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  • Serena Kramer

From Shadows to Strength, the Road of Chronic Illness Unveiled

It's a porcupine throwing flames but from his butt. They sure know how to cause a raucous!
Meet Jabber. He's a flaming porcupine...inside my intestines.

In the wild labyrinth of life's twists and turns, where triumphs and trials were like frenemies, I was thrown headfirst into the never-ending ring of a chronic gut illness—a journey that unearthed a hidden stash of strength, the kind you don't find until life hands you a colossal puzzle to solve.

Now, let's talk about sharing that journey, shall we? At first, I was like, "Whoa, slow down! Do I really want to tell everyone about the rollercoaster of agony I've been on?" But as life decided to shrink my world, I found myself getting cozy with the idea of opening up. Turns out, when you're squished into a teeny-tiny universe, the urge to reach out and give solace is like a friendly ghost tapping you on the shoulder. So, I decided to spill the beans on my adventure, hoping it would light a little fire of "heck yeah, we got this" in others facing the chaos.

In the middle of all my chronic gut pain and turbulence, I embarked on the kind of grieving expedition that makes Indiana Jones look like a weekend hiker. I mourned for the body I once flaunted, for dreams of backpacking through hidden alleys (but also embraced the memories of the places I did conquer), and for friendships I thought were unbreakable (turns out even super glue has limits). My broken intestines didn't just flip my life, it yanked off the covers, showing me the raw mess of relationships – the hope and the "oh no" all wrapped up together. Insurance battles and medical bills bigger than my dreams of a chocolate fountain at home? Yeah, they became part of the package, a heavyweight match with the illness itself.

But let's not forget the sparks that ignited within those shadows. There was a raw strength in me that said, "No matter what, I'm going to fight this!" in the face of pain, fatigue, and "why me" moments. A strength that made me declare, "I'm going to squeeze every ounce of joy out of life, even if I have to pry it free!" Those flickers of happiness, those tiny moments when suffering took a coffee break—those became my North Stars, guiding me through the storm.

Now, let's talk about resilience, my friend. It's not just a fancy word; it's like a secret weapon we forge while battling chronic illness. Sure, the dreams of globe-trotting might have evolved into learning how to nail a new recipe while binge-watching shows, but the real journey happened on the inside. This was like a crash course in self-discovery no one signed up for, yet we all aced it.

And here's the kicker – my tales of tribulation? They're not just mine. They're like treasure maps for others trying to find their way in the dark. If my words offer a smidgen of comfort to a single soul battling a chronic illness, then my journey turns into a badge of honor. Through every shadow and ray of light, I keep uncovering the beast of strength within – a testament to the indomitable human spirit.

This is Grace. She's the pink giraffe trying to fit in a violet Fiat.
This is Grace. She's the pink giraffe trying to fit in a violet Fiat. There's more on her below.

Lessons? Oh, I've got a handful.

1. Friends, empathetic buddies aren't a dime a dozen. It's like there's no universal handbook on how to be a first-rate comfort-provider when the world is giving you the cold shoulder. So, I joined groups of fellow chronic illness comrades online. And guess what? Turns out, these online hangouts were like a virtual coffee shop where everyone understands your order without even asking. I noticed folks venting about the disappearing acts of friends and family – the "ghosting" on steroids. Because let's face it, not everyone gets the whole illness thing. If you're in the same leaky boat, just know I'm here on the shore, waving you in.

2. Suffering is like that coin you keep flipping – one side's your own agony, the other side's the empathy currency. I saw my mom struggle until she gracefully left us. I felt like the official validator of her feelings, her sounding board when she was too wiped out to shout "I'm not okay." If you're feeling the weight, you've got this secret superpower – the ability to spot pain in others who wear a disguise. My own pain became like a translator, helping me decode my mom's language of anger, sadness, defeat, and that final surrender. And guess what? Empathy – it's like a reward for staying in the ring with suffering. I feel like I earned a degree from the school of suffering with a major in understanding.

3. There is no cure for being human. Let's face it, folks. We're all human, and there are no fancy off switches available. In a world where perfection is as rare as a unicorn spotting, dreaming of a "cure" for being human is like hoping for a pet dragon. Suffering is like the grand master of ceremonies, reminding our egos that control is just a suggestion. Challenges? They're our unofficial classmates, with an open invitation to life's struggle party. When life doesn't stick to the script, that's when the magic happens. It's in these puzzle-piece moments that we discover who we are – complex, messy, and utterly relatable. And guess what? Imperfections aren't the glitch in the matrix; they're the colorful patches that make the tapestry of life look like an epic masterpiece. So, let's raise a glass to our messiness, our unique human stamps on the world.

4. If you don't change the way you handle your pain, you will project it onto others. We're all guilty of projecting our own suffering at times. Sometimes, when I am having a painful flare up, I feel like I'm juggling flaming porcupines in my stomach while riding a unicycle. And what do I do? I start accidentally flinging those flaming porcupines at everyone around me. Suddenly, my friend Sally innocently asks how my day is going, and I'm like, "Well, let me tell you about this porcupine juggling situation I'm in." And poor Sally is left wondering how she got caught in the crossfire.

Picture yourself having a bad day, and suddenly, you're that grumpy cat meme personified. You might snap at your partner, honk angrily at a slow driver, or glare at your toaster for not toasting perfectly.

And it's not because you're a bad person or secretly an evil toaster-hater. It's just that sometimes, when we're battling our own suffering, it's hard to keep all the porcupines under control. They start doing the cha-cha and flinging quills left and right.

So, the next time you find yourself projecting your own suffering onto others, remember – you're not alone. We're all in this human circus together, juggling our own flaming porcupines. But with a dash of self-awareness and a sprinkle of humor, you can channel your inner porcupine whisperer and keep the glittery chaos in check.

5. Now, let's shimmy our way to the grand finale – "Grace: The Great Crackscape." Imagine you're this expert builder, constructing the fortress of your life. You've got everything locked down tight, no cracks in sight. But wait, who's that knocking on the door? It's Grace, and it's armed with a wrecking ball. See, when things are all perfect and flawless, there's no room for Grace to squeeze in – Grace is like a giraffe trying to fit in a Fiat.

But lo and behold, life happens. Challenges, setbacks, and problems are like those sneaky little elves who mess up your perfectly tidy living room. Suddenly, your fortress has cracks big enough to welcome Grace in with open arms. Those cracks are like cosmic doorways, inviting in healing, growth, and a deeper connection with the universe. Grace isn't just some prize for winning the game of life; it's like a secret gift that shows up when you admit you're not a superhero. So, embrace those cracks, let the light in, and don't hesitate to raise your hand for a little support and a sprinkle of that graceful magic.


Remember that we're all just a bunch of quirky souls trying to navigate this wild rollercoaster. Life hands us these invisible backpacks filled with our very own Suffering – it's like we're all part of some cosmic support group with matching swag bags.

But here's the thing: those swag bags don't come with a return policy. We can't just hand them back and say, "Thanks, but no thanks." Nope, we've got to deal with whatever's inside, whether it's porcupines that want to party in our intestines, glittery chaos, or just the general messiness of being human.

Let's embrace the chaos, celebrate the imperfections, and keep those porcupines in check. And when life hands us glitter, let's sprinkle it with laughter and a dash of absurdity. After all, in this crazy carnival ride, we're all just doing our best to enjoy the show.

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