Life Awaits You
When I was 17, I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. When I was 32, I was diagnosed with celiac disease [an autoimmune digestive disease, triggered by the gluten found in wheat, barley, and rye]. Both are chronic conditions. That means, absent a cure, I’ll have these diseases for the rest of my life.
Needless to say, such a state of affairs can be extremely challenging. It can be depressing and frustrating, inconvenient and stressful. It can be downright scary, too. But in the years since my diagnoses, I’ve found it to be something else as well: educational. One would never wish for a chronic disease, of course, let alone two of them. But if there’s a silver lining, it’s this: By learning to live with my conditions, I have learned much more than just how to live with diabetes and celiac disease. I have learned a lot about life. And in the process, I have learned a lot about myself. I learned to think of my diseases not as a hindrance but as a lifestyle change.
There are as many different lifestyles as lives. Everyone has his or her own way of living, problems and difficulties to live with and manage, burdens to carry. When diagnosed with a chronic condition, you now have a different set of circumstances in your life to deal with. But with time and patience and the right mindset, you can find ways to not only deal with your new circumstances—your new lifestyle—but to flourish.
Every day is new and every day brings fresh challenges. Every day also brings fresh opportunities and new learning experiences. Living with a chronic condition, or more precisely, learning to live with a chronic condition (or two) is an ongoing process. Even after all this time, I still have days that are hard emotionally, if not physically. And I always will. Each day has to be considered in its own right; life starts anew every morning.
Making choices—smart choices—is all a part of the bigger picture of properly managing your condition—managing it physically as well as managing it emotionally. And managing is the best you’ll be able to do. There is no “controlling” of your disease. Part of the acceptance process is understanding this. It’s natural to want to think you can control your disease and ultimately be its master. But eventually you realize how exhausting this way of thinking is. It becomes intimidating and frustrating and hopelessly discouraging. When you decide to let go of the idea of controlling and instead focus on managing, life become a lot easier. Managing is realistic. Managing is something you can accomplish today.
In the end, I’ve learned that living with chronic conditions is best approached in the exact same way in which anyone needs to approach their life, with or without a chronic condition: one day at a time. By focusing on what’s before you today, you can make this day special. Tomorrow, you can do the same thing. Put a few days together and you’ve got a week and the weeks roll into months and the next thing you know, you’re not living with a chronic condition, you’re flourishing. Life awaits you, with all of its wonders.
All you have to do is decide that, just for today, nothing’s going to stop you!
Gina Meagher lives in Golden, Colo., and self-published There Is Something About Gina—Flourishing With Diabetes and Celiac Disease (somethingaboutgina.com).
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