I have not posted anything for a while. I would like to apologize for my absence. I could tell you that I have been busy, and that I have not had a constant flow of inspiration. Or I could tell you all about how awesome my life is going right now. While everything mentioned above is true, I would be leaving out a key part of my life. I would be leaving out the real reason I have not posted in awhile, something I have been meaning to share. For lack of a better term, I suffer from a chronic illness. My list of diagnosis run long, and is something I would prefer to keep private. However, I have finally mustered up the courage to open up publicly about my long battle with chronic digestive pain.
If you know me on any sort of personal level, and especially if you have shared a meal with me, you will know that I have a long list of food allergies (or intolerances as the doctors now like to call them). I have to avoid ingesting ingredients such as gluten, dairy, and nuts to name just a few. My mother and I share food allergies, so back at home I had a pantry and fridge fully stocked with allergy friendly treats. Now that I am at away at school, I am constantly surrounded by the best non-allergy friendly comfort foods a college kid could ever dream of. Resisting the temptation of indulging in delicious non-gluten & dairy free foods has become increasingly difficult, especially when you are trying to stick to a college budget (the upcharge of allergy friendly foods is ridiculous).
Recently my pain level has been so high that everything I enjoy doing (like blogging!!), has been put to a stop. It is not that I could not write, it is more so that by the end of my day when I normally sit down to write, I lay in my bed and stare at the wall until I can block out the pain and eventually fall asleep. Managing my school work and extracurriculars while frequently traveling over an hour and a half to one of my five specialists at University of North Carolina: Chapel Hill hospital is exhausting. When I add managing my health issues to the list, I literally have no energy left.
Living with a chronic illness that is not visible makes me feel a pressure to appear normal. Since I do not have anything visibly wrong with me (aside from my distended stomach which is easily hidden by a loose fitting shirt), I conceal the pain that I am feeling in order to avoid the whole, “Well you look perfectly healthy!” or “You don’t look sick at all!” comments. At times, I feel as if we live in a society that only believes someone is sick when they look it.
I find that I am self conscious about the food restrictions of my illness. My food restrictions incite a lot questions from my peers. Some people seem understanding and some mock me. I have had friends chant things like: “Have water. It’s gluten free, isn’t it?” Then the teasing begins; “It’s all in your head,” “You just want to stay thin.” Though most of these comments are said in a friendly, joking manner, after living with five years of those obnoxious comments they just get old. I keep my chronic illness to myself as much as I can and I simplify the explanations of my food limitations short and sweet. I never want my health to be the topic of conversation unless I am in the doctor’s office. I have noticed first hand that there is not much empathy for those who suffer from chronic pain, as we appear normal on the outside.
The pressure I feel to appear normal has most certainly added to my stress level. I have no legitimate excuse as for not wanting to go out. I prefer to avoid going to dinner with new acquaintances unless I have been to the restaurant before. I always have to “pre-eat” before attending meetings or functions involving food or over a meal time. Unless I want to go in detail about my health issues, participating in anything that involves food is a challenge I prefer not to face. Using “I don’t feel well” usually does not result in an excuse well accepted as my outer appearance is perfectly normal.
Though living with chronic pain and being on a very restricted diet are not my ideal situation, I am thankful. I am thankful that I am able to go away to college,. This is a luxury a very dear friend of mine was no longer able to have while fighting her chronic illness. I am also thankful that my illness is not life threatening and that I am on my way to getting it under control.
To my readers: I appreciate your patience and loyalty as I try my best to stay on top of everything!
Be sassy, optimistic, and a little bit darling!