When I was first diagnosed with a chronic condition at age 13, I didn’t fully understand just how it would impact my life. Thinking back now, there’s so much I would love to go back and tell my teenage self. Therefore, here are 8 things I wish I’d known when I received my diagnosis.
1. People are ignorant.
I had a really hard time with people treating me disrespectfully because I was ill. I wish I’d known that others’ lack of understanding of my condition didn’t make me a burden. Remember that people’s ignorance does not dictate your worth.
2. Your condition may worsen as you age.
Yes, as much as you hope it won’t, it might get worse. Although doctors tried offering encouraging words after I was diagnosed, that only left me feeling defeated when nothing improved. So although chronic conditions rarely subside, your symptoms do become more manageable. Remember, will be able to cope because you’re stronger than you would ever believe.
3. It’s OK to say no.
Getting diagnosed as a teenager was a hard transition to deal with. After all, the early teenage years are hard enough. When you throw an invisible illness on top of that, it feels ridiculous. I just wanted to do normal things and enjoy sleepovers with my friends. Unfortunately, I pushed myself too far on so many occasions. I wish I knew back then it was OK. Remember that you know what your body needs, so it’s OK to say no sometimes.
4. You will lose friends.
So many people who I considered friends walked out on me because of the effects of my illnesses. I struggled to get up and get on with my life after people left over something I couldn’t control. Eventually I realized that these “friends” didn’t care about me at all.
5. You will find friends who understand.
Luckily, you’re better off without the fake friends. There are so many amazing people out there who either understand or simply respect you enough to listen. I’m glad I found this out during the later part of my teens, but I wish I’d known it much sooner.
6. The diagnosis process requires trial and error.
Unfortunately, there’s often no magic cure for chronic health conditions, even if it’s diagnosed and you finally know what’s actually wrong. You may cycle through doctors and second opinions because some professionals don’t believe you or don’t have answers. You’ll try so many different medications, treatments, and therapy because what works for others doesn’t always work for you. Although it’s frustrating, keep trying everything so you can eventually find what works for you. Trust me, you won’t regret it.
7. You will experience good days and bad days.
I think if I knew that everyone experiences good days and bad days, I would have learned to pace myself correctly a lot earlier. Although I still don’t pace myself quite as well as I should, I do it a lot better now compared to when I first received my diagnosis. Also, the bad days aren’t the end of the world. When you battle a chronic illness, you can’t control your body, so just make the most of each day.
8. You are a badass!
As simple as it sounds, I needed to know from the day of diagnosis that I can do it and still have a life that isn’t ruled by my illnesses. Regardless of what health conditions plague you, remember that you are a badass and you can do this!
Yes, I still work through my struggles on a daily basis and I’m still learning how to handle my health conditions. Battling my way through all of the issues I experienced shortly after my diagnosis made me the strong person I am today.
Previously published on The Mighty.