I have spent this week reflecting on the events of one year ago, when I finally found out what was going on with my crazy belly and was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease. I wrote about the day before the exam, which happened to be our anniversary, and the day of the exam itself. I wrote about simultaneously wanting and not wanting to know what was wrong with me. I wrote about my humor and my fear. Though I intended to only write two parts to the story, the truth is there is a third part, the part that I am living right now.
It took me over two weeks to figure out how (and if) I wanted to announce my diagnosis. That’s longer than it usually takes me to reach conclusions, but finally one night I sat at the table and cried and cried while I admitted that I didn’t feel like myself, that I hated my new label, and that even though I know my true identity is that of a daughter of God, I still felt like I was tarnished in some way.
The diagnosis was concrete evidence of what I’d been suspecting for a long time: life wasn’t going to be the same for me anymore. I turned thirty, I fell in love, I got tenure, I was about to finish another degree (putting an end to 26 years in school). I was learning to be lonely, I was shuffling my priorities. I was trying to be patient.
I hate change and I hate uncertainty, so I built a life I could be proud of at a young age, and I clung to it. I did well for nearly ten years, but then it was time to grow up. I started to realize that for most adults, life is a series of one stressor after another: major life events, kids, illness, deaths of loved ones. I looked out over my future and finally realized that all those things were coming, that my charmed life was destined to be more complicated, and that it was my task to find the joy in that.
My illness became the symbol of the life I couldn’t get back. This isn’t the first time I’ve had to say goodbye to a past life, but it has easily been the longest transition. This has been a very selfish time, and even this post reveals that: more emotional navel-gazing, too many first-person pronouns. I’m like a self-centered teenager, so focused on my own angst that it’s all I can talk about. My only consolation is the experience of having been here before, and knowing that eventually I will move through the chaos into a life that I want, a life that I can’t even imagine yet.