You Do You, Boo.

I’ve never been afraid to be my own person. I guess God made me that way on purpose, because I sure have needed a “be yourself” mentality this year.

See, there’s a lot of judgment that goes into having a chronic illness:

  • “It sure has taken you a long time to just get over it, hasn’t it?”
  • “If you’d just quit thinking about it, you’d feel better.”
  • “Do you really need to be on this diet? Can’t you just take a pill for it or something?”
  • “I can’t believe you’re leaving your job after only being here a year and half. What a short-timer!”
  • “You really shouldn’t be taking pharmaceuticals. Try this product instead! It helped me with some gas and bloating, so I bet it’ll help you!”

All of these, plus several dozen more, are various responses I’ve heard in relation to my decisions for well-being over the last few months.

You may have noticed that I haven’t written as much recently. That’s because I’ve been completely overhauling my life in an attempt to actually live it again.

The biggest decision I have made was to change jobs. Boy, did I catch some serious grief for this one!

To give you a bit of background, I spent six years of my post-college life working in education as an English teacher; at least until a year and a half ago, when I jumped ship and got a job as a corporate trainer instead. (Public education just wasn’t where I wanted to spend 28-plus years of my life.) As a corporate trainer, I loved the work I was hired to do. I loved so many of the people I worked with, and I especially loved that my husband was a few feet down the hall so we could have lunch together and carpool every day.

But I was only a few weeks back into my work routine post-short-term-disability when I realized that something had to change. Aside from being weak, exhausted, and frustrated every waking moment of my life, I was being consumed by the endless cycle of work-cook-sleep-repeat. That’s literally what I did each day. I woke up, went to work for eight hours (plus two hours of round-trip commute time), cooked a low-FODMAP meal for dinner (and breakfast and lunch the next day), and then went to sleep. Any spare time I had was devoted to figuring out what low-FODMAP meals even looked like. I barely saw my husband outside of lunch and the commute, and I was certainly too drained for everything else. My Saturdays were spent sleeping all day, and my Sundays were for church in the morning, meal prep in the afternoon, and several hours of dread for starting the process over the next week. On the rare occasions when I tried exercising to regain the muscle that was eaten away during my initial illness (I lost a grand total of 42 pounds throughout this whole ordeal, and most of it was solid muscle), I felt worse than I did before attempting the exercise. To make matters even worse, my medicines still weren’t fully gaining control of my shaky digestive system, I was an hour away from my doctor when I needed to go on a weekday, and I was in a job that was adding a lot of unnecessary personal stress (and stress just happens to be a significant trigger!).

I knew things needed to change, but at this point I had no idea how. I didn’t think my world was ever going to recalibrate, and I was honestly feeling hopeless.

All along the way, I’d been asking God to just help me find a way to deal with my struggles one way or another. I told Him continuously that I didn’t know what I needed and I didn’t know how things would ever get better, but I asked Him to show me the way.

And, one evening in June, He did. He provided the most unbelievable opportunity that I just stumbled upon by “accident” (or divine intervention, I firmly believe). Get this…I found a job working less than three miles from my house in a career that is an absolutely perfect blend of my experience and education. And you want to talk about a sign from God? The job was already closed when I submitted my application (I didn’t know that, of course), but my application went through anyway (from what I understand, my application actually triggered the system to close the posting!). I got a call the very next day for an interview, and within a few more days I had an excellent offer. I now get to exercise every morning before work, which means my muscle strength is finally coming back, and my doctor is close enough that I can go in for my monthly check-ups during lunch. I get home at the same time I was, but without the long commute and with an extra hour in the evening to cook and sleep. And, bonus! I’m now on a different set of medicine that has me feeling pretty close to normal again. I feel better than I have in months, literally. People are visibly starting to notice. I laugh more. I’m smiling with my eyes again. The big, dark circles under my eyes are gradually fading. I dance around the house when I’m cooking or cleaning. I play with my dog. I don’t just flop on the couch in silent exhaustion each night – I actually spend time with my husband.

And despite all of that, you know what I hear most frequently regarding my new job?

“Man, there you go again…switching jobs! Ha, what a job hopper.” (Or some variation of the like.)

Ladies and gentlemen, let me tell you something. Chronic illness changes you. Deeply. Your world gets rocked…not just at diagnosis, either. It’s more like a hurricane that just keeps coming at you, wave after wave. And if your chronic illness becomes life-threatening, your world gets rocked even more. Suddenly, you’re looking at your 30-year-old spouse, thinking, “Are you going to be a widower soon?” You’re seeing the happy things around you feeling like you’ve been robbed. You’re questioning why this is happening to you. You’re wanting to enjoy every second you can, and you’re looking for any possible way to make that happen. Your heart is so filled with love and pain and frustration and despair. You just want a little bit of time to not worry about what’s going to happen, and you want to enjoy life the way you used to, even just for a moment.

And if you’re like me, you take the chance you’re given to live a better life while you still have it…despite what anyone else says or thinks. You own that decision. You rock these moments, you rock these choices.

You do you, boo. Because you’re still here, and you still can. Just like me.

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