Thank you to Rachel for this guest post!
Living in your twenties is a busy time of life juggling college, work, traveling, living on your own for the first time, engagements, and so on. But how do you successfully get through your twenties when a chronic illness diagnosis is thrown into the picture?
I was only fourteen when I was diagnosed with Polyarticular Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis (JRA). Despite this diagnosis, I still manage to live life to the fullest simply by making some changes in my lifestyle. I’ve faced more than enough obstacles along the way and still do to this day, but the most difficult part of living with a chronic illness is keeping up with other people my age in their 20s. I made a decision that I didn’t want JRA to control my life, so instead I found new ways of looking at this diagnosis which allowed me to still accomplish my dreams and aspirations.
The first and one of the biggest lifestyle changes I made is accepting myself as I am. When I accepted my diagnosis, I felt limitless. I felt more free to continue working towards my goals. Without this mentality, I wouldn’t have been able to move forward. I’m not perfect at it, but I constantly do my best to look at life with a glass half-full attitude. I look at all the positive things I have been given with this diagnosis: I gained a numerous amount of friends through the arthritis foundation; it has led me to pursue a degree in nursing and I get to participate in fundraisers with the Arthritis Foundation. My absolute favorite part of being diagnosed with JRA was getting to experience being a camp counselor at a camp for other kids who are impacted by a rheumatic disease. Secondly, I give my body a rest when needed. It may take me longer to do things, but I’m constantly moving forward and that’s all that matters. Lastly, I find a way to laugh and smile every single day by surrounding myself only with those who support me and want the best for me.
JRA has shaped me into who I am today, and I couldn’t be happier where it lead me in life. I strongly believe it can do the same for others fighting a chronic illness. I turned this diagnosis into a positive experience instead of looking at all the negatives. After all, stressing about the disease itself can trigger flare ups.
To my fellow friends out there who are fighting a chronic illness – you are so much more than your illness. Don’t walk around feeling defeated or defined by your illness because it will slow you down from reaching your goals. Find a support system in your life, and focus on your abilities and the gifts that the experience of chronic illness brings rather than the challenges. Face your fears and worries so they don’t debilitate you from enjoying life. Most importantly– listen to your body, and be kind to yourself.