How a health crisis caused me to rethink my sense of identity
Getting to the core of who I am was a pivotal moment on my journey
I had an identity crisis when I turned 30. At the time, everything that had previously defined me — my health, my job, my financial independence — had been stripped from me. It felt like the rug had been pulled out from under my feet.
Most 30-year-olds aren’t writing out their final wishes in the event they won’t be able to communicate, but several years ago, I was. As I finished the evaluation for a double-lung transplant, made necessary by complications of cystic fibrosis, I had to rumble with death more than life. While preventing death was the goal, it wasn’t promised.
After being hit with blood clots, I had to abruptly resign from my job. I was a therapist for children and never got to say goodbye to the kids I worked with. Even though it wasn’t my fault, it felt like I failed them.
I was forced to rely on my parents financially. I lost the ability to work and provide for myself. I felt like a helpless child again, even though my parents never saw it that way.
I had to figure who I was apart from these roles, to learn what made me me. This meant releasing the illusion that I’m only measured by my productivity, contribution to society, and ability to be fully independent. Being vulnerable enabled me to live as my authentic self.
I had to shift gears when meeting someone new. The typical “Hey, what’s your name and what do you do?” didn’t bode well for my unemployed state. I began responding, “I’m Lara and I live life.” The awkward chuckle and repeated question forced me to say something the other person didn’t expect: “I’m not working because I’m waiting for a double-lung transplant.” The conversation faded with them stumbling over their words, unsure how to relate to me.
I had to be comfortable with people who were uncomfortable with the state of my life. I didn’t need validation from others. My confidence came from who I was as a person.
I learned that my worth couldn’t be measured by mere human opinion, the pressures to perform, or the level of my abilities. My worth could only be measured by something that never changes, which for me is God.
Sometimes, when the old narratives try to infiltrate my thoughts, I have to remind myself of what’s true. The false scripts — “I’m not good enough,” “I don’t measure up,” or “I’m operating at a deficit because of my health” — can run rampant when I compare myself with others. But when I remember my value is inherent to me and has nothing to do with my capacity to perform or contribute, I can realign my thoughts.
My support squad also helps me maintain my sense of identity. They remind me of who I am and that I have innate value as a human, regardless of health challenges, lack of employment, and financial status. I’m thankful I don’t have to tackle this alone.
For those who have experienced something similar, here’s some wisdom I wish I knew before: When your world is shaken and life as you know it seems to be tumbling down all around you, it helps to remain steadfast in what’s true. Go to the people who know you the best; they will remind you of who you are. Take a break, set healthy boundaries, and give yourself grace to process life events, recalibrate, and refocus. And remember, you are valuable just as you are. Always.
Note: Cystic Fibrosis News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Cystic Fibrosis News Today or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to cystic fibrosis.