The devil whispered in my ear,
“You’re not strong enough to withstand the storm.”
Today I whispered in the devil’s ear,
“I am the storm.”
It is 2:34 PM on a Tuesday, and I am currently curled up on my couch at home with my pups at my feet and a warm wash cloth at my head. I woke up this morning at exactly. 6:06 AM ready for work, ready to take on the day. I promptly walked down the stairs, ready to jump in the shower, get ready, and make my 45 minute trek to work, but Oh, no. Not so fast. I ran into the bathroom and proceeded to stay there for an hour. As I continued getting sick (and becoming dehydrated), a migraine started building. Not so fast. Slow down. Your plans? Don’t care. Work? Don’t care. Positive attitude? Don’t care. I knew I wouldn’t be able to make it into work. I called for a sub, and promptly found a comfortable-enough spot on my couch, right near the bathroom. I knew I’d be making constant runs there despite my grand plans for today.
I know bathroom talk isn’t pretty, but it is my new reality. The week before school started, I was feeling immense pain in my stomach and constantly running to the bathroom. For whatever reason, we like to avoid bathroom conversations, but…LIFE. Sorry about it. I went to the doctor after pain became unmanageable. After a series of tests and medicines, my doctors determined I likely have some type of Inflammatory Bowel Disease–think Chrons or UC. This is NOT Irritable Bowel Syndrome, like many people assume. Unfortunately, IBD is a much more serious disease. The life-long impacts on the body are not pretty, and of course any type of “bathroom” disease people are completely disgusted by.
IBD is not fun. There are days where I literally run to the bathroom. Trips where Andrew HAS to pull over at the next exit because I simply can’t make it anymore. There are days like today, where I feel ready to go and give my best, but I am quickly derailed and spend the next 7 or 8 hours either in the bathroom, on the couch near the bathroom, and/or pumping myself full of medicine to feel at least half human.
It is now 2:52 PM, and I am just now feeling some sort of normal after a long day of bathroom trips and feeling pretty disgusted with myself. I can’t work because of a “bathroom” disease. Gross, right? Stupid, right? Why can’t I just suck it up, go to work, and power through it? I have those thoughts often, even with knowing that some days, powering through it means laying on the couch and praying to feel better.
So (and we are taking a HUGE left turn here) when I won my district’s ExCEL award (Excellence in Classroom and Educational Leadership–definitely had to look that one up) at the beginning of this month, it wasn’t as much about pride (although, admittedly, it does feel good to be recognized for hard work!) as it was feeling worthwhile again. Feeling that despite this ugly illness, I am making a difference. Because there are days when I don’t feel worthwhile. Days I am angry and frustrated and want to quit because IBD is rearing its ugly head. Despite days where I unexpectedly have to miss work and throw together lesson plans at the last minute and lay on the couch useless for hours, I am making a difference in the lives of my kids the majority of the time. Even on my worst days, there are kids who will e-mail me from school telling me they hope I feel better (that one sure felt good today!). Kids who come back at the end of the day just for 7th period because, “There is NO way I was missing your class, Ms. Bal!
So (and I always tell my kids not to start a sentence with a conjunction, and here I am starting two paragraphs in a row with one), on days when I feel like my illness is taking over, I need to remind myself of a few things. My illness does not define me. I shouldn’t allow my sickness to make me feel lesser or to make me feel weak. It is okay if I need to take a day off. I’ve been seeing a bunch lately about the importance of recharging one’s own batteries. (God always leads you where you need to be, eh?) You can’t help others if you aren’t taking care of yourself first, and there is NOTHING wrong with that. I am making a positive impact. Even if there are days when I can’t be at school, I am still making positive strides with my kids. I am seeing growth and change. I am giving my absolute best every day I can, and that is all I can do.
So (third times a charm), when my illness is rearing its ugly head up again and making me feel sorry for myself, I need to remind myself…
I AM the storm, and I will persevere.
Not your average “thank you speech”, but it’s my reality. I can only hope those out there struggling with some type of illness can relate and feel a tiny bit better knowing that WE are the storm, and together, we can (and will) achieve all we intend to.