I am about to make a bold statement here, but bear with me: being diagnosed with Crohn’s disease has actually improved my life for the better. No, I am not delusional. I am also not blind to my bad days or the tests results that come back not as optimal as I had hoped. It’s getting through these rough days that bring me to the conclusion that Crohn’s disease has some positive side effects. Here is how I came to this understanding.
The Bad Days Make Me Appreciate the Good
If you have a chronic illness or any kind of chronic pain, at some point you have probably dreamed about a life in which you don’t need to think about your condition every day.
For example, with Crohn’s disease I need to consider what food options will be available if I’m going to be out all day. I may need to carry snacks or even meals in a cooler bag. If I’m in a flare I’ll want to make sure there is a bathroom nearby. These things can be a drag sometimes, but they are necessary.
When I am feeling great and flare-free, the appreciation I have for my high energy and working digestion is overflowing. It sounds funny to be grateful for normal bowel movements, but it’s true! I don’t let the miracle of these healthy days get past me without being grateful and enjoying them.
I Am a Voice and Example to Help Others with Crohn’s Disease
You don’t need to be a blogger to make a difference, but that is where my energy funneled several years ago. Yearning for a way to connect with other people with Irritable Bowel Disease (IBD) and especially those using nutrition to boost their health, I went online!
Over the years my blog readership has grown and I receive messages from people who are grateful to see my story as it is helping them or a family member. It doesn’t seem like I am doing much; I just share my story as I go. But every time I receive a message like that I realize that seeing me go through a situation whether it be a health challenge or a successful win, gives hope and inspiration to others on a similar journey.
There is power in being a step or two ahead of someone else and showing them the way. Even if you don’t have an online presence, you can support people through in-person or online support groups or find a way to mentor someone newly diagnosed with your condition through a hospital.
I am Constantly Learning
If I had never been diagnosed with Crohn’s disease, my life and the lives of my close friends and family would be not have been enriched in some ways.
You see, after a short while of living with Crohn’s it was clear that the medications and diet advice were not working for my body. I could not maintain a baseline of health and rather kept slipping up and getting sicker and sicker until I landed myself back into the hospital. Thanks to my determined parents, we kept searching until we found more options.
That led us down a path of “alternative medicine.” This was my saving grace. A drastic diet change proved to be beneficial almost immediately. Eleven years later, I have developed not only a great interest in how food interacts in our bodies (which led to a new career for me) but I’ve gone even deeper into using non-toxic clean and personal care products and of course, sharing this information with my loved ones.
In this way, I feel I am much, much healthier than I was before my diagnosis when I ate a lot of junk!
When new research comes out about gut health, environmental factors involved in disease, genetic predispositions, etc., you can bet I am all over it! Educating myself makes me feel empowered. When I am empowered I am in control of how I deal with my health and I can make educated decisions. I never had an interested in health or disease before my diagnosis. I see this as a blessing to communicate the amazing findings being published every day!
I won’t deny that chronic illness doesn’t bring challenges. There is pain, medical appointments and expenses, and sometimes limitations to how we live our lives. But, I believe there is something good to be gleaned from any situation. With chronic illnesses being a major part of our lives, I think there is a great opportunity to use it in a positive way.
Whether you share your story with others, go into research, be an advocate, or simply be a good example of how to be grateful in tough times, we can all use our chronic illness in a positive way.
Can you think of one way your chronic illness has resulted in a positive side effect? Share with us below and let’s inspire each other!
Alexa Federico is the owner behind Girl in Healing, a blog focused on a real food approach and intentional lifestyle to thrive with Inflammatory Bowel Disease. She has an online practice as a Nutritional Therapy Practitioner to coach others to use nutrition to be well. She loves books, podcasts, walking outside, and warm sunny days.