5 Things Living with UC Has Taught Me
During the past 15 years since my ulcerative colitis diagnosis, I've learned quite a few things about myself and how I want to live my life.
- Learning to do nothing and not feel guilty about it has served me quite well. I grew up in a family where doing nothing or daydreaming wasn't necessarily advocated. So, as I moved into living my own life, I was a person who had to be doing something in order to feel productive. Even being sick with the flu or a cold could make me feel guilty for wasting time. So, when my first UC flare hit--and it hit big-time—I found myself, in addition to dealing with the physical symptoms, feeling that I was wasting so much time by being sick. This only made me more stressed and seemed to make my symptoms worse. But with the help of a psychologist and a Reiki master, I was able to become comfortable with the concept of taking time for me, time to do what I wanted or not doing what I didn't want to do. I quickly realized that if I wasn't happy and healthy, I wasn't going to be able to make those around me happy either. Over the years, I've worked quite hard on learning to do nothing and not feel guilty about it. It still can be difficult to let go, but when I can, I find I'm both physically and mentally happier and healthier.
- On the flip side of learning to do nothing, I've also learned to pick and choose how to use my energy--which at times is limited--for what I want and need to do. I've made drastic changes in my life, and this includes my professional life. After my first UC flare, I was forced to leave what was a successful career, albeit one fraught with extreme stress, long days, and little to no tolerance for UC flare-ups and frequent bathroom calls. At first, the career change was very hard, both from a work and an ego standpoint. But I can say today that I am a happier and healthier person, although a little poorer, than when I was working in my previous profession.
- Living a healthier lifestyle wasn't a tough call for me, but it is one that I might not have made so readily if it hadn't been for UC. That first flare-up really made me look at what I was eating and how it was affecting me and my body. I went through an elimination diet (you can see my description of this here) and was able to identify foods that caused problems for me. I have now formulated a diet that makes me feel my best. I also added yoga to my life, as well as meditation, Reiki, and regular exercise. I'm probably a healthier person today than I was B.C. - before colitis.
- I now appreciate every good day, week, month and year that I have while living with UC. Like so many people, I took the gift of life for granted. But now that I know that a bad flare could hinder me for days or week or months, I truly appreciate each and every good day. I do what I need to do and what I want to do, even if that means doing nothing. I have a much better appreciation for what is really important to me to have a good life - time spent with family and friends, not stressing over the small, inconsequential things, eating good foods, exploring new areas.
- Even when those flare-up days hit, I've learned that I have control over how I handle them, how I react to them, how I work through them. I no longer have to simply surrender to the pain and the frequent bowel movements. My mind is a strong tool and I've learned how to use it to help me through the rough times of living with UC--the mind/body connection is real. The biggest thing I've learned is that I am not UC, but that I can live with and despite UC.
Published On: June 18, 2008