Over the holidays, I entered a writing contest sharing my story about being diagnosed with an autoimmune disease called dermatomyositis (DM), a chronic condition involving severe inflammation of the muscle tissue and skin. Although I've written about my experience with DM in the past, over time I'd trailed off from it. I don't know if it was due to the fact that it's been almost seven years since my diagnosis or because I haven't been on any meds or had a single flare-up in almost six years, but I hadn't been as vocal about it as I once was.
Then I entered the contest.
In the essay (read it here), I wrote about how my journey to recovery from autoimmune disease changed my perspective on life. I shared how this debilitating condition that had weakened me to the point of physical and mental exhaustion led to a strengthening in my faith, determination and will to live. I shared how making the decision to change my diet and develop an optimistic mindset towards my situation ultimately manifested my physical, mental and spiritual healing. Three weeks after submitting my essay, I won the contest.
What was more gratifying for me than winning that contest was the overwhelming amount of positive feedback I received from the folks who read my story. I received numerous messages and comments from people expressing how powerful my testimony was and how it inspired them to make changes in different areas of their life. For me, that was a clear indicator that what I went through seven years ago wasn't about me at all.
This might sound kinda crazy, but I think one of the reasons I've shied away from writing about my experience with DM is because a part of me feels guilty about my recovery. While I'm exceedingly blessed and grateful to live a medication- and symptom-free life, there's an entire community of people out here suffering from the very disease I've been delivered from. I keep in touch with a few people in my local area who are currently battling autoimmune disease -- one of whom has the exact condition I was diagnosed with -- and I'm also a part of a myositis support group on Facebook where numerous patients with similar conditions seek advice and share their experiences. On one hand, some of the things people share in the group can be triggering for me; on the other hand, I feel somewhat disconnected from the group because I've recovered. So most times, I've remained silent.
But when I think about everything God has brought me through; when I think about how much awareness is needed for chronic illnesses like dermatomyositis, I can't afford to be silent. Every day that I was sick, my mom and I would scour the Internet, searching -- to no avail -- for someone who had successfully recovered. We were looking for the slightest inkling of hope that this "incurable" disease could somehow be cured. Now, I am blessed to say that I am that someone.
So I'm gonna continue sharing my testimony because it's not about me -- never was. It's about giving hope, spreading awareness and utilizing the platform that God has graced me with to do so.