Confessions of a Gal with an Autoimmune Disease
Every day is a blessing. Live every day like it’s your last. Today is the best day of your life. Little maxims designed to make us appreciate the present and make the most of our day, whatever it holds.
I thought I was doing that.
I thought I appreciated my body.
I thought I was taking advantage of opportunities.
I was diagnosed with a chronic autoimmune disease during my pregnancy. Now, I understand that I only appreciated my health, and my body’s capacity, when it was convenient. When it was easy to exercise or eat healthy, I did. But there was always tomorrow. When it was raining outside, there was always tomorrow. When there was food that tasted good in the moment, but would make me feel bad later, there was always tomorrow.
It took experiencing a life-altering illness for me to appreciate what my body gives me and show my body love in return.
When the symptoms of my disease flare, I physically cannot leave the house. I don’t have the energy to prepare meals. I am not able to concentrate long enough to engage in conversation. I can become weak. Days and nights start to blur together. I once went four days without laughing.
My disease can strike at any time. The medicines that bring me into remission change. They may not work the next time. There are no guarantees that I will stay healthy, or out of the hospital.
I no longer trust that I’ll feel like it tomorrow.
If I’m honest, I took my health for granted. I mean, if you asked me what I was thankful for— my body, my health, my energy — they made the list. I thanked God (Allah, higher spirit, whomever) every night for what I had. But I didn’t really feel the need to use them.
Now I do.
My disease has taken things from me. But it has also given me the gift of genuinely loving and accepting my body.
Rather than living in fear of my disease, I am embracing everything that it can strip away.
Every day that I can move my body, I do. I don’t squander the energy that I have or the chances that I am given.
I get outside, even when it’s not easy. Even when it’s cold and raining, and it would be far more comfortable to stay inside.
I make extra time to connect with friends, even if I might have other things to do.
I eat my veggies — all of my veggies.
I run or hike when I can. I try to nourish myself by whatever means necessary.
I rest when I need to, but not at every opportunity.
And by golly, I feel it in my bones. I feel that love for my body, that appreciation for every day that I can move, and concentrate and love my family. Every day that I can show up, I do. Every day that I can laugh, I do. Because I know what it feels like to want to, and not be able to.
I need to have that bank of good days, of sunsets, of belly laughs, of dirt under my nails and sand between my toes, of super happy, to draw on the next time my illness shuts me down.
I don’t tell you this for sympathy (today is a good day, all sympathies accepted on a bad one). I say this in the hopes that, maybe, whatever stage of health that you are in, you might also learn to cherish your body. That you might eat the foods that keep you healthy and happy, rather than the ones that only feel good in the moment. That if you can walk around the block, you do. That if you are capable of enjoying flowers in the garden, or jumping, or paddling a canoe, you do. If you can meet a friend, face to face, and share a laugh, that you do.
My hope is that you can embrace what you can do right now and forgive your body for any imperfections — because, even when they’re broken, our bodies are miraculous.
Wishing you a few moments of clarity amidst the chaos,
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