In an age where online presence means edited selfies and perfectly curated travel photos, finding raw honesty has become a breath of fresh air. It’s refreshing to me to find people willing to show up and share their whole truth, despite darkness, vulnerability, or fear. My friend Mandy is the perfect example of this. She has spent the past two years dealing with chronic illness, but instead of hiding or downplaying this, she has courageously chosen to share her stories. She created a blog in hopes of providing community for others fighting chronic illness. The result is a warm and honest website that not only provides a safe space for those with similar experiences, but also serves as a testament to the power of sharing struggles, uniting in community, and embracing uncertainty.
I am thrilled to collaborate with Mandy, my good friend and fellow UT alum in Spanish Language and World Business. Here she discusses the challenge of embracing hardship as the first guest post on my blog! Visit her over at The Chronic Caterpillar, follow her on Instagram @thechroniccaterpillar, and let her know what you thought of the post!
Hardship is something that we as human beings try desperately to avoid. We go to school and try to make good grades when we’re young so that we avoid punishment from our parents or teachers. We go to work and make money to avoid poverty. We don’t eat foods that we’re allergic to in order to avoid a trip to the hospital. It’s common sense.
Sometimes though, despite our best efforts, hardship cannot be avoided. You get sick. You are let go from your job. You can’t quite make ends meet this month. A loved one passes away.
Whether you saw it coming and simply couldn’t avoid it or it ambushed you all at once, hardships are, well…hard.
I know what it feels like. I’ve spent the last two years of my life fighting an illness that you couldn’t tell was there simply by looking at me. It was invisible. It was painful. It was headaches and fevers. It was aches and fatigue. It was long nights lying awake crying, because I didn’t know what was wrong with me. It was second-guessing my own sanity every time blood work came back normal. It was quitting my job, because I physically couldn’t handle it. It was feeling like I was letting down my husband, family, and friends. It was feeling like a burden. It was anxiety. It was depression.
And until a few weeks ago, it was undiagnosed.
I now know that what I’ve been suffering from was Chronic Lyme Disease and Co-infections. I also know that healing from this illness will be a long and complicated road to walk. This is not what I would have chosen for my life, but I can tell you with absolute confidence that this has been a good thing. I would even go so far as to say that in some strange way, I’m thankful for it.
That sounds bizarre, I know, and I myself can barely believe I’m typing those words, but let me explain.
I’ve grown more in the past two years than maybe the whole 23 years before them. I have become a more patient woman. My capacity for understanding and empathy has increased exponentially. I’ve learned that there are things in this world and within other people that I cannot control or change and that it is best to let those things go. I’ve learned how to care for my body, what to feed it, what not to feed it, when to push it, and when to rest.
Perhaps most importantly, I’ve found my voice. I’ve had to be an advocate for myself in the face of physicians who implied that my issues were in my head. I’ve learned to ask questions when I don’t understand. I’ve researched on my own and requested tests that my doctors hadn’t considered. And through it all, I’ve learned how to convey my thoughts and feelings to others in a healthy way. I finally plucked up the courage to start my own blog, and despite the fact that I’m new to blogging (or sharing my writing at all), I’ve already had people reach out and tell me that my story has impacted them.
Ironically, all I’ve ever wanted to do with my life was make a difference in other’s. Because of this illness, because I have suffered, I was able to (even in the smallest way) make that a reality.
I have to believe then, that I’m not done growing through this process (which makes sense, since it usually takes years to heal Lyme). From here on out though, I’d like to work to embrace the hardship and struggle, trusting that good will come of it. I will do my best to embrace the pain, because I know that life’s most beautiful blessings often come from the deepest hurt.
In what areas of your life are you experiencing hardship? I know that it’s tempting to put your head down and to charge through life’s less enjoyable seasons, but I want to challenge you today to stop and appreciate the hard and the ugly for what they are…opportunities to grow.