My patients sometimes like to discuss the “hassles” of preparing to enter the adult world and manage their own health. I run a transition education and co-management program through my center’s IBD clinic, where I try to help parents and patients begin to shift the daily regimen of medical behaviors from parent, to parent-patient, eventually to patient management with support. Part of our time together just includes talking out loud about the best and worst of growing up and launching into the world as young adults.

One of my favorite “gripe sessions” included a patient talking about how his parents were making him decide which items in his room he wanted to take to college, which items he wanted “boxed up” and taken to the attic until he had a place of his own and could take them, and which items he was okay with his parents throwing away. “They want me to decide which parts of my childhood I can just throw away? So they can have a spare room for strangers?! That’s not cool.

That conversation made me remember my own transition out of my parents’ house and what it was like to come back, later. I remember eventually finding my old Snoopy boxed up in the attic (yes, I still have it!) and coming to peace with the idea that my room was not the only thing that had changed during my time away. I had been slowly changing during that time, as well. Though the objects in my bedroom were emotionally and historically tied to me, and my feelings about them would always be there, my changing sense of who I was in the world, and the enduring love and support of my family, held more significance and power over time. 

Becoming a young adult wasn’t an overnight event where I woke up the next morning categorically different than who I had been as I fell asleep the previous night. Without knowing it, I had been slowly absorbing the idea that things can come and go but people, and my sense of self, could endure and help me now and in the periods to come. My ability to tie this to my own chronic health condition and use it to motivate me to maintain my health better eventually kept me out of trouble (although my first semester I did not manage to stay out of the emergency room… more on that another time).

Looking back, if I could have packed anything else as I prepared to move away, it would have been the conscious realization that I had support and help, and the acknowledgment that I mattered and was worth the effort to have a good life. Also the strong desire to stay aware of and on top of certain things, like sleeping well enough or taking my medication on time, because, as my mother always said, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

Desire and follow-through, when it comes to managing health behaviors, begins with awareness. Part of this awareness comes from staying connected to your supports, especially the people who know you the best and want the best for you. Part of this awareness comes from consciously recognizing that staying on top of your medical regimen and staying connected to doctors is what preserves your health and good living, not what gets in the way of good living. And, most importantly, in my mind, part of this awareness comes from knowing that you have a future ahead of you where you will not only live a good life but make a positive difference in the world around you. Yes, you.

So, grab your Snoopy, but also remember to pack this important knowledge into your U-Haul, and then let’s go.


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