Photo by Amy Liu

Life lessons my body taught me

“You never know what someone is going through” is a phrase that I’ve heard throughout my life, usually at the center of some moral lesson. Never did I imagine that I would be that “someone” — unfortunately, my intestines and brain had other plans. 

In the summer of 2021, I was diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease, an autoinflammatory digestive disorder that brought months of stomach pain, nausea and fatigue to my junior year. I lost a fifth of my body weight, half of my hair and all of my energy. Despite all the loss, I also gained; my perspective shifted as I reevaluated what was important in my life. 

To cope with my health, I prioritized happiness. I cultivated my passions, such as writing; I spent time with friends; and I leaned on my family. I prided myself in my perseverance and positivity through it all, which was monumental after a multiyear struggle with social anxiety and self-esteem. 

Although it was difficult to live confidently as I woke up in a seemingly new body everyday, I found a sense of self within my morals and personality. I struggled to find my identity in the early part of high school, but when Crohn’s took away the energy I poured into my facade, I rediscovered who I was at my core. Despite the times I’ve found myself confined to a hospital bed, Crohn’s has also set me free — I live unapologetically as myself with confidence in my values. 

When I could no longer strain myself with academics, I  learned to disregard the nagging feeling that I was being judged for my incomplete homework, extreme tardiness or tiredness in class. This brings me back to that crucial quote — “You never know what someone is going through.” Although I doubt my peers cared whether I turned in my homework, my own awareness of my performance increased my empathy. When it came to others, I began acknowledging that there could be some missing piece to the puzzle that could change my perspective. 

With the confidence I gained from Crohn’s, I confronted the possibility that I could have ADHD — my missing puzzle piece. Since my diagnosis, trying medications has once again made me tired, anxious and plagued by tummy aches. But this time around, I already know to be kind to myself. Even with being self-conscious of my incessant hyperactive talking, I have become funnier and more open as I learn about a long-hidden part of myself. 

If you take anything away from this, it should be to be kind to yourself and others. If you, too, are struggling to find your identity or experiencing a personal hardship, to end on a cliché, trust that it does get better. 

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