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Gaining Strength, Perspective & Joy

It seems like most of us have "a thing", a reoccurring struggle or a challenge we deal with throughout our lives.  It may be related to money, health, family, or something else...  I don't think I've met a person yet who doesn't have at least one "thing" they are challenged with.
My "thing" is that I have a chronic disease called Ulcerative Colitis.  It's hard to believe I'm sharing this because I used to be really embarrassed about it.  But the longer I have it and the older I get, it's just become a part of who I am.  I was diagnosed with it when I was 21 and spent most of my 20s suffering silently from it and not listening to my Doctor because I was determined that I was not going to take medication for the rest of my life.  I tried every diet out there,  had extensive food allergy testing done, acupuncture, even cranial adjustments - you name it, I tried it!    When it was bad, it took over my life.  And I spent a ridiculous amount of effort trying to hide the suffering because I was so embarrassed.
Luckily, in my early 30's I found a Doctor I trusted and I was introduced to a modern drug that helped me start to finally get it under control.  It's not a cure but I was finally spending most of my time in remission and my yearly colonoscopies were starting to come back clear.  I was in great health and ready to start a family.
Recently one of my biggest fears came true.  I had a full-blown flare up while pregnant.  I had been fortunate to get through my other pregnancies without any issues.  This is particularly scary when you are pregnant because most women are not able to get it under control until they are no longer pregnant and it poses a lot of risks to the baby.  Now here I am a stay-at-home-mom of a 2 and 3-year-old, pregnant and trying to deal with the debilitating symptoms that come with this.  I literally cried my way through my Doctor visit as I was faced with the reality that I could very well end up on bed rest for the remainder of my pregnancy.   And all I could think about was some of the stupid things I'd complained about recently.  And how in this moment I would give anything to just feel better and have a normal day with my kids.  Every other recent challenge, even the morning sickness, seemed so small and ridiculous.
The good news is that by the second day dealing with this I was done feeling sorry for myself.  I decided that crying was not going to fix this and the only chance I had at getting out of it was to put all my focus on getting better.  And I did!  I've never had such a terrible flare up come on so fast and go away after just ONE WEEK!  That's unheard of but I am so grateful that between the support of my Doctors and my husband, as well as, my change in attitude, I recovered very quickly.  My husband deserves a medal.  He spent all of his time outside of work doing everything from grocery shopping to cooking to taking care of our boys just to let me rest as much as possible.  And somehow, I became one of the few lucky women to overcome this while pregnant.  I'm crying as I write this because I seriously feel so so lucky.
I'm not sharing this because I want you to feel bad for me.  I don't feel bad for me so you certainly shouldn't.  It may be a pain in my ass (literally) from time to time throughout my life but I wouldn't be who I am without this ongoing challenge.  I truly believe that more good than bad has come out of me having this.  And as I mentioned, I'm certain we all have "a thing."  I spent a lot of time last week in deep thought as I hung out on my couch and these are some of my observations:

We never know what people around us are dealing with.  This was a reminder to me that there are people all around us quietly suffering from things we are not even aware of.  And we should never assume that if someone is optimistic and happy it's because everything is perfect in their life.  I know that I'm the type of person that generally shares positive things in my life and not a lot of negative so it's easy to assume I don't have my own set of challenges or somehow just have it easy.

Whatever our thing is, it could be worse.   I feel so incredibly lucky that this is "my thing" and that I don't have something much worse or life threatening.  We all have crap to deal with.  But it could always be worse.  Think of all of the people out there currently fighting for their life, living without their basic needs met, dealing with a loss or something worse.

Sometimes we are in too much of a hurry to reach this finish line every day.  I walked out of the Doctor office wondering how I was going to take care of my boys while spending most of my time on the couch.  In fact, my Doctor joked with me that maybe I need to get a job while I'm trying to get over this as my boys were running around her office in circles.  I'm usually very active during the day and barely sit down.  We are always busy.  How on earth was I going to rest?  Well I was SO pleasantly surprised by my sons' behavior.  They were both relatively calm and really well-behaved all week, better than usual actually.  They didn't complain about the long period of time we stayed at home without really doing anything.    And it became clear to me at one point that they were actually enjoying the fact that I was sitting still on the couch just hanging out with them rather than being my usual hyper self and trying to get "stuff" done non-stop.  While it's not realistic for me to always sit on the couch, I realize that maybe I do need to take more time to just stop and chill out with them.  Calm Mommy = calm little ones!

We have to keep things in perspective.  Most importantly this incident reminded me to stop complaining about stupid stuff!  I had some truly bad days last week and was almost laughing to myself thinking about recent days I had labeled as "bad".  I just kept thinking I would give anything to just feel good.  Give me a day of both my kids whining all day over feeling like this any day.  So thank you to this incident I'm currently feeling incredibly grateful for simple things like feeling normal, being able to leave the house and take care of my family.  And, of course, I am so thankful to be moving into my second trimester with a healthy little one.
I'm on cloud 9 today as my storm has passed but I realize a lot of you may be right in the middle of a storm.  All I can suggest is to do your best to stay positive.  There is a light at the end of the tunnel.  These truly are the things that make us stronger, help us to keep perspective and enjoy all of the good we have.  I wish you all a year full of strength, perspective and joy!  Happy New Year!  Make it a good one!  I know I will.

"When something bad happens you have three choices.  You can either let it define you, you can let is destroy you, or you can let it strengthen you." ~Unknown

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