Monday, April 28, 2014

Dear 16-Year-Old-Me

I'm really excited to be participating in the WEGO Health Health Activist Writer's Month Challenge.  I'm hoping that the challenge factor will motivate me to write more often (every day this month, in fact!), and that that will develop into a habit of writing regularly after the month is over.  More importantly, I'm hoping that by sharing my experiences, thoughts, and insights about living with chronic and invisible illnesses, I'll be able to bring comfort to someone struggling with the same issues.
*Note - I'll be including this introductory paragraph at the beginning of every post, so that anyone who's checking in for the first time will have that background info.  If you come back another day (and I hope you do), you can skip this part and jump straight to the day's post, below!

Today’s assignment: Dear 16-Year-Old-Me. Write a letter to yourself at age 16. What would you tell yourself? What would you make your younger self aware of?

Dear 16-Year-Old-Me,

I know this seems weird, but this is 39-year-old-you writing.  I wanted to let you know a few things about how life is going to turn out, & give you a few tips to help you out along the way.

First, the really great news – everything works out with you & Mike.  Don’t worry about mom – she eventually comes around.  Believe it or not, in my time, she loves him almost as much as we do!  Sure there are ups & downs before we get to happily ever after … but we do get there!

Next, the not-so-great news – I know you’ve had problems with headaches & stomach pain for a while … unfortunately, there’s more to come.  I wish I could tell you what to do to prevent it, but at least I can give you some advice to make sure you’re treated right.
  1. (Some) Doctors are jerks.  Believe in yourself – you know your body better than they do … if you don’t feel like a doctor is listening, go to someone else.  It took me a long time to learn this lesson … maybe you can learn it sooner.  Just remember – if they don’t listen, it’s their problem, not yours.  Don’t let them get into your head – you know better … you deserve better … you are better than that.
  2. (Some) Doctors really care.  If yours don’t, keep moving until you get the right one.  You/I may talk a lot, but that’s because we have a lot to say … there are doctors out there who will want to hear it … don’t settle until you find them.
  3. Overall, trust your gut – whether it’s a new medicine, a treatment, a procedure, a doctor … you know you better than anyone … if something doesn’t feel right, you can say no … remember, you’re in charge here.

I guess that last bit really goes beyond medical stuff… it’s pretty much how we’ve always lived, so I’m just giving you a little reminder – trust your instincts.  You know what’s right for you … go with that.

The only other real piece of advice I want to give you – what it took me too long to learn (and I’m not sure it has fully sunken in yet) is that you have to make yourself a priority.  It’s great that you always want to do everything you can to help everyone else … but you can’t do so much that it’s at your own expense.  Take time to take care of yourself, to rest, and just to breathe.  You matter too – never forget that!

See you in the mirror!

**If you like what you read, tell a friend.  In fact, tell me, too - post a comment below!  If you don't ... well ... I'm all for honesty, but ... please be gentle!