|Birthday treat. Mars Bar Mud Cake! Oh. Em. Gee.|
In May I celebrated my twenty-sixth birthday. Although quite fatigued, I had a lovely day being treated to amazing food. My father took me to a bakery for lunch where I happily scoffed down a chicken pie and half of a Mars Bar Mud Cake which, let’s be real, is more the size of a jumbo cupcake than a cake.
Why did I only have half? Well because I’m now limiting refined sugar in my diet (with great success), but that’s a story for another time.
The array of cakes, slices, tarts and cookies on offer at this bakery were drool worthy. Had the glass encasing these glorious treats not been extremely cloudy I would have taken a photo. While I did find it a little difficult to make a decision, the Mars Bar Mud Cake just seemed to call my name. It was truly decadent, amazing chocolaty caramel goodness.
I spent my birthday being unusually excited about the future. It’s the first birthday since my diagnosis I haven’t completely freaked out at turning another year older and plunged into a pit of depression. I didn’t even freak out one little bit, which is weird considering that 30 is coming at me like a steam train. I am very proud of myself, and you should be too. Staying calm and content isn’t easy when dreams and years keep slipping through your fingers.
My twenties are supposed to encompass the best years of my life, and instead they have so far been filled with debilitating fatigue, unrelenting pain, pills, appointments, frustration – and trying to work out what the hell happened.
I’ve had to say “no” to so many things and I’ve missed out on some great opportunities.
My friends are out exploring the world. They are networking and expanding their friendship circles. They are thriving in their careers. They are getting married, buying houses and having babies. And I desperately want to do all that too. Yet I find myself still being a spectator, hanging out in polar fleece waiting for the day that I feel good. This is far from what I imagined my young adult years to be. I always thought that by now I’d be married (or at least be in a serious relationship) and teaching kindergarten.
Since my diagnosis in 2007, my birthday has become something I usually dread because it means I’ve lost yet another year to such absurd illnesses. I’m suddenly reminded of everything I haven’t been able to achieve and how much of life I’m missing out on.
But I’ve had enough time being sad. I’ve spent far too many birthdays grieving my losses and it’s about time that I’m thankful I get to turn another year older, because it’s a privilege that is denied to many.
I’ve slowly come to realise that there is still so much to celebrate in my life. Although it’s not your typical grown up kind of stuff, I am achieving things. And I am actually making new friends and connections; just differently and at a slower rate. Blogging has allowed me to do this and that’s something to celebrate and be thankful for.
It’s not just all loss. I have also gained so much – strength, creativity, compassion and a more positive outlook. I’ve come such a long way since my diagnosis, and even though my symptoms aren’t yet significantly improving, I have made huge progress.
I’m using chronic illness to my advantage and I’m letting it change me for the better. I’m making chocolate cake from lemons. I’m now making some pretty positive changes in my life; I’m eating healthier, I’m listening to my body, and I’m letting chronic illness teach me things. I’m coping with the crushing lows of chronic illness without a man by my side. I am more determined to dream bigger than I ever have. I’m navigating the health care system with very little help and I’m making big, important health decisions on my own.
I am now much, much less of a control freak. I no longer feel the constant need to please people and I’ve completely let go of my perfectionist ways. I am more certain now that God has ridiculously awesome, crazy things planned for me.
From that girl who was sure she couldn’t love her life with chronic pain in it I’ve somehow managed to morph into a woman who is now more creative, more passionate, more independent and more full of joy; a woman who is thriving with pain.