Be Your Own Hero in Five Easy Steps

Today, I am raising my arm and giving myself a mighty fist pump!

I am victorious.

IBD

Go ahead…ask me.

I am my own hero, and no matter what you are fighting, I believe you have what it takes to be your own hero too. So after, much consideration, I’m sharing my five-step master plan for pushing through the rough patches and claiming your own victory, no matter what battle you are fighting.

Stiletto Momma’s Five Steps to Being Your Own Hero

1. Know Yourself. Way back in the glorious decade of the 1980s, I was fortunate enough to be a student in the coolest eighth grade teacher’s English class. All of my classmates wanted this woman to teach them the intricacies of grammar and literature. She was the kind of teacher who sat cross-legged on her desk to lecture us on Shakespeare. She chewed gum in class, and while she was probably in her late forties, to the 14-year-olds in her class, she was one of us. She also taught me what I know now to be one of the most important life lessons.

Our assignment that day was to write an autobiography, and we were encouraged to start by thinking about something for which we have expertise. My cool teacher climbed on top of her desk, curled her legs under herself and proceeded to help us brainstorm topics. Around the class we went–each person taking a turn claiming his or her expertise.

“Baseball,” one athletic boy stated with confidence.

“Shopping,” a girl proclaimed, happily.

You might be thinking that girl was the future Stiletto Momma, but while in the present, I do wield credit card and shopping bags like a champion, back then I had yet to experience the joy that comes from retail therapy. Instead I shyly stated my expertise was playing my favorite woodwind–the flute. I had been playing for a handful of years, and I was fairly confident no one else in the class could trill a high C quite like me.

After the last of my classmates had shared their expertise, that coolest of cool teachers jumped from her perched, wagged a finger at her naive pupils, and declared, “Wrong! You are all wrong.”

The class got silent. Some people turned pink from embarrassment, but the teacher continued with her point.

“Everyone here is an expert in only one thing, and everyone here is an expert on the same thing. You are all experts on yourselves. Who knows you like you do? No one. Who knows everything about you? You! You are an expert on you.”

Although, I don’t remember what I wrote in my autobiography, that lesson has stuck with me.

I am the only person who knows absolutely everything about me. I know when the fatigue is more than just the exhaustion that comes from a hard day’s work. I know when the pain isn’t my “normal” pain. I know when something is wrong.

I move on to the next step….

2. Be Persistent. I eventually graduated middle school, then high school, college, and eventually graduate school. Finally, I drafted my first resume, and set about finding a real job. I mailed that carefully embellished document to every newspaper and publication I could find. I had a few interviews, but no offers of employment. I waited and waited for the phone to ring.

One day, the Hubs asked me a very simple question. “Why don’t you call them? Remind them who you are.”

The Hubs is a smart man, and while he may not realize it, he taught me another import life lesson. Make yourself known. Tell people who you are. Tell them you are important, and don’t let them forget about you. Be persistent.

I know my doctor has more than one patient. He’s a busy man, but I am a busy woman. I am a momma; I work a full-time job, and I have a blog I like to maintain with some regularity. I can’t do any of my jobs, if he doesn’t do his.

So I pick up the phone, and I remind him who I am. I’m the one who called yesterday,and left a message telling you that I don’t feel right. If I don’t feel right tomorrow, I’m calling back. I know myself, and I’m not going away until you help me find out what went wrong.

In the meantime, I move on to the next step….

3. Get the facts. My first journalism job was as a reporter for my hometown newspaper. I wrote for the sports section. Yes, me the girl who played in the band instead of on the team. I knew more about playing the fight song during the pep rally than scoring points in the big game, but there I was, covering girls’ high school basketball. I’d interview the coach after the game. Then call my dad to ask him what the coach meant when he gave me some complicated play terminology. I didn’t have Google back then, but I did have Daddy!

Fact-gathering, when it comes to your health, can be a little trickier these days. The Internet makes it so easy to enter all your symptoms into a search engine and find the perfect cyber-diagnosis, but read too much, and you will soon believe your common cold is a rare incurable malady.

Instead of searching my symptoms, I seached for support groups, and got my facts from people like me. People who know my pain–literally. When symptoms moved from nausea to fatigue, they told me to ask for a vitamin level check.

Now, on to step four….

4. Be Your Own Advocate. No one knows you like you do (see step one), and no one is going to stand up for you unless you stand up for yourself. I knew something was making me tired and feel so…wrong. The MIL said I needed to eat more. The Hubs said I needed to sleep more. I knew it was more than that, and my support group (aka my “Crohnies”, because we all have Crohn’s Disease) agreed.

So, back to the doctor’s office I went. “All your blood work looks fine,” my primary care doc said.

“Even my vitamin levels?” I asked.

“Well, we didn’t check those,” she admitted.

Can we check those,” I asked in my most you’re-the-doctor-but-I-think-you-missed-something voice.

She gave me a weary sigh, and said in her best I’m-humoring-my-patient voice, “I guess we could check that if you want.”

Two days later, she called to say my vitamin D was too low, and that may be why I’m so tired! Hmmm….

I was just coming off that victory when the pain started. On any given day, I have what I know to be “normal” pain, but this new pain was definitely not normal (back to step one again). I called my GI…again (see step 2). He saw me in his office, shook his head in sympathy, and said he needed to consult with someone. He’d call soon.

That was two weeks ago, so instead of waiting around to be put on hold, I escalated my complaints to my surgeon, and I didn’t stop until she worked me into her busy schedule. Then, finally, after two months of knowing something was wrong, but being told by experts that I was fine, I had confirmation. My surgeon found it within 15 minutes–an active flare of Crohn’s.

Now, take a deep breath, and move on to the final step….

Be Brave

This step is so important, I wear a reminder on my wrist.

5. Be Brave! I didn’t necessarily want to hear that my Crohn’s was back on the war path after a two year break in the action, but the diagnosis was actually a victory. I knew something was wrong with my body (See how important step one is!), I didn’t let the doctors ignore me (step two). I searched out my facts (step three), and I spoke up for myself (step four).

Now the real battle begins, and all the courage, I’ve been gathering will be put to good use. I’ve done this before. I’ll stock up on foods approved for a low residue diet (really just an excuse to eat all the carbs I want without feeling guilty). I’ll buy the industrial-size bottles of multi-vitamins (because fresh fruits and veggies are a no-no, and that I do feel guilty about).

I’ll push through the pain to play Go Fish with the Young One (because I’m sick, but she’s not), but later we’ll take a break and watch our favorite Nick at Night show, Full House (because those crazy Tanners still make for good TV 20 years after the first episode, and because I need her to know I have a boo-boo in my belly and need to get my rest).

I will be brave!

Go back to step one, and repeat as needed.

You may not have Crohn’s Disease or a chronic condition, but you probably do have something you battle on occasion. We all do, but with a little perseverance and bravery, we can all pump a fist for victory and be our own heroes.

What do you do to be your own hero?

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