How did your condition affect your social and academic life in general as an adolescent?
This is a bit of a loaded question and the answer can take many forms. I have both a physical (visible) disability and a chronic (invisible) illness. Regarding my vision, I didn’t have nearly all the tools or ability to communicate my needs as well as I do now, but it was mostly something nonexistent to my friends. I realized early on, though, (since I’m very good at faking like I can see when I can’t) that I needed to disclose that I wouldn’t be able to see people waving across the football field, facial expressions, or gestures. Since I neither used a cane or guide dog then, it was difficult for my friends to understand at first, and I ended up unintentionally offending people by ignoring them when I really just missed them entirely. Growing up in a suburb and attending school in a more rural area, driving is almost a rite of passage since it’s nearly impossible to go anywhere otherwise. To curb all the “I-got-my-temps-or-license” pictures on my Instagram feed, I got my state ID and posted a picture by my mom’s car (and successfully fooled a lot of people) ;) Thankfully since everyone could drive, I was able to get lots of rides!
With my illness, though, it was much more difficult for me to talk about candidly since I nearly died when I was initially diagnosed in 2012. I didn’t want to scare people with how volatile living with Crohn’s/colitis could be, and I didn’t understand it myself, really. I only started discussing this aspect of my illness when I started to get very sick and declining in 2015, which was almost necessary since I was so sick I nearly missed graduation. Now with my ileostomy, I’m very open about it, and I’ve come to learn that if people “can’t take it,” I don’t need them in my life.