Ella, a young white woman with long blonde hair, is dressed formally in a black academic gown. She is standing on a lawn facing the camera and smiling.

Ella kindly gave us permission to share this post from her personal blog.

I think that going through any kind of hardship, no matter of what nature, can sometimes mask what you do have in life to be grateful for.

It’s so easy for me, and only natural, to focus on what I’ve lost. Compared to only 4 or 5 years ago, I’ve had my world totally stripped of life as I knew it. My total life plan was scrapped, I have had to intermit from university, I no longer have any independence, I have to use a wheelchair and rely on carers to do the simplest of tasks I never imagined, at my age, not being able to do. My life went from having a successful academic career to spending extended periods of time in hospital, with my body failing me more and more. My daily routine was suddenly out of my control, and my life was dictated by my body.

Ella, a young white woman with long blonde hair, is dressed formally in a black academic gown. She is standing on a lawn facing the camera and smiling.

This week in particular, I’ve been really struggling. I don’t really know why; as always, there has been a lot going on, but I just haven’t been able to see a way forwards. I can’t help but apologise for basically my existence and the smallest of tasks seems massively overwhelming. I just haven’t been able to get myself out of this frame of mind and I’ve spent so much time in tears.

How did I get here? 23 years of age, I can’t even eat a meal, I’m fed through a tube in my nose, I have a stoma bag, I’m in a wheelchair, my health conditions have been taking over my life and I don’t know how much more I can take.

However, although I’ve found it even harder than usual to see clearly, I need to try to focus on what I do have and what I am truly grateful for. Please don’t think that this comes easily, because I can assure you it doesn’t, and whatever positive front I may seem to put on here isn’t how I feel most of the time.

Ella is pictured in a cafe with a friend. Both young women are in wheelchairs and smiling directly at the camera.

Firstly, there’re things to be grateful for because of my illness. This sounds

crazy, I know, but without it I wouldn’t have met some of my closest friends who share some of the same conditions as me. I’ve lost most of my older friends because of being unwell, but the friends I’ve met through my blog or other forums understand me like no one else and the bond I have with them is something I’m so grateful for. There’re people whom I can talk about things I never imagined myself having to discuss at my age, but people who have an understanding of at least some aspects of what I’m going through.

Ella is looking down at her dog Jeffrey who is sitting in her lap. She is pictured outside a building in her wheelchair.

As well as this, my illnesses have truly changed my perspective on life. It has shown me the most important things which, to me, is my family – I have the most supportive parents, sister and boyfriend, as well as Jeffrey who brings me more joy than anybody realises. Being unwell has also made me grateful for the smallest things I never realised I took for granted; getting fresh air after eight weeks in hospital, sleeping in my own bed and having a nights sleep without being sick.

When I really thought about it, I also have a lot more to be grateful for – good days where my pain and other symptoms are manageable and I’m able to get out the house and enjoy myself, even if it’s just taking Jeffrey to the woods. Getting a surprise, receiving a nice message or comment on a blog post or getting a letter from one of my pen pals; honestly the smallest things now just mean the world to me as I understand the importance of kindness more deeply.

As difficult as life is at the moment, and as much as I’m struggling both physically and mentally, all I can say is that the love and support from my family and friends, messages, visits, and any act of kindness, no matter how big or small, is appreciated more than I can put into words. No matter how challenging life gets, there is always something to be grateful for.

About the Author

Ella Hollis

Ella, who is 23, was studying Natural Sciences at Cambridge University but unfortunately had to intermit from uni for the last three years due to ill health. She suffers from EDS, PoTS, Gastroparesis and associated conditions as well as Crohn’s Disease. She writes a blog to connect with others in similar positions with the hope to support them, as well as document her journey.

Back to overview page