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    "This is the prime of my life. I'm young, hot, and full of...Moderate-to-severe joint pain.


    A set of cards from the game Cards Against Humanity; the first card reads "This is the prime of my life. I'm young, hot, and full of _____." The second card reads "Moderate-to-severe joint pain."

    When I first came across the picture above, I could not stop laughing. A friend encountered it on the internet, and sent it to me saying "Dineo, this is so you!" And she was right! "This is the prime of my life. I'm young, hot, and full of...Moderate-to-severe joint pain." I didn't only find this statement funny, but I also identified with it. This pair of cards in the Cards Against Humanity game have summed up perfectly what it's like to be a young adult living with a chronic illness

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    Being chronically ill as a young adult is an interesting predicament. At this age, we are expected to be going to college, starting our careers, and beginning to make our impact on the world. While that’s a lot of pressure for any young adult, it’s even more pressure for young adults with chronic illnesses. While I would love to just worry about my education, career, and social life, I also have to worry about my chronic illness. The fact is, chronic illness can, and most likely will, affect every aspect of your life. It affects how you feel, what you’re able to accomplish, how you see the world, and how the world sees you. I’m often told that I “shouldn’t let my chronic illness control my life,” or that I have to remember that I am “not my illness.” But the truth is, my chronic illness is a part of me that I can’t remove or ignore. And, I’m okay with that.

    For most of my life, I have seen my chronic illness as a completely negative thing. I focused on the fact that it gave me debilitating symptoms, made doing everyday tasks difficult or even impossible, and prevented me from achieving my goals and living my life to my full potential. Now, I realize that because chronic illness is something I will have to deal with for the rest of my life, I have to make the best of it.

    I often look for inspiration in dealing with my illness from my friends who are also chronically ill. My friend Emily Deaton, a student at James Madison University, is one of those people that I look up to. Like me, Emily has EDS (Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome) and POTS (Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome, a form of Dysautonomia). Emily feels that her illnesses affect “every single aspect of [her] life.” Because of chronic pain and joint dislocations from EDS, and heat intolerance from POTS, she’s no longer to participate in her family tradition of hiking in the summer. She has also had to adapt the way she hangs out with her friends as a result of her illness. Instead of going out and partying every weekend like “normal” college students, Emily spends time with her friends doing more low-key activities. For a chronically ill young adult, sometimes the most we can do on a Friday night is stay in and watch Netflix. Balancing the responsibilities of college and adult life with the responsibilities of being chronically ill is also something Emily has had to figure out how to do. As a college senior, she has to consider her health, which is oftentimes demanding and unpredictable, in future plans that she makes. Getting through each day with the symptoms of a chronic illness is a challenge, and planning for the future is an even bigger one.

    However, Emily has been able to find positivity in being chronically ill. As young adults, we’re expected to be forming our identity. That can be difficult when being chronically ill is such a large part of our life and experiences. Emily believes that being disabled is part of her identity, and while she does not let it control how she thinks or acts, she embraces it the best way she can. Being chronically ill has made Emily more empathetic, and also made her better at defining her boundaries, socially, academically, and otherwise. Being chronically ill has also motivated Emily to become an advocate for chronic illness. Additionally, her illness has motivated her to write for The Mighty, an online publication dedicated to facing disability, disease, and mental illness as a community. And most recently, it has led her to intern with Dysautonomia International, a non-profit organization that aims to support people affected by Dysautonomia.