Does my illness define me?
This question has haunted me for a while now. I call it a “mirror question”. A question that I’m afraid to truly ask for fear of what I’ll find out about myself.
For a while, I had thought that perhaps I was my illness. Maybe it was something that I had let define me. But worst of all, I was afraid it was something about me that I liked. I would stay up at night thinking “what would I do if I didn’t have these symptoms?” and to my horror, I felt upset at the idea. So did this mean that I had let my illness define me?
My illness does not define me.
It took me a little bit of time to realize that, but first I had to be brave and finally face my “mirror question”. When I finally thought about it however, I realized that the lack of knowledge about what was affecting me was the thing that was making me upset. This is a bit tricky and a tad convoluted, but I hadn’t quite realized that if I didn’t have my symptoms, then I wouldn’t be sick. All I had considered was that I would have to start all over in trying to figure out what was wrong.
Once I realized that this was my hang up, I was able to answer my question honestly: If I didn’t have these symptoms I would do everything that I already am doing, but it would be a lot more easily done.
So what am I?
I am a Masters student in biology. I will soon be a PhD student in cellular biology (I got accepted into three programs!!!). I work full-time hours. I have many hobbies that I enjoy. I have friends who I hang out with.
So what does my illness add to this equation?
It makes everything so much harder. Those full-time hours? Being a graduate student? Those are so very hard to juggle by themselves, but with an illness? It’s a challenge. And that’s me being modest about how much of a challenge it actually presents. Often, I feel like a failure, because I can’t do it as easily as most people seem to be able to. I have limits. My illness gives me limits.
I would give anything to be able to get rid of those limits.