Chronic Illness And The Path To Hospital Reform: My Pursuit Of An MSW
August 03, 2020
Making My Mess My Message
I have no large intestine. I am a happy and functional millennial, but I am missing one of the body’s major organs.
In 2010, I was diagnosed with a bad case of ulcerative colitis. I remember fainting in chemistry class convinced me I was sick, but it wasn’t until I was chained to an IV in my local hospital that I understood its severity.
I had to have my large intestine removed to save my life. Medications and pills did not eliminate my symptoms, so surgery was my only alternative.
I am so grateful I had the surgery and that now I am healthy. Surviving the disease taught me resilience, which is especially useful now as I navigate the rocky world of COVID-19.
I am sad that my doctors did nothing to address the mental trauma of my experience. Not so much anymore for myself, as I am fortunate to have sought out some excellent therapy throughout the decade since my diagnosis. I am sad that others are going through, and will go through, the same roller coaster ride that is ulcerative colitis, and will not be automatically provided with mental health care.
I know we do the best we can with the healthcare at our disposal. I know that hospitals have limited resources, especially in disadvantaged areas. But we can do more, and I want to contribute.
As I understand it, a master’s in social work is what I need to spark the change I want. I want to be the person in the hospital room ready to counsel and process with the scared teenager waking up from invasive surgery. I want to help people understand how their chronic illnesses affect not only their bodies, but their minds. I want mental health care to be an inherent aspect of hospital protocol.
I know medical social workers are doing this work. I know there are others like me, and I am so excited to join them.
I heard the phrase make your mess your message years ago. A cancer survivor coined it. Well, here is an ulcerative colitis survivor who would like to use it too.
My colitis is my mess and medical social work is my message.
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