I have chosen to tell my story that talks about the emotional side of having a a chronic disease and the feelings of your future being taken away.
Also, the title of this story is an excerpt from the poem “Invictus” by William Earnest Henley
We didn’t know I had a chronic disease. I suppose that is the root cause of the hardest trial that came from having ulcerative colitis. Looking back in my life I can see symptoms of this disease that manifested themselves throughout the years, but we never understood it was anything big.
As a child I was sick often. It seemed I constantly had a cold, a sore throat, or other things. It wasn’t natural for a child to be sick this often and my parents began to believe that I was just faking. So when the disease really took hold of my body, my life, and the symptoms flared up to the extreme… my parents didn’t understand anything was wrong and wanted me to continue my life as normal.
That was the hardest thing about everything. I felt that I could only have their love if I was the energetic, bubbly girl I have been all my life. They could only love me if I was going to school and having a job. I wanted their love so badly and made myself sicker because I tried to those things. But how could I when I was physically incapable? I couldn’t. I had to quit school. I had to quit working.
I fell into a depression and hated my body. I hated that my body was keeping my parents from loving me. I hated that I couldn’t run anymore. I hated I couldn’t play. I hated that I couldn’t eat. I hated I couldn’t sit up without overwhelming dizziness. Why was my body doing this to me??!! I have tried all my life to take care of it; to feed it with healthy foods and build it with regular exercise. So why on earth was this happening to me?! It isn’t fair!
I felt so alone. Most of the time no one was with me at my doctor appointments. I had to go through test after test, procedure after procedure, and be referred to specialist after specialist. I was alone when I found out that I had ulcerative colitis. There was no one to comfort me or to tell me that despite this set-back, I am loved and I can have a beautiful life. No one was there to simply give me a hug.
As I write this, tears come to my eyes and there is a heaviness in my heart as I remember the feelings of abandonment and hurt. However, that is not the end of my story. In fact, I don’t know what the end is, yet, but I do know one thing: I get to choose.
William Earnest Henley penned a marvelous poem that helps me. My favorite part of “Invictus” is the ending which states, “I am the master of my fate; I am the captain of my soul.” I have learned that to be true. I choose who I am. I am not ulcerative colitis. I am not a poor girl who lets circumstances get the best of her. I am Anna. I am happy. I am joy. I am strength. I am courage.
Now I have learned that my parents loved me all along, and just wanted me to be the best I can be. By expressing their disdain at my actions of suddenly always being in bed and depressed and “acting” in pain they hoped to motivate me to be the person they felt I should be. They now understand I was doing my best and trying my hardest under the circumstances. However, good came from this experience. It taught me that I have to be strong and do what is best, even when others you care about don’t understand.
I have also learned to be grateful for the body I have. Yes, there are things about it that don’t work correctly, but there are things about it that do work! I am so grateful for my eyes to see, my ears to hear, my fingers to touch.
With all these experiences I had some choices to make. Choices that I have actually made many times and likely will again in the future. I could choose to let my past dictate my future. I could choose to stay hurt. I could let ulcerative colitis rule my life. I could choose to continue to hate my body.
No! I choose to let the past go and make the best of my future. I choose to forgive. I choose to be happy. I choose to take what I have learned and use it to build my life and strengthen my future.
Yes, there are still days when I wallow in self-pity. Yes, there are still days when I want to quit. But at these times I pick myself back up and try again.
I am the master of my fate; I am the captain of my soul. I am Anna.