Wednesday, May 19, 2021

The Evolution of Myself with Chronic Illness

finding myself

When I look back on my life, I am drastically different now than how I was as a child and even how I was when I started Life's a Polyp in 2012. My views about myself - physical and emotional have greatly evolved over time to culminate in a wonderful sense of self-acceptance. This was not achieved by myself though. It was a painstaking process lasting a couple of decades with immense support of others - including yourself. 

As a child, I was painfully shy. I didn't talk to strangers and barely to those I did know but wasn't particularly close with. I didn't start to become social until I forced myself in 7th grade after experiencing bullying the year prior. My shyness was exacerbated by the surgeries I underwent when I was in 5th grade and by having an ostomy. I had no self-esteem and judged myself harshly for the appearance of my surgery ridden body. Truth be told, I hated myself, my body, and those I blamed for my health condition. Changing my social habits wasn't easy but I found it necessary for my emotional survival and so I pushed myself to expand past my comfort zone. 

From 7th grade onward, I acclimated to the new, more social self I created and haven't been without friends since. In high school, I was able to have my ostomy reversed. This improved my self-esteem and I was no longer ashamed of the physical appearance of my body. I still wasn't ready to share about my day to day symptoms, particularly my GI issues caused by my rare diseases - Familial Adenomatous Polyposis (FAP) and Short Bowel Syndrome

High School with My Central Line
My health became unstable after my ostomy reversal resulting in frequently missed days from school
due to illness and hospitalization. I became known around my school for being sick. I had a central line for TPN for about 6 months. My central line was prominently visible as my school allowed an altered dress code for me due to regular clothing causing pain and irritation of the skin around my central line. I even unabashedly showed off my scars. However, in spite of my social acceptance, it would still take several more years before I would have the confidence to share my medical story with others.

In 2012, I found a community page on Facebook for FAP and I interacted with others through this page. The administrator reached out to me and asked me to start a blog about living with FAP. I agreed and Life's a Polyp was born. However, I still was not ready to openly share my medical story so I created Life's a Polyp anonymously. I didn't share my identity at all until a reader from Michael's Mission contacted me about how to grow the impact of Life's a Polyp. With her prompting and encouragement, I finally revealed my identity to the world. She gave me the push I needed to no longer hide in shame of my medical experiences. Over time, I became more and more willing to become an open medical book. I became more open with friends and romantic partners not only regarding my medical past but also my current health issues and symptoms.

This push is what has helped Life's a Polyp expand from a blog to a Youtube channel, a Shop, and enter the world of social media. It has allowed me to have my medical story accepted for publishing in a book and the creation of my own children's book about FAP. 

I never would have guessed as that excruciatingly shy young girl that my life would become so public medically. That I would willingly tell others the intimate details of life with FAP and Short Bowel Syndrome. I never would have expected others to be interested in what I had to say or what I experience with these diseases. The readers of Life's a Polyp continue to provide me encouragement to continue my advocacy efforts. I'm not sure when I would have found such a deeper level of self-acceptance about my health conditions and my body if it wasn't for readers such as yourself. With the expansion of social media, I have found an online home amongst others with FAP in groups across various platforms. I never dreamt such acceptance by myself nor by others to be such a possibility. 

Our words have a profound impact on others and it can mean the difference between suffering alone and enduring together. If you're struggling with self-acceptance, don't give up hope. It doesn't typically occur over night but each day can mean progress. You are worthy of self-acceptance and love. May we all strive to help one another find self-acceptance.

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