Exchanging tweets today with a young girl and her mother that I have been in contact with because of our shared experiences with inflammatory bowel disease got me thinking about perspective.
I’ve had countless conversations with numerous friends, family members and new acquaintances about how much my life and perspective has changed since being very sick. I have said on this blog and to many people many, many times that losing your health takes everything you thought you knew about life and makes it look differently.
Especially when you’re wearing an ostomy as a 24 year old girl. Never in my 24 years of life did I think that was even possible. I didn’t even know what an ostomy was when I was first diagnosed with ulcerative colitis. This is really ignorant when I think about it now. It is not only ignorant of the health care provider who diagnosed me, but it was also ignorant of me to not always be open-minded about the possibilities or the severity of my disease.
Even when I was curled in a ball and couldn’t move in June of last year, I still didn’t consider choosing an ostomy until the choice was made for me.
Nothing puts perspective on life then when yours changes in an instant. And mine did. I had to completely alter the way I looked at myself, the way I looked at others and the way I thought others were looking at me. That is the most important lesson of this all. How we perceive others to be looking at us. It is human nature for us to judge based on appearance, first meetings, personalities, even work ethic or supposed social class. Not once did I ever think someone would be looking at me thinking, “This girl is sick, I know she has an ostomy and it’s underneath the shirt she is wearing right now, I feel so bad for her, that must be so hard.”
Yeah, it was pretty tough. But I’ve never wanted a pity party…from anyone. It took every ounce of self-confidence I had mustered over the past 24 years to even walk out of my house every day. Checking the mirror 300 times at every possible angle trying to figure out how you could see my ostomy the best. Throwing clothes across my floor with tears in my eyes and frustration in the deepest part of my heart.
Looking in the mirror at myself with my ostomy before I got into the shower every day was one of the most challenging experiences of my life, and probably will be for the rest of it. When I think back to when I had my ostomy, that is what comes to mind. Standing in front of my mirror with the shower running, thinking, “How is this real?”
But ultimately, I overcame it.
I overcame my fear and the stigmas of other peoples supposed ‘perspective,’ of me and I moved on. Instead of being in selfish mode like most 24 year olds, I had to be in survival mode. I had to change my views on the world just to live in it sanely. I had to face a lot of facts, make a lot of life changes, a lot of them were made without my approval.
There’s nothing wrong with being in selfish mode. I was in selfish mode up until 3 days before my first surgery.
Then it hit me. No more colon. 3 major surgeries. You could lose your life. Ostomy.
My life changed drastically and that’s when I realized, there are other people all over the world who have gone through this and I never want them to feel alone. I want everyone who has ever suffered to feel like they have someone they can relate to, talk with, and look to in times of struggle.
Which brings me to what my perspective is as of today. It doesn’t matter what you think your life should or could be. It is about what you make it. If you look upon your life negatively, that’s the response you’re going to get. From your friends, family, co-workers, people you meet, anyone. When someone is insecure or negative or seemingly off-put by me, I can tell.
Which is exactly why I decided to wipe the negative look off of MY face after my first, second and third surgery and turned MY perspective in the opposite direction. I thought of all of the people that have it worse than me. All of the girls in the world who have permanent ostomies, and live more fiercely than I do every-single-day. Without complaint. Without pity. Without any doubt what so ever. There are people who suffer from IBD for the rest of their lives, while I, though I have some issues, see a light at the end of the tunnel thanks to the amazing work of my surgeon and the everlasting support of my family and friends.
What does perspective mean to you and what has given you YOUR life perspective that you live with every day? Many people my age, I’ve noticed, base their perspective on life off of how much money they make or how successful they are. What they are missing that I am fortunate enough to understand is that life is not about success or basing your attitude and how you treat others off of a dollar sign or a job. It’s about living the life that you were given to the fullest.
Especially if you have your health.
Because if you are healthy enough to wake up every morning with energy and a sense of true value for life, then you are the wealthiest person in the world.
It’s so crucial for me to make others understand to never take a second of your life for granted. Whenever I am feeling sick or things aren’t looking so bright for me, I am blessed to have the struggles that I have had to look back on and say, “Thank God that happened to me. Because without that experience, I would not be the human being that I am , or am going to be, for the remainder of my life. I learned so much about what I have been through, and isn’t that what life is all about, learning?
It sure is.
“I can be changed by what happens to me. But I refuse to be reduced by it.” –Maya Angelou
“I do not fix problems. I fix my thinking. Then problems fix themselves.”
“Everything we hear is an opinion, not a fact. Everything we see is a perspective, not the truth.”
“People generally see what they look for, and hear what they listen for.”
“If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.”