Dear “Me before chronic illness”,
I wanted to write this letter to tell you, you are going to be okay. Right now, you are so vibrant, so full of energy and you are so healthy. You have an incredible gift, but you don’t even know you have it and you’ll never know how lucky you are until it’s gone. Yes, your health is the most treasured gift you possess, and soon you will lose it.
You’re going to fall ill, and you aren’t going to get better, but you will be okay. You’re going to be scared and you’re going to be confused, but I promise you one day you’ll find your smile again. I want you to know that I do miss you. I would give anything to be able to protect you from what is coming, but life doesn’t work that way and it’s not supposed to.
I want to say thank you for always saying yes to opportunities, for never waiting until ‘next time’ or ‘next year’. Thanks to your attitude towards life I have so many wonderful memories I will treasure for a life time. You will need those memories to keep you going on the dark days, and I must tell you there will be some very dark days. Please know you are strong enough to survive them, you have more strength than you’d ever be able to imagine while you’re still healthy.
Don’t be scared when it feels like your whole world is collapsing in on you, it won’t last forever, you will rebuild. Don’t be afraid to let your heart break in those moments when it’s all falling apart. You need to feel it, it’s part of the process. Don’t try to hold back your tears too often and don’t push away people you love. The ones who matter aren’t going anywhere, believe me.
There are going to be days when you’re so broken and hopeless you’ll cry until your chest aches and your head pounds. But you will pick up the pieces and those gut-wrenching tears will happen less and less.
You will feel like a useless wife, and question why your husband is staying with you. Don’t push him out, he’s in it for the long haul and he isn’t going anywhere. When he said, “in sickness and in health”, he meant it and he will remind you of this often. He’s not going to let you fall, it won’t always be easy, but you’ll walk the journey together and he will mend your broken heart. Chronic illness will change you both, but your love for each other will only grow and you’ll still explore the world together.
Don’t be angry when friends don’t understand, please don’t waste precious energy crying over the ones who walk away. The ones who matter will always have your back and no matter the distance will help you find yourself again. They’ll accept the parts of you that change and will love you even harder. They’ll keep you laughing, dry your tears and cheer you on every step of the way.
Don’t hide things from your family to protect them. They aren’t stupid, they know better than anyone what you’re going through and they don’t need you to protect them. They won’t let you forget how strong you are, they’ll carry you on those days you have no fight left and they’ll never let you give up on your dreams.
You’ve always been ambitious and right now you think your career is everything. Let me tell you, you are wrong. You’re going to learn this in a very hard way but trust me it will be worth it. You’re going to see some of the worst sides to people, and you’re going to wonder why it had to happen to you. Let me remind you that you are tough and no matter what happens, the right thing is always the right thing to do. There are going to be moments, days and weeks that utterly break you and you’re going to question if it’s worth it. Do not give up. You’re going to make a difference and you’re going to prove them wrong.
Your career choice is going to change dramatically, and it’s going to be for the better. You’re going to study again and you’re finally going to write your story.
Soon illness will hit, and you will think your life is over. Your life as you know it will be different, but it is far from over. When you hit rock-bottom hold on tightly to hope, better days are coming and the world still needs you in it. You’re going to feel useless, without purpose and like you don’t matter anymore. You are wrong, you will always have a purpose and you will always matter. Be brave until you see the light again, I promise it is there at the end of the tunnel.
You’re going to grieve for the health you will lose, and I won’t lie, this process will last a long time. I’m not sure it will ever truly be over. However, it will get easier and you will still be able to do so much. You’ll still travel, explore, learn and meet new people. You’ll still laugh, dance around the kitchen with Dave and act like a total weirdo.
The world won’t stop turning just because you get ill, you’re allowed to take your time and have days where you hide from the world but then you must get back out there and be who you were meant to be. You’ll finally learn the art of patience, your compassion for people will grow even more and your desire to make a difference will not waiver.
So much is about to change for you but you’ve got this girl. You are going to be okay, trust me. You are stronger than you know.
Love “chronically ill me”.