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Another blogger with chronic illness, Ness over at The Girl With Five Lads, has challenged the online community of people living with chronic illness to take a minute to remind themselves (and their readers, if they blog) who they truly are. I am grateful to Ness for creating this challenge, because it has reminded me that I am more than my illness, and given me the opportunity to share with you what I am really like, #besidesmydiagnosis. Thanks also to Mini2z, yet another awesome chronic illness blogger. I originally came across this challenge on her page.

So, without further ado, here we go:

1. #besidesmydiagnosis the three things about my appearance that I love in the mirror?

The feminist in me is not really comfortable with this question coming first, but in honor of being #bodypositive, I will share my answers to the question! (I will not however share a nude photo, sorry in advance).


Crooked smile, unique eyes , and NEW HAIRCUT all apparent in this selfie i snapped outside of the salon😜

  • My Crooked Smile – an essential part of my self-identity; it’s almost always there, even when I am hurting. I try to smile most always, it’s helpful for me and others (Smiling can actually make you happier)! My husband says he fell in love with my smile first, then the rest of me 😋.
  • My Eyes – other people tend to think they are my best feature. They are a unique color of blue.
  • My haircut – OMG, I finally got over my fear that getting my hair cut and colored was going to make me sick and just did it (spoiler alert: it still gives me a migraine). Even though I didn’t feel well for a while afterwards, I am so glad I went. I love my new hair. It is low maintenance and doesn’t pull on my head like long hair. IMHO it also looks pretty damn good!

2. #besidesmydiagnosis the things I have read most are?

This question is so much more up my alley, but still difficult to answer. That’s because I read just about everything I can get my hands on and enjoy most of it! A few of my very favorites that I find myself returning to for comfort are Anna Karenina (Tolstoy), Pride and Prejudice (Jane Austen), The Harry Potter Series (JK Rowling), To Kill a Mockingbird (Harper Lee) and literally anything written by Elizabeth Gilbert or Jhumpa Lahiri. In other words zebra doesn’t just write, zebrareads! Some more recent favorites include The Nightengale (Kristin Hannah), and All The Light We Cannot See (Anthony Doerr).

3. #besidesmydiagnosis my favourite comfort foods are?

I’m going to pretend this question includes foods that I can no longer eat, so ICECREAM! Oh, and mashed potatoes. And my grandma’s homemade chicken and noodles (the essence of the art of simplicity). Lastly, really good chocolate. I don’t mean to sound like Ina Garten here, I just was spoiled when my mom studied to become a chocolatier and started having the good stuff sent over from Europe.

4. #besidesmydiagnosis my favourite past times are?

Reading is my favorite when I’m able. An e-reader or tablet is no substitute for a real book. They lack a certain something, a certain magic that comes with the weight of printed text. That said, when my vision goes all wonky on me, I do enjoy listening to audiobooks and podcasts. Coloring is a great way to distract myself when I’m in pain. I find it funny that they call it “adult coloring” now. I’m an equal opportunity colorer. I enjoy coloring detailed patterns just as much as I like a good old fashioned Disney coloring book! (And have been using this technique to relieve stress since way before it was popular. That’s right, I’m a coloring OG). Let your inner child out to play – you know you want that coloring book that’s “for kids.”

5. #besidesmydiagnosis my biggest accomplishment since illness is?

This is a hard question because the onset of my illness and my diagnosis came so far apart. Since my illness truly started to impact my life I have earned a B.A. in psychology from Miami University, and my M.S. and Ed.S. (Educational Specialist) in educational/school psychology from the University of Kentucky. I am very proud of myself for overcoming obstacles created by my illness it’s self, and lack of understanding from others in order to earn these degrees. I also became a licensed School Psychologist and practiced for one and a half years.

Since my diagnosis, I am most proud of opening up about my experiences with chronic illness and pain, both positive and negative, here and on The Mighty.

6. #besidesmydiagnosis I feel my best quality is?

Resilience. Sure I have set backs, and times when it feels like a flare will never end, but I ALWAYS bounce back!

7. #besidesmydiagnosis my motto/mantra to live by?

This Should Require No Explanation…

8. #besidesmydiagnosis I would love to travel to?

So many places. I’d love to see the British Isles, cruise the Mediterranean, explore the Amazon, climb Mt. Kilimanjaro (like my late Aunt, Elise Lachowyn), go on safari, stroll along the Sienne with my husband, and more. Unfortunately traveling even a few hours tends to exacerbate my symptoms and traveling such far distances and going on such great adventures would make me really sick (right now). I hope that someday I am able to manage my health well enough to do these things and more!

9. #besidesmydiagnosis my guilty pleasure is?

Reading first, ALWAYS (and buying books). I could spend hour upon hour in a bookstore or library, and never ever get bored. Also, cuddling up with my hubby, Kitteh, and/or the Monster and binge watching a good show or catching a movie.

10. #besidesmydiagnosis I have many dreams and ambitions such as?

As much as I am proud of my accomplishments and the career in education that I had before my diagnosis, I am learning to be ok with that part of my life no longer being such a large part of my identity. I hope to be good at whatever I’m doing in the moment, and to let that be enough. When I was younger, I stayed up late at night worrying about how I could do something so great it would change the world. Now that I’m older I understand that you can change it little by little, one person, child, or blogpost at a time.