In a mere few weeks my birthday will come around I will be 30 years old. Depending on your age whilst reading this you will have several different opinions on ‘turning 30’. If you are in your teens you will think its OLD. In your twenties you will fool yourself that you’ll be cool with turning 30 yourself, when really the idea of it probably makes you heave. If you are 40+ you’ll maybe look back fondly and think your thirties were a highlight or a bit of a turning point, and if you are in your 60’s you will probably wonder what all the fuss is about and tell me to find something more important to worry about.
The truth is I’m not worried. I’m excited. For once in my life I’m looking forward to this new decade instead of looking back with regret. I’m facing the next few years with anticipation that things will be better as I leave my twenties behind.I’m slowly but surely coming to terms with the fact that Crohn’s Disease will always play a massive part in my life. I have resigned myself to working on what I can control, how I let it affect my head and my heart. It may well ravage my body but the minute it gets into my mind that’s when I know I have work to do.
So as I approach the status of a full blown woman of the world (or Scotland at least), what words of wisdom can I impart to those of you living as I do, with chronic illness and/or hot-stepping it into a new decade? Almost like I planned it, here are my 30 musings on the matter...
30. It’s ok to feel sad. Crohn’s is a horribly intrusive disease; you are allowed a few moments to wallow. Let yourself grieve for your old body, your old life and the plans you’ve perhaps had to scale down. Don’t be hard on yourself for letting go from time to time.
28. Be prepared for the fact you may lose friends. Or ‘acquaintances’. Often illness isn’t ‘fun’ therefore in their mind neither are you. It’s no big loss. The people who are there for you love you unconditionally; you’ll find them through the mist.
27. Make yourself happy. Easier said than done I know, but bring yourself joy when you are well, find what you love and put your energy into it, don’t let your disease stop you from ANYTHING.26. Be patient. Bear in mind it may be a struggle establishing what’s best for you, doctors and nurses are doing their utmost to get you well, so don’t make it any harder for either of you during that process.
25. On the other side of the coin, speak up. If you feel let down, tell someone. If you are concerned about your health then speak to whom it may concern, and don’t take no for an answer.24. Learn all you can about your condition. You are in the midst of the most challenging time of your life, you need to be as prepared as you can for what lies ahead. Things are never as bad as they seem, and it makes it a million times easier to deal with whatever’s thrown at you when you are forearmed.
23. Might sound a bit hypocritical considering you’re reading this on a personal blog, but keep some things private. The world and it’s wife doesn’t need to know about your latest bowel movement.
22. Protect yourself. Keep the things that matter close and don’t allow yourself to get caught up in that which won’t keep you warm at night. Treasure what’s real and what matters above all else.
21. If you are regularly in and out of hospital it’s a good idea to pack a little toilet bag filled with all your essentials. This takes away the stress of trying to remember everything you’ll need in the panic and worry of a hospital stay. Also makes things easier for your loved ones to organise everything else. It’s a nice idea to stick a wee treat in there too, a nice and unexpected surprise when you are at your worst.
20. Focus on the future and not what you’ve left behind. Unless you are a Time Lord you don’t have the ability to change your past so instead ensure you don’t make the same mistakes again. If you are a Time Lord HIGH FIVE BECAUSE THAT IS AWESOME.
19. Make some more mistakes before your time’s up.18. Maintain your dignity. Remember how undignified parts of this illness can truly be, don’t let those facts cloud who you are and pick up any dignity you’ve lost on the way back out of the doctors surgery.
17. Try not to be driven to distraction by other people’s apparently deadly illnesses – bear in mind that for someone who has never been ill a day in their life, the flu will feel like they are dying.16. Don’t become a health bore.
15. Or a bore.14. Or an eyesore. Take some pride in how you appear – it can actually serve as a good tool for dragging yourself from your diseased bed and work as a little pick me up.
13. Tell your Mum and Dad you love them. If you are lucky enough to have them in your life cherish them. Remind them how grateful you are for everything they are and everything they have instilled in you. Nothing to do with Crohn’s, just do it.12. Remember it’s not a competition between sufferers as to who has the worst end of the stick. ‘Competitive suffering’ is pointless and redundant. Focus on getting yourself well and don’t waste others time in bullying them into pitying you.
11. Don’t tolerate or welcome pity.10. Try not to play the victim. You have an incurable illness but that doesn’t give you carte blanche to act like an arse when things aren’t going your way.
9. Have some grace.8. (When you can’t be graceful do whatever you need to do behind the hospital ward curtain.)
7. Your body is not imperfect, it’s a walking talking map of everything you’ve done and everything you’ve come through over your years on the planet. Don’t pick at what you consider to be flaws or beat it into oblivion with endless negativity. It’s honestly no fun.6. Have fun.
5. Listen to your body. The longer you suffer from chronic illness the easier it will become to establish what’s worth worrying about and what’s JUST A COLD.
4. Don’t waste your life worrying about what other people think of you. What you think of you is what really matters; are you happy with the person you’ve become? If not what can you do to change that?3. Be tolerant of yourself and others, don’t allow your frustration at your failing body to spill out. It will destroy even the most solid of relationships.
2. Love deeply and show the people who care what they mean to you whenever you can. You can’t ever tell someone how wonderful they are too regularly. Although that restraining order I got in 2003 may read otherwise.1. Wet wipes are, and always will be, your true friend.