Coping | IBD
“Look for something positive in each day, even if some days you have to look a little harder.” -Brian Ford
With the holidays approaching, I can’t help but think about my life two years ago and compare where I was then to where I am today. Two years ago, I spent these months, my favorite months, confined to the four walls of my hospital room, wondering if my life would ever be the same again. ‘Tomorrow’ had never been more uncertain. I was at a place, both physically and mentally, where my illness had truly taken over, and the feeling of defeat and utter sadness absorbed every part of me. The feeling of gratitude almost seemed nonexistent to me during these very difficult times. I was so consumed with all the bad that was happening to me that I refused to see all the good that was still surrounding me.
Remembering the good is so easy to do but something that we make so hard. I’ve learned that being intentional about remembering the good is one of the few ways to make a hard situation even just a little bit better. I’ve learned that gratitude can uphold every part of your health: mental, emotional, spiritual, and even physical. Gratitude has the immense power to help you cope with even your hardest-to-understand situations. It facilitates positive feelings and enables you to channel positive emotions. It allows you to remember the blessings that life is always possessing. At least for me, showing gratitude and remembering these blessings is what kept me alive and what kept me looking towards the future, a future with answers and a future where I was finally living again.
But just like with any life-altering journey, you never start with all the amazing knowledge and growth that unfolds throughout. At the beginning of my journey, I had no idea what there was for me even to be grateful for. The sadness and heartbreak that rested on my family members’ faces told me that my body was dying, and we were quickly running out of options and time. I had lost control over the one thing that I thought I would always have control over, and I felt broken in every way possible. At this point, I realized the only thing I had left that I could control was how I let the unknowns of my illness affect my outlook on life. I could wallow and cry about how life was not fair and about how I deserved better. Or I could wake up each day and be thankful for just that– another day. This simple transition in thought proved to be the most helpful medication in my healing process.
I started making the act of gratitude a part of my everyday life. Some days I would think about five things I was still able to do, despite my disease. Some days I would text three amazing people just to tell them how thankful I was for them and their support. Some days I would sit outside in 95-degree weather while staring and smiling at the sun and was just thankful I wasn’t in a cold hospital room. But even on my hardest days, the days where all I could do was simply just hold my brother’s hand, I remained grateful because at least I was still able to do that.
Intentionally showing gratitude may feel foreign and even weird at first. People may ask what’s wrong with you or if there’s something you’re hiding from them. But trust me, the more you do it over time, the better you will feel. Your situation may not change right at that moment. Your situation may never truly change at all. But what will change is you and how you view your situation. A happy mindset is a happy person, no matter what life throws at you.
So right now, I believe we’re all going through battles that others may know nothing about. With recent events and the upcoming holidays approaching, I feel like we all have found ourselves in a place of confusion and frightened of the unknown. Some of us have been hit hard this year with heartbreaks, illnesses, and a whole lot of sadness. It is times like these where we so often forget to look at the good that still, amidst all this craziness, continues to surround us. I hope each and every one of you can find the good that life brings today and every day. Life is hard, and it gets crazy from time to time, but there is always something positive in the everyday– sometimes you might just have to look a little harder to find it.
Erika is a 23 year old senior student at Lindsey Wilson College located in Columbia, Kentucky. She is currently taking up a bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education with a minor in Communication. She is involved with a lot of different organizations on her campus and loves connecting with new people.
When she graduates, she will return to her hometown in hopes of obtaining a job at one of the local elementary schools. Erika was recently diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease in late 2018. Her condition happened fast, and in less than a year with battling the disease her colon was removed resulting in a permanent ostomy bag. Despite the hardships and struggles that Crohn’s Disease has brought upon Erika and her family, she continues to be grateful for the wonderful life she lives. Her hope with joining Girls With Guts is to empower other women that battle these diseases everyday and to let them know that they are not alone and that their diagnosis is not the end.