Autoimmune disease awareness month is coming to an end. What a month it’s been! For those of you who don’t know what an autoimmune disease is, it’s when your immune system attacks healthy cells. Your body is attacking itself. I have had Crohn’s disease, an autoimmune disease, since I was very young.
I struggled with germophobia and OCD for years. Washing my hands until they were raw and bloody. So scared that I touched something contaminated that I would cry and throw up. It was at its worst for me when I lived in the dorm at college. It was an all-female dorm and I was shocked to see how disgusting these bitches were. Throw up in the water fountain and used tampons in the showers, just to give a few examples of the constant repulsive filth. I also struggled to eat in the dining halls. Some days I could choke things down. Other days, touching something like the nasty ketchup pump would set me off and I would have to quickly throw my meal out so I could go throw up and wash my hands a million times. Luckily I only lived in the dorm for a semester.
The thing that helped me the most was getting a job at an animal hospital. We were so busy all the time, I didn’t have time to be squeamish. Wash your hands and move on. It was so difficult and I struggled day in and day out. I would take my dirty scrubs off at the door and put them directly into the washer on my way to the shower. But I also love animals. Being around sweet puppies and happy doggies made it all worth it. Eventually I was able to manage my germophobia enough that I no longer needed to wrap my hands in plastic with lotion and baby oil.
But then, my psychosis began to manifest in another way. By this point I was living alone in my own apartment. An incredibly clean and organized apartment. An apartment that my friends probably hated coming to. I was so anxious about things being messy. I was easily enraged when even the tiniest thing was out of place. That apartment was the only thing I felt I had control over in my life. I was in such a dark place with my Crohn’s. I had great friends but I didn’t want to tell them about how sick I was. I didn’t want to talk about it and I didn’t want them thinking of me differently. Which looking back is so silly. I often acted like a crazy bitch. Had they known what I was going through, they could have made more sense of my erratic behavior and maybe even helped me.
I feel like this global panic is giving everyone a taste of what it’s like to live with an autoimmune disease. Terrified that you will catch something. In disbelief when someone comes to work sick. It might only be a cold or the flu to you, but it could really be life or death for someone else. We live with this kind of fear daily. The fear of uncertainty.
Our future is never certain. That’s true for anyone, not just those with autoimmune disease. Uncertainty is always present in our lives. No matter how great things may seem to be going, there is still so much uncertainty in every situation. Unforeseen things that can pop up at any time and derail your plans.
I accepted uncertainty a long time ago. I was very sick and had no idea what my life was going to be like. But despite all the uncertainty, I found my way. I always do. That’s what keeps me going and that’s what’s helping me deal with our current situation. I’m an adaptable survivor.
I have no idea what’s to come and I’m scared. And that’s ok. I’m still going to find a reason to laugh every day. Because if we aren’t enjoying ourselves and seeing the good still in the world, at least some of the time, what are we fighting so hard to preserve?
Focusing only on the bad will cause you so much unnecessary suffering. See the beauty in the world. See how nature is quickly healing. See the amazing human beings putting their lives at risk day after day to try to save the lives of others. See the togetherness this horrible situation has created. We might be physically isolated, but that doesn’t mean we have to be alone. Be grateful this has happened at a time when we can still connect with each other no matter the distance between us. Reach out! Join support groups. Connect!
Hopefully we will see some good come out of all this. Maybe now we will learn about what we actually value. What truly matters to us. And I hope that we finally see that we really are in this together.
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