I have been sick almost constantly since I was born. I have Celiac Disease, Ulcerative Colitis, Autoimmune Neuropathy Disorder, allergies to countless various different things, Cyclic Vomitting Syndrome and I’ve had debilitating migraines ever since I can remember – not to mention my extreme bipolar disorder that has put me into a mental hospital twice in the last year alone. I’ve been doing better the past few months, at least mentally. I’m stable and I can feel emotions in normal amounts that don’t send me flying off the road one way or the other.

I always laugh when people tell me I’m brave for going through what I have. I’m not brave. Being brave is a choice. I did not choose any of this. I used to have the same reaction when people told me I was strong. But my opinion on that recently changed when I asked a co-worker why he would call me strong. He told me that it wasn’t because of the things that had happened to me but more how I dealt with it. “You’re always smiling. You’ve always got a kind word to say to anyone in need. I think everything you’ve been through has made you stronger, but you had to be strong in the first place so that it wouldn’t defeat you first.”

Two weeks ago my best friend from high school introduced me to a girl who is dealing with a lot of physical and emotional problems, just like me. I’m a few years older and she was much newer to this onslaught of disorders so my friend thought I might be able to make this girl feel not so alone. I’ve discovered that talking with her also made me feel less alone.

I haven’t given this girl my key yet because we’ve only talked on the phone or online since that introductory meeting but the next time I do see her I plan on giving her my STRENGTH key so that she will know that she too is strong enough not to be defeated and that she will come out the other end stronger than any person who has never had to deal with the pain that we’ve been through; physically and emotionally.

These diseases may batter our bodies and the disorders may at times take control of our minds. But our souls, our souls are strong enough to not only survive, but to thrive.

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