How will my friends react? Will they not want to be friends with me? How will I find someone to love? Was I just meant to be alone?
These are just a few of the natural, understandable questions that go through a Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis patient’s head when they think about how their disease will impact their friendships and relationships. But what if I told you that these questions can be stopped? What if I told you that in many cases, they are unfounded? It all depends on how you feel about your disease and how you discuss it with the people around you.
I’ve personally been through it all with my Crohn’s disease. Accidents, ostomy leaks, smelly infections, running to the bathroom, and much more. At times I just stayed at home and told myself, “A social life isn’t for me right now.” But I also told myself, “Maybe one day.”
Since a period in my life when I was down and even depressed, I found a better way of dealing with my Crohn’s disease and ostomy. It’s called confidence. And it’s that simple.
Living with a chronic disease like Crohn’s or ulcerative colitis isn’t easy. They can both be embarrassing at times and make life very difficult, but if you handle every obstacle with your head up and even laugh about it a little bit, the people around you will do the same. I know it can sometimes be difficult to be confident, but at times like these, you simply have to “fake it ‘til you make it.” Acting confident when you aren’t can give you the boost you need to actually BE confident.
Here are a few tips which will allow confidence to shine through and not let IBD impact your friendships and relationships:* ** Talk about your disease:** Many people talk about IBD in such a negative way, and that can be the sort of thing that makes others not want to be around you. When you start to feel yourself going negative, try to change the tone and words you choose. Make sure the people around you know that even if the worst happens and you have an accident, everything will be okay.
Laugh about your disease: Yes, IBD can get a person down in an instant and I’m not saying that you can’t feel down from time to time. But find a way to laugh about it, as well. Crack a joke to your friends. Let them know that it’s not the end of the world. If you can laugh and deal with it positively, they will, too.
Let them know what you might need: Everyone has dealt with disease at some point in their life. If they weren’t sick, they know someone who was. Be open about your own disease. Tell people, “Yes, I’d love to join you to do _______, but if something happens I might have to _____.” True friends will be happy to have you there still.
Don’t be upset if they aren’t the right person: Not everyone is going to accept your disease. If they don’t, then just let them know that it’s okay and that you’ll be going your own way for a while. When I was wondering if my IBD and ostomy would keep me from meeting a romantic partner, a good friend told me, “Brian, it’s not going to keep you from meeting the right person. It’s going to keep you from meeting the wrong person.” Live your life with this as your motto and you’ll begin to look at your IBD in a different way.
Learn to take away some of the stress that you put on yourself and others. Change the way you live today. Look at things in a different way, be more confident, and go live your life the way you’d like to.
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.