“Sometimes I feel like giving up. No medicine is strong enough. Someone help me. I’m crawling in my skin. Sometimes I feel like giving up but I just can’t. It isn’t in my blood.”
Shawn Mendes, In My Blood.
I remember the first time I started to feel like I was moving in the direction of successfully adulting. Surprisingly, it wasn’t when I got my first full-time job offer. Instead it was when my health insurance benefits went into effect with my new postgraduate employer. I had learned the hard way in college when I tried to ignore my anxiety, the importance of taking care of yourself and your health. Because of this I felt like I was ahead of the game compared to my peers when I actively made my health a priority and started setting up doctor appointments the first day that my new health insurance policy went into effect. I picked my new in-network doctors, made an appointment for an annual physical, and started exploring what my new policy would cover.
I graduated college already with a slew of disorders—Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD), Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD), General Anxiety Disorder (GAD), and Anticipatory Panic Disorder (APD). I knew I needed help with my mental health. What I didn’t expect was the physical health issues I would be diagnosed with—gluten intolerance, rotating knee caps, Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), TMJ, and worst of all, Attenuated Familial Adenomatous Polyposis (AFAP). The truth is I’m sick and I’ve learned there are somethings that “no medicine is strong enough” fix.
Like Shawn Mendes, who wrote “In My Blood” about his own mental health struggles, “sometimes I feel like giving up.” Sometimes I get so frustrated at my body because it feels like it’s constantly fighting against me. Frustrated at my anxiety for telling me I’m now nervous about something I was excited to do the day before. Frustrated at my IBS for forcing me to ask my friends to change our lunch plans. And even right now, frustrated at my ADD for causing me to not even be able to concentrate on writing this blog post because the person next to me is watching a stupid YouTube video without headphones. It’s true; sometimes I feel like “I’m crawling in my skin” and sometimes I just want to wave my white flag, but doing that “isn’t in my blood.”
I couldn’t have guessed how life altering being proactive about my health would be or how badly I really couldn’t afford to give up that mission. I was twenty years old the first time a doctor mentioned cancer to me. He warned me that I might have an increased risk of developing cancer due to my family history. I thought he was just trying to scare me, but after college I found out I didn’t just have to wonder what my odds were. My new health insurance covered genetic testing so I jumped at the opportunity to find out if I really had anything thing to worry about. Unfortunately, the doctor I saw several years prior was right. I have Attenuated Familial Adenomatous Polyposis.
Attenuated Familial Adenomatous Polyposis (AFAP) is an APC gene mutation that increases my risk of getting colon cancer from the 5.5% chance that the general population has to a 70% lifetime risk of developing colon cancer. To be proactive and prevent the cancer from having the chance to develop, I have to have a colonoscopy done every year. During my first colonoscopy after being diagnosed with AFAP, my doctor removed 5 precancerous tubular adenoma polyps. I had 7 more polyps removed the following year and to this day I still have annual colonoscopies to remove new polyp growth. “No medicine is strong enough” to change my odds, but I’ve made the choice to be proactive and stay one step ahead of the disease despite how uncomfortable the screening process is.
That is adulting. It’s not avoiding going to a therapist because you don’t want to admit you’re struggling. It’s not ignoring that weird looking mole on your leg because you’re hoping it’ll just go away (it won’t). Nor is it postponing your annual physical because it’s inconvenient and you’ve got too much going on at work. It’s okay to sometimes feel overwhelmed and like you want to give up. Trust me; I of all people get it. My body is literally a ticking time bomb for a type of cancer that is still taboo to talk about. What’s not okay is to ignore your body or prioritize other aspects of your life over your health. If nothing else, I hope the one thing you learn from me is to prioritize both your physical and mental health.
Still trying to figure it out,