What the 10-year photo challenge means when you are chronically ill

Here it is, the newest photo challenge to ring in the new decade. While most are comparing their younger selves to how they look now, maybe even celebrating body transformations, the 10-year photo challenge means an entirely different thing to someone who has chronic illness.

10 years ago, I had energy, I was in college full time and working. But chronic Illness has stolen many years from me. When others were out getting their graduate degrees, moving out, having kids and owning their own home, things that “society” expects of you in your mid to late-twenties, I was stuck. Although, I was born with a Congenital Heart defect called Transposition of the Great Arteries somehow, I no longer had the energy I had before. It was as if I hit 25 and I became an old woman. During the summer before I turned 26, I had to go off my Mom’s insurance and everything changed. I had insurance but the doctors I had just didn’t listen to me when I said I knew something was wrong. That I shouldn’t feel this bad all the time. It took five years, and a change of insurance before I got my answer. I had my third open heart surgery in August to remove a PA band that had been put on 15 years ago when they were discussing the option of switching my arteries.

I celebrated my 31st birthday in September, thankful to be alive, but at a price. When I look at the girl ten years ago, part of me is jealous and part of me wishes I could go back in time and get those years back. Make the doctors and insurance companies listen to me, tell them what is wrong and maybe get those years back. But I can’t and I’m not that girl anymore. I don’t have to be thankful for those years, but I can move on and I can look forward to gaining energy and strength in my 30’s.

While I was trying to create this 10-year photo challenge it meant trying to find that perfect photo that I’m not laying in bed, it meant finding that one occasion that I had energy to put on make up and look and feel beautiful. I could’ve chosen a photo on one of those occasions when I got all dressed up but it’s not true to who I am and the truth of my life currently. So, I took a photo from my bed today and marked the next ten years to come.

How do you feel about the 10-year photo challenge?

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I am feminist writer and poet trying to raise awareness on topics such as mental health and physical disabilities. I often write about things such as invisible illnesses and mental health/illness related topics.

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