We hear it all the time, how inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) is extremely hard to live with and can completely take over a patient’s life. And it’s true: Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis can take over a patient’s life. IBD can be devastating not only to patients, but also for their families, too. But no matter how bad a situation is, there is always a positive side, too.
Can IBD be viewed as a good thing? You might think I’m crazy right now when I say that it can, but when I look at how IBD has impacted my life, the picture that emerges is not black and white.
Yes, I’ve dealt with constant challenges: regular hospital stays, more surgeries than many people have in a lifetime by a young age, and more. I can go on and on about how painful it’s been, the accidents I’ve had in public, the nausea, and of course the fatigue. But hear me out:
Without IBD I would have never found my calling in life. I might never have had the drive to help others and become so passionate that it led me to dedicate a large portion of my life to making the lives of others better with the Intense Intestines Foundation. Without IBD, I would likely have gone down another path and never have found this incredible life that allows me to help patients just like me.
On top of that, without Crohn’s, I would never have met so many other patients and their families. Whether it’s the online family I have found on social media platforms or the family members I have met in person, these amazing members of what I look at as my IBD family would likely never have been a part of my life. These relationships are some of the strongest I have. It’s amazing to know that I can just open up my computer or pick up the phone and someone will be there at any time of day.
I’m not the only one who thinks that IBD can be a good thing that can enrich lives. Here are some thoughts from other patients:
Tiffany says: IBD "forces me to slow down, focus on what is most important. For me that’s my relationship with God, myself, and others. [It] humbles me because I’m forced to accept that I’m not perfect and sometimes need help! As an overachiever this has been critical to my character development. It’s helped me to learn patience and how to find joy even when I’m suffering.”
Thaila says: “Aside from getting to know some incredible friends within the IBD community, it’s given me a whole new perspective on life. I’m much more confident, much more respectful of my body, and I appreciate life a lot more.”
Louise cites IBD as offering “the ability to help others. Learning how to be strong and proud of my ostomy.”
Angela says: [I] "learned how to conquer and how to love. Fear no longer holds me back; it propels me. Pain no longer paralyzes me; it pushes me forward. My dreams no longer intimidate me; they motivate me. And for the sake of full transparency, people no longer confound and frustrate me; they inspire me.”
We all know how hard living with Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis can be. We also have seen it have a big impact on friends and loved ones who also have IBD. It’s important to keep these diseases from tearing you down and putting you in a bad place for too long. Stay strong and realize that many times when there is bad, there is usually good that goes along with it.
Brian Greenberg is founder of the Intense Intestines Foundation. He primarily works as an advocate to help patients with Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis and ostomies. You can reach Brian on Twitter at @BrianIIF or email at Brian@IntenseIntestines.org. If you would like to connect with the IIF more please visit www.Facebook.com/IntenseIntestines, or www.Twitter.com/NtenseNtestines. And you can join Brian in the conversation about all things IBD on the IBDHealthCentral Facebook page.
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. Find Brian on Twitter @BrianIIF.