efforts, but one stands out. He is a man of few words, but he tends to know just what to say. When I told him that nobody in their right mind will ever want to date me because my personality and mediocre looks are insufficient to overcome my physical flaws, his concise response was, “You fool.” He completely disagrees with my personal assessments, and he has so much more faith in me than I do. Every time something cool happens with my activism opportunities, he is unsurprised, and kindly finds a way to say “I told you so.” He is the sort of friend who knows the gory details of my illness and surgeries, hangs out with me when I am drugged up, and indulges my craziness on a regular basis. I gush about him for a very important reason: I want you to find a friend like him and treasure that person. You should probably avoid embarrassing them online like I am doing. But express your gratitude, and for goodness sake, trust them, even if you think they might be crazy. We are often our own harshest critics, and it is just not good for us.
Breaking out of our negative mental patterns can require outside help. I hope we can all learn to seek, embrace, and cherish the people who love us enough to challenge us.
I know this entry is very emotionally-oriented, which might make you gentlemen shake your heads at me, but I wanted to share because I seriously want you to know that your voice matters regardless of your self-confidence.