We are taught at a very young age not to discuss what happens behind the bathroom door, and even though Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis go far beyond the bathroom, patients often stay quiet about their disease. But once we begin living on our own with irritable bowel disease (IBD) without talking about it, it can become even harder to accept the disease.
For years, many IBD patients suffer mentally as well as physically because they have trouble accepting their disease. New patients expect that life will get back to normal after their first flare — that they will have to deal with their disease every once in awhile, and then move on.
In reality, both diseases can be a daily battle with constant physical and mental pain. We ask ourselves all the time: What if something happens? What if I’m out and pain strikes? What if I’m with friends and anxiety hits?
But there is a big step one can take that can make life better with Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis: to accept the disease. Accept a new normal. And accept that life may never be the same as it was. Once a patient has done this, he or she can begin to adjust to life’s “new normal.”
When it comes to acceptance, there are a few areas that a patient needs to focus on. Some are accompanied by fear and anxiety — which are common when trying to change one’s mindset.
Here are a few tips to help accept your Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis.
Talk to a professional: A big step for anyone with IBD is to talk about it. Talking about your disease can lift an enormous amount of weight from your shoulders and change your entire outlook on life. I’m not saying go out and start telling strangers at a bar about your IBD, but look for a mental health professional to speak with. Not all insurance companies cover this — but isn’t improving your life worth a try, no matter the cost?
Create a plan to go out: Often we get so comfortable with our IBD that we just stay in day after day, night after night. Eventually, this snowballs into feeling like we can never go out, which leads to feeling we aren’t accepted by society. That we are alone. YOU ARE NOT ALONE. Talk to a few friends or loved ones who know about your disease, then come up with a plan to slowly start getting back out there again. It just takes time, planning, and the right preparation.
Find a support group: If there is one good thing that we can point to about having a chronic illness, it’s that there are always people to talk to. I recommend trying to find a support group in your area. There is nothing better than meeting people face to face and getting to know others who are also dealing with adversity. If there isn’t a support group in your area, consider starting one or finding an online group. The great part about online support groups is that you can find someone to talk to 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
People are accepting: At times we think of ourselves as different, and not in a good way. We begin to feel that no one would want to be around a person who has a disease like IBD. The reality is that 99 percent of time, this isn’t the case. Everyone, and I mean _everyon_e, knows someone with a chronic condition. Remember — that small minority that might not be accepting of your IBD? You don’t want them in your life, anyway. Write them out of your life, and go about your days. You’ll be happy you didn’t let them make you feel like you don’t belong.
Surround yourself with amazing people: Once you begin talking about your IBD, you will find something incredible happens. Friends, loved ones, family members — they are happy to be supportive, and will help you in an instant if they should. Talk about your disease and let others know about it. Once you make this big step to go from talking to a professional, to talking with those close to you, you’ll feel more accepted than ever, and that will lead you to accepting your disease.
While some of these might be a good start, take the time to try and figure out what might be making it hard for you to accept your IBD. Is it something internal? A friend? A parent? Or something else? Once you can pinpoint what might be holding you back from accepting your Crohn’s or ulcerative colitis, you’ll be one step closer to figuring out a game plan to help move past that hurdle.
Brian Greenberg was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease at age 11. His freshman year of college, he began a roller coaster ride of flares, hospitals stays, major surgeries, and more, with brief breaks of good health. After having an ostomy surgery 6 years ago, making it permanent 3 years ago, he is happy with his quality of life and enjoys helping others with their health journeys. When his health cooperates, he enjoys triathlons, hiking, climbing, skiing, and more.