Chronic Living in My 20s vs My 30s

I am just two years into my third decade of life, but I can already look back and see what a big difference there has been in the way I perceive and deal with living with a chronic condition. These changes are a result of my experiences, failures, successes and my slow maturation.

My Twenties

Being a young adult is an interesting phase of life. I was thrilled to be on my own and ready to paint the blank canvas of my life, but at the same time I was petrified and didn’t even know where to find the paint. Most 20-somethings are reported to have a mindset of being immortal. That is why they take risks, drive fast and make a variety of bad decisions.

It is hard to have those “normal” experiences when you go into your 20s knowing that you have a disease that has no cure. My mortality was always in my face. I knew that I had a higher risk of heart disease, diabetes and a myriad of other terrible co-conditions.  This was coupled with the fact that I didn’t look like any of the other 20-year-olds I knew. I was overweight and covered in scales.

Blame it on the disease

But you know what the funny thing is? My 20s is when I completely ignored my disease. I shrugged it off and decided it was too hard to deal with, so I wasn’t going to deal with it at all. I wasn’t motivated to try to improve my health, because I was mad that I couldn’t be like my friends. It was easier to be a victim than to be an advocate for myself.

So that is how I spent a decade. If I didn’t get a job, or I wasn’t successful in school, I had an easy excuse. I blamed all my downfalls on this disease that I hated so much. It was my crutch. I can’t say I accomplished much in those ten years. The only light spots in that time was the birth of my boys.

My Thirties

I’ve barely scratched the surface of this decade, but I have already accomplished more growth than the previous 3,650 days combined. Facing the big 3-0 was a wake up call for me; something snapped in my brain. I got proactive about my health. It is an odd feeling to wake up and see gray hairs and wrinkles that seemed to have appeared overnight.

I no longer see myself as a victim. As I age, I realize that many others have health conditions just like me. Social media brings to light hidden struggles of old classmates and new friends. I came to the realization that everyone has struggles in life in one way or another. I don’t compare my situation to others, and in fact, I find myself having more empathy for what they are going through. When I was having a pity party, I wasn’t able to see that. I felt that I had it the worst and categorized everyone else into boxes that made me feel better about myself.

New found perspective

With this new-found perspective, I not only have been treating my body better, but I have put myself and my struggles out there to help others that are feeling the same way I did in my 20s. To a certain extent, I think everyone with a chronic condition must go through that period of time, a grieving of sorts at the loss of perfect health. I don’t feel shame for the years I spent in mourning, but I do wish I wouldn’t have spent so much time in that space, and I hope others can reclaim some of that time that I missed. I can’t wait to see what the rest of my 30s look like and am even more hopeful for the decades that will come after.

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