"It doesn't matter how tough we are. Trauma always leaves a scar. It follows us home, it changes our lives. Trauma messes everybody up. But maybe that's the point. All the pain and the fear and the crap. Maybe going through all that is what keeps us moving forward. It's what pushes us. Maybe we have to get a little messed up, before we can step up." - Alex Karev
Being diagnosed with a chronic illness leaves you no choice but to be tough. You see it all over social media with hashtags that say ‘fighter’, ‘warrior’ and ‘survivor’, but what people don’t realise is that to survive you need to fight. Fighting can take many different forms and not just being associated with violence but by simply finding the strength to not give up, put one foot in front of the other and keep moving forward with your life.
It may not seem like it, but finding the courage to go to appointments, have scans, blood tests, operations – the list is endless – is a form of fighting. You are refusing to let your illness gain any advantage over you. Yes, it can be daunting going for a scan and getting the results that may say your illness has reoccurred or progressed and things can get so overwhelming that you feel defeated, but if you’re still breathing, guess what? You’re still fighting!! You must have heard the expression “they can win the battle but not the war” – and that’s what having a chronic illness is all about. You have good and bad days but having a bad day doesn’t mean you’ve lost, it’s just giving you the strength you need to win the war.
Every day you choose to keep going is developing your mental and physical toughness for future battles. There is no doubt that all this fighting can leave scars behind. These can be obvious such as from an operation or from bruises from intravenous treatments act as a reminder of what happened and for some people it can lead to fear of what could happen again. In fact, scars are a sign that your body is alive and willing to heal and repair itself, despite leaving a reminder of the event behind.
Scars also tell a story. A story of someone who lived to tell the tale. A story of someone who refused to give up. A story of a fighter, a warrior, a survivor. They are not just a physical reminder of what happened but proof that no matter what happened or how scary it was, you got through it. You fought, you became a warrior and most of all you survived. The physical presence of a scar can take some time to get used to, but eventually most accept that it is there and move on with their life. But, for others they can cause a deeper type of scar is not so easily dealt with.
The phrase “scars run deep” comes to mind here and it couldn’t be truer for some people who are affected mentally by the physical scars that they have. It can be hard to deal with the emotions as it can transport you back to a time where things weren’t OK, you weren’t sure if you were going to make it or it messed up your life in an irreparable way. This can cause you to simply hide from the problem and pretend that it never happened, but by not accepting it as part of who you are now, could do more harm than good.
Dealing with emotions is never easy as one moment you are fine and then the next something happens or someone says something that transports you back to the time of when you were your most vulnerable self. Just by looking at a scar can stir up emotions such as guilt, fear, anger or even resentment which can be directed at a decision or person that could have been involved. It’s important to understand that by confronting these emotions and accepting or forgiving yourself or someone else is a step forward that will help your emotional health get better. “Sometimes holding on does more damage than letting go”. Talk to someone, a friend, doctor or even your pet. Sometimes just letting it out in the form of words not only helps vocalise it, but it makes it real.
It may help to look at it this way. All these events, pain and emotions that you go through are all part of life and that they are giving you the tools you need to move forward and develop as a person. Looking at the past at what could have been or if you could have done something differently is all well and good if you are going to learn something from it, but if you’re living in the past you run into the trap of blaming yourself or others, holding onto negativity and holing yourself back. By living in the past, you are playing the victim, feeling sorry for yourself which does not help your own mental health or self-esteem. By wallowing in self-pity, you are being blind to your own awesomeness. Yes, that’s right. You, reading this. YOU ARE AWESOME, AND YOU BETTER BELIEVE IT!!
You can’t change what’s happened and neither can anyone else so instead of dwelling on things, learn something from it and use those experiences to push forward because whether you realise it or not you are now better prepared for what life has to throw at you next. Just think about it for a second. Yes, you may have an illness that can be very challenging and makes living day to day life difficult, but what’s the difference between you and someone who is perfectly healthy? The answer is, you’re able to live life and fight your illness at the same time and to me that’s just awesome!! That’s superhuman strength right there!!
I get it, believe me. I have had some low points in my life because of my Crohn’s disease, but the fact is that you can be the toughest person in the world, but it doesn’t mean you are immune to the physical and emotional scars which life gives you. The main thing is to accept it, take the positives from it, leave the negativity behind and move on with your life knowing that not only are you strong enough to have dealt with it but you are also better prepared for life.
Don’t give up, keep fighting! You are a fighter, a warrior and a survivor!!