A few months ago I had a revelation: a medical diagnosis is not the key to happiness. I’ve spent a significant portion of my life battling chronic illness by searching for answers, seeing new doctors, trying different medications, and receiving new treatments. I’ve received about 20 different diagnoses, and, to no one’s surprise, none have led to my happiness.
I’m not quite sure when or how it happened, but somewhere along the way I lost track of who I was throughout my medical mystery journey. At some point in the past, there were things that made me happy. I didn’t have quite as many symptoms nor were they as severe. I wasn’t constantly in pain or worrying about where I was going to hurt next. I couldn’t remember what it felt like to be truly happy, but I was confident that I had felt it.
I got sick slowly at first, only having problems with my stomach. But with what felt like the snap of my fingers, things picked up speed and started spiraling out of control. The more unanswered questions and incorrect diagnoses I received, the sicker I got and the gloomier the outcome looked.
Have you ever had that nightmare where you’re buried alive and screaming for help but no one can hear you? Well, I felt like I was being buried so deep, I could no longer see the light to make my way back out.
My depression reached a new low. One doctor told me my symptoms were in my head, another was giving me 18 laxatives a day, my therapy sessions felt like a waste of time, and my psychiatrist was at a loss after I’d maxed out on my 6th antidepressant. I couldn’t trust my doctors anymore and I truly felt like giving up.
Light at the End of the Tunnel
At the beginning of that summer I was put into Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT), which is a cognitive behavioral treatment that helps people learn and use new skills and strategies to develop a life that they experience as worth living. By the end of the summer, I honestly felt like I understood myself a little better than I previously had and I could see a sliver of hope.
Fast Forward to Today
I won’t lie to you and say that after that summer, everything was uphill and my life was great. There were ups and downs (some significant downs to tell you the truth). But when I take a step back to look at my journey through all of this, I see one major flaw: I let my chronic illness and medical conditions define me. I let them constrict me and squeeze out who I once was as I spun out of control searching for answers.
Today I don’t constantly hope someone will find the missing puzzle piece to my chronic health mystery.
I hope to find new ways to cope with the pain.
I hope to find doctors who listen.
I hope to manage my symptoms as best as possible.
I hope to smile.
I hope to stay curious about the world around me and be interested in learning new things.
I hope to want to get out of bed.
I hope to travel the world.
I hope to not hate yoga.
I hope to spend less time on my couch.
I hope to explore NYC.
I hope to love photography again.
I hope to spend more time with my sister.
But mostly, I hold onto the hope that I will always find a way to fight for a life that brings me joy. And I believe that you deserve to find that hope too.