An Open Letter to a Friend Struggling With a Diagnosis
I know everything is confusing right now. There's arguably nothing more confusing than being young and healthy only to have things change on a dime, and you're left scrambling to acclimate to a brand new reality.
The reality of developing a new and chronic illness is heavy. It will weigh on you as you think about how things will be different. Some of those changes will be small, and others will be more jarring. You will become great at adapting to change.
This new reality will sometimes be scary and uncertain. Your feelings at those times are always valid. Whether you feel angry, or sad, or lonely in your experience –– allow yourself to feel whatever comes your way. Know that being diagnosed with a serious health problem is a significant type of trauma, and it's okay to treat it as such.
You might feel like no one understands –– often, that's true. Try as they might, the people around you will never truly know what it's like to experience your exact set of symptoms or to feel the way you do. Surround yourself with the ones who try to understand anyway. Seek support from others with similar conditions. Know that while you will often feel alone, you don't always have to. A shared illness has formed some wonderful bonds in my life that I never could've expected.
You might be looking for some good news. I'm not going to sit here and tell you that being young and sick is a good thing –– it's hard, and it's something I wouldn't wish on my worst enemy. But when I dig around for silver linings, I find them. This situation will make you strong (stronger than you already are, which to me, seems impossible, as you're one of the toughest people I know.) Being sick will give you a level of empathy for others that's so intense, it feels like a superpower.
This sickness will put you lightyears ahead of your peers when it comes to self-care and responsibility. You will learn much earlier to listen to your body and to treat it well (and when to still, in spite of your better judgement, order bottomless mimosas anyway.) Your illness will make you more acutely grateful for every good day you get.
So while I know you're embarking on a terrifying unknown, I also know that you will get through it (you're insanely strong, remember?). You will have good days and bad days and I will be there for the peaks and the valleys and the days you really just need to yell about something. Let yourself feel, let yourself reach out for help, and let yourself learn and grow.