What My Illness Has Taught Me

by Billie Anderson

Billie

It may sound cliché to say that the last 2 years of illness has taught me an awful lot, but it’s true. I have learnt so much not just about myself, but about the world and the society we live in. 

Here’s my top 10 list of things I’ve learnt since my diagnosis and surgery:

1. Be Kind

There are so many people in the world, and we each have our own lives and situations to deal with.  The battles we fight on a daily basis come in all sorts of shapes and sizes; just because someone looks okay on the outside, it doesn’t mean they are okay on the inside. It doesn’t take much to be kind to someone - who knows, you might just make their day. You have no idea how much of an impact smiling at a stranger, offering a piece of advice or just sending a text to an old friend might have. Being kind to someone could change their life. 

2. We Are Stronger In Numbers

Through social media, I’ve found so many people to be fighting the same war as I am. I found so much strength in just talking about it, and being able to relate with others. I’ve had some dark days and it’s the support around me that kept me from sinking into the abyss. 

3. Being Different Isn't A Bad Thing

Being different is scary in a world where many of us are taught to conform… to join the rat-race, to behave and follow the unwritten rules of society. To not post a photograph in your underwear online (that you're proud of), simply because you're different. But I say that being different is a good thing. Well behaved people don't make history or change the world. If you want to scream from the rooftops about how much you love yourself, then why not! 

4. Life Is Special

Considering I've spent most of the last 2 years bedbound or in hospital, I've come to value life. You see the world in a new way. Time can really run away with you and when you're unwell it goes a lot slower and a lot faster at the same. The slowness comes from the endless repetition of each day; stuck looking at the same four walls, feeling the same pain every day. The fastness resonates in a feeling of ‘being on the outside and looking in’. It feels like the world is turning, all your friends are going about their day-to-day life without you, and you feel like you’re being left behind. So from the moment I was given my life back I made a vow to myself that I wouldn’t get sucked into that slowness or allow myself to feel like I’ve fallen behind, ever again. 

5. To Not Be Afraid

I’ve had so much change in my life and the very idea of it used to frighten me. I hated the thought of having my life-plan disrupted but when it was thrown into a spin, my eyes were opened to so much more than I ever imagined. Change is frightening but it can set you free. 

6. A Life Is Not Singular

As humans, we have a tendency to be selfish and in some ways I believe in putting yourself first. But you also have to be aware of those around us. We are connected to so many people; directly and indirectly. It takes a big heart to see how our situation is impacting those around us. My diagnosis and surgery shook the lives of my entire family and impacted on all my friends too. It’s important to realise how we can affect others without even seeing it. 

7. I Am Stronger Than I Thought

I had no idea that I was capable of dealing with such enormous life-altering things, both physical and mental. You don't realise how strong you are until it’s asked of you. 

8. I Am Lucky

I am lucky to be alive. I am lucky to have the support I do. I am lucky to have the life I have. 

9. I Am Proud

I am proud of the strength I’ve been able to show and I am proud of what I’ve been through. My surgery was tough and adjusting to my life afterwards with a bag has taken so much energy and mental determination. I am proud of what I have achieved at my young age. 

10. To Find Joy in Love

I have had so much love from my family and friends. I also received a lot of support from people who follow my journey on social media. It’s this love that has got me through some really tough times and I am grateful for this. 

About the author

My name is Billie Anderson, I'm in my twenties and study history at Portsmouth. I was diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis in 2017 and after a year of very aggressive drug therapy, I became an ostomate. To help raise IBD and stoma awareness I started a blog https://trustyourgut.blog and an Instagram account @billieandersonx.

This is my attempt to make my very unconventional stomach, conventional. I hope to show the world that you can love yourself - with your insides on the outside. 

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