Most of us love to get compliments, likes, and told we did a “good job”…
…and there’s nothing wrong with that at all.
That’s just human nature.
But when I post a “selfie” these days it isn’t really about vanity, ego or likes…
…but rather pure astonishment and reflection because of (1) how much progress I have made in the past 15 years and; (2) that this is what an invisible illness can really look like.
You see, about 15 years ago I fell extremely ill…
…and after about a year of unexplained nausea, vomiting and extreme weight loss I was eventually diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease.
If you’re not sure what Crohn’s Disease is, it is basically an inflammation of the small intestine and/or colon, and when it flares up it basically makes you feel like you have an extreme case of food poisoning.
It isn’t just a regular ole stomach ache…
…it is a chronic disease and flares can sometimes last for months or even years.
Some people who are really sick will have to undergo many different treatments, including surgery, to remove the colon and/or small intestine to help put them in remission.
When I first got sick I was just a young freshman in college…I could barely keep any food down…
I had severe malabsorption problems…and I lost over 40 pounds.
Not exactly a recipe for success in sports or in the gym ha.
Needless to say…I ended up losing my full ride athletic scholarship at The U because I was too sick to get out of bed (much less play or practice)…
…and was told by docs that I would probably have to quit playing sports and be on meds for the rest of my life.
I’m not ashamed to admit this anymore…but after I withdrew from school I sank into a deep depression and legit wanted to die.
There is no worse feeling than being super sick and given zero hope for any sort of future.
Unless you have been there, you probably won’t understand.
The weird thing about this entire story is that while I was lying in a hospital bed feeling like total crap I received a call from the head coach at Clemson, Mr. Chuck Kriese…and he said to me “Jamin, I believe in you, and I’d like you to come to Clemson and be a Tiger”.
At first I thought he was joking around and I had to ask him a few times if he called the wrong number haha.
Long story short, Coach K believed in me even when I didn’t believe in myself…and it was that confidence that he instilled in me with that phone call and during my time at Clemson that has carried over to today.
It has been a long hard road (especially in the beginning) but these days I am in pretty good health.
Now I try to use health & fitness as a platform to help motivate and inspire others who may be going through illness or hardship…
…because I know from personal experience that sometimes all it takes is one post, or one kind word, or just a little encouragement and you can change someone’s life.
If you can inspire just one person you can change the world.
So if you are in the trenches right now battling a chronic or invisible illness my advice to you is to just keep fighting.
Most people probably won’t understand what you’re going through…
…and often the worst part about being sick with an invisible disease is the lack of understanding from family and friends.
They really don’t know much about or understand the disease and that really isn’t all their fault.
I know just by looking at me you would probably never know I was even sick (the irony of having abs plus a terrible stomach disease gets me every time lol).
Most people I know with Crohn’s look completely normal on the outside, but their insides can be a friggin disaster.
Sure, you can try your best to act normal, but you can only excuse yourself from meetings, dinners, family events, and lie to your girlfriend and say you “hate that sushi place”…
…or make up some other lame excuse so you don’t have to go out so many times before people start asking, “what’s wrong with you dude…?” or talking about you like “that guys sucks…he’s always in a bad mood…he says he’s sick but he looks fine…what a buzzkill…”
And you’re not really sure how to play it…so you debate on whether to just be honest and tell them a long boring story about an invisible disease they wouldn’t understand…
…but you’ll usually just probably say something like “I’m good fam” because your symptoms are super embarrassing and you may feel gross, ashamed, and annoyed.
I guess what I’m trying to say is, if you are battling an invisible illness I feel your pain and I know what you’ve going through.
The pain, the suffering in silence, the lack of empathy and misunderstanding from family, friends, and loved ones…
…the feelings of despair and isolation, etc – these feelings and emotions are very real…and they can put you in a very dark place.
I know there are a ton of people out there that are a lot sicker than I am…heck there are 5 year olds out here battling cancer right now.
There are definitely different levels of illness…but I have experienced the pain and frustration that accompanies your body giving up on you in a super embarrassing way – it can be very depressing, debilitating, and isolating.
So with all of that said, I just want to encourage anyone out there who is currently battling any type of chronic or invisible illness to just stay positive and keep fighting – you may not see it right now but you CAN get better if you make the decision to just stay strong and fight back.
There are a ton of people out there who are fighting similar battles that love you and support you and understand your struggle.
We can overcome just about anything in life if we just work together and help encourage each other.
That’s what life is all about – helping others succeed.
I wish you the very best in health.
#CrohnsDisease #InvisibleIllness #SpreadAwareness #SpreadPositivity #SpreadHope #AndGoTigers