Being diagnosed with a chronic illness as a child can affect an individual on so many different levels. For myself, being diagnosed at age 14 with several chronic illnesses (including lupus) increased anxiety and stress in my life. My illness caused me to make decisions and choices that I would not have made had I never been ill, yet it also has helped me grow into the person I have become today.
Recently, Selena Gomez has been criticized by the press about her alleged smoking, partying and her experiences with rehab. While I disagree with all the coverage, I do feel it’s important for people to know what she is going through. Being diagnosed with a chronic disease such as lupus at such a young age can be both disheartening and devastating.
As a teen and a young adult I lived in denial. I often rebelled; I drank, I smoked and I pushed everything to the limit. At the time, it was the only thing in my life that I could have some sort of control over, and I believe that many of us feel this way. We need to know that something in our lives is within our control. That need for control can lead to obsessive-compulsive disorder tendencies, depression and severe anxiety.
Living with lupus and other rare disorders, I learned very quickly to hide my illness, as well as my emotions. As a young adult, the need to fit in far outweighed the need to be healthy. I wanted to prove to myself and to everyone else that I could be normal. I avoided appointments, symptoms and medications in an attempt to be normal. So often, I ended up in the hospital because it was too late to do anything else.
No help to grow up
Being sick also caused severe social and general anxiety. Little tasks that were second nature were now difficult to accomplish. Things that others could do with no thought took extensive effort for me to accomplish. Not only were my brain and other organs affected, but my outside appearance also took a drastic turn. The medications caused acne, hair loss and extreme weight gain. One month, I gained 60+ pounds from the prednisone. I became a completely different person, but I didn’t realize until later that it was only in my mind; others I knew still saw me as the same person.
Depression also can take its toll, resulting in periods of isolation. It is important during these periods of darkness to remember you are never alone. Those being diagnosed today have plenty of options when it come s to support, whether it be online or in person. I have found that support groups have helped more than any other avenues, though it wasn’t until later in life that I began to use them.
Relationships also became difficult when being diagnosed with chronic illness at a young age. You learn to hide your issues to avoid worrying those close to you. You harbor anger for those trying to help you, and you push others away for the fear of getting too close. You haven’t had a chance to develop the self-esteem and confidence that others your age have and, in turn, you always keep some a distance. As I have aged, I have learned to open up. I still have a lot of issues that affect me as an adult, and I am constantly trying to learn and grow from them.
Regardless of your age, any diagnosis is difficult. It is what you do after your diagnosis that matters.
Note: Lupus News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Lupus News Today, or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to lupus.00