Crohn's Disease & Ulcerative Colitis
Inflammatory Bowel Disease, more commonly known as Crohn’s Disease and Ulcerative Colitis, is unfortunately an illness that is both chronic and unpredictable. It consists of periods of flare-up and remission and is unbelievably unpleasant to live with. I’ve had Crohn’s for 16 years so I’m quite familiar with it and the one thing I can say for certain is that although it is a physical illness that affects our body, it affects our mental health just as much.
What makes this illness a little different from other ones is that it can be considered embarrassing, as it affects a section of our body that is normally not discussed in open conversation. The bowels! While we know from the delightful children’s book “Everyone Poops” that our GI tract is nothing to be ashamed of, it still isn’t the easiest topic of conversation to have with people. In addition, this illness can be considered somewhat of an “invisible’ disease. On the outside, we could look like the picture of health so sometimes it is hard for people to truly understand the kind of intense pain and crippling fatigue that we are feeling on the inside on a daily basis.
As a result of this, it’s very common to struggle with the shame, embarrassment, confusion, and sadness all on your own. I’ve always been comfortable opening up to people about my struggle with this illness but I know from talking with my clients that this isn’t always the case with everyone. The problem is that when we don’t feel like we can share our story with people around us, we might start to see our world become even smaller. Since this is an illness that often necessitates staying close to home, you can see how easy it would be to fall into a pattern of isolation and despair.
We’ve all heard it before but it’s important to remember that stress is so detrimental to our bodies and unfortunately; our illness is always exacerbated by it. That’s why it’s so important to allow yourself to open up and talk about your feelings. In the same way that there is medication out there to help control the physical symptoms, there are resources out there to help control the emotional ones. Whether it’s individual therapy with me or support groups in your community, please reach out and talk to someone. It will make the difference between just living with this illness and thriving with it.
You always have spare clothes in your car in case you have an accident. You avoid going out to dinner with friends because you never know how you’ll feel after eating. Dating can feel like a nightmare because of the less than glamorous aspects of this illness.
You just want to be able to live your life without the constant burden of feeling sick and unsettled.