I am twenty years old. I go to college and have classes five days a week. I ride horses twice a week. I enjoy going to concerts, even if I have to wait almost an hour to get in. I volunteer a lot, mostly for the therapeutic riding program at my college. From the outside, I seem like I’m healthy and strong.
Inside is a different story. My intestines scream when I eat “bad" food. Fatigue invades my body, making every single part of me exhausted. My weight fluctuates depending on if I’m flaring or not. My joints ache if I over exert them, which some days doesn’t take much.
Not to mention the mental battle I fight every day. I constantly worry about food-when and what I’m going to eat. Am I eating enough? Did I remember to take my vitamins? How about my meds? Social anxiety tries to convince me everyone around me is judging and talking about me.
So, no, I am not your average young person. I have Crohn’s Disease, a chronic autoimmune disease. It’s also classified as an Inflammatory Bowel Disease (not the same as IBS). That along with Social Anxiety Disorder try to take over my life. They consume my time, money, and thoughts. It’s a daily battle against my own body and mind.
My general story is not unique. There are millions of people living with at least one chronic illness. Most of these are invisible, meaning they don’t have many exterior symptoms. So many young people, like me, have them.
I know it can be hard to believe that young adults can be so sick. We are supposed to be the “healthy ones”. If you’re in your teens, twenty’s, thirty’s, and even forties everyone assumes your body is in working shape. You don’t get any serious illnesses until you are over fifty.
Nope. There are so many young adults who become stricken with chronic illnesses at what is supposed to be the prime of their lives. They fall ill and have to put college and jobs aside. It delays their lives until they start getting remission, which could take years depending on the severity of their illness.
I wanted to note, it is NOT our fault we are sick. I was eleven years old when I was diagnosed. I didn’t even know Chron’s Disease existed. My mom always made my family fairly healthy meals and we rarely had sugary, crappy foods. There was no way I could have controlled getting an autoimmune disease.
Chronic illnesses come out of nowhere. Suddenly, you could wake up sick or it could come on gradually. You just never know. They have good timing. I was diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease right before I started middle school. For most people, middle school is literal hell. Now imagine having a scary new illness on top of all that.
The purpose of all of this is to urge people to start being more open-minded. You are never too young to be sick, which is unfortunate but true. So, please stop saying that when a younger person tells you they have a chronic illness!
Believe people. Majority of people aren’t lying. Young people aren’t as lazy as older generations like to think. I would do anything to be healthy and more active than I am. I love working and would do it all day if I could. But, I can’t overwork myself without flaring.
Please remember that everyone is fighting their own battles. Don’t be so quick to judge. It’s not fair to assume everyone is healthy and okay. I am just one of the millions who have to fight and reason with my body and mind every single day. Be kind and compassionate. That is all I ask.