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The fall after I graduated college, I was in and out of the ER half a dozen times. After months of nauseating abdominal pain, a diagnostic procedure was done, and a pamphlet thrown at me. Finally, there was a diagnosis! 

“IBS-C,” the pamphlet read in bright red letters. 

The doctor gave me the generic spiel to “increase my fiber” and “take some vitamins.” Things I was already doing. He even suggested that my symptoms could be caused by anxiety: 

“If you get your anxiety under control, your IBS-C could disappear in five to six years.”

The doctor may have been trying to cheer me up, but his words felt like grasping for straws, empty promises of something I didn’t know how to achieve. Answers not given.

Later that evening, in the comfort of my home, the doctor’s words replayed in my mind. 

“Five to six years.”

But all I could think was: “What about now?” 

As I moved to my bed and wrapped the comforter around my ears, I felt the bitter reminder that blankets don’t cover pain any more than diagnoses do. 

When I first received this medical diagnosis (alongside my mental disorders), I felt fearful, paralyzed, and broken. Diagnoses do a good job of naming and identifying the pain you feel, but they do a terrible job of comforting the affliction you’re left to navigate. When a diagnosis leaves you reeling, I want you to know that your pain is valid, a diagnosis doesn’t define you, and healing takes time.