Looking at me, you would never be able to tell that I have a disease in which my body essentially attacks itself. I was diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis, a close relative of Crohn’s Disease, about 3 years ago. In a healthy person, when you eat or drink, your body sends bacteria to your stomach to digest the food and make it into nutrients. In my body, however, the bacteria that my own body produces is seen as a threat and blood cells are rushed in to attack. It’s quite fun, let me tell you.
From this, I (along with a myriad of people also suffering with this and similar diseases), have developed anemia and struggle with depression, losing weight, fatigue and a lot of other issues I won’t bore you with here. Most days are good, and for that I am very thankful. I have had some awesome doctors and a very supportive community of friends and family who ask questions in order to learn and to ultimately help me, rather than just be nosey. I had trouble at first talking about it, because a) I didn’t think it was that big of a deal b) I didn’t want anyone to pity me and c) it can be gross. I have to go for colonoscopies and endoscopies and excuse myself to the restroom for the millionth time in one sitting…very glamorous, let me tell you.
All of this informational mumbo-jumbo to say, sometimes it is hard. Some days I literally do not leave my bed. I have had to train myself to not feel guilty if I have a lazy day or two. I know my body needs it. A lot of times, my mind makes it hard. I think about how likely it will be that my future children will suffer with this disease because I have it. I worry about if it continually gets worse until I have to take insanely strong medicine (like chemo!) or my doctors may have to remove parts of my digestive tract, which are both very common with this illness. I choose a lot of times not to think about it too much. I have trained my brain to notice when I start stressing about it and direct my thoughts elsewhere. (Like in a previous post of mine, I can’t change it, so why bother dwelling on it?) I know all of these are “what-ifs” and I don’t usually consider myself much of a worrier, but with this, a lot of the “what-if” situations are extremely likely to actually happen.
But worrying never does anybody any good. I stay informed and read up on different treatments and drugs, ideas for exercise or diets, etc. but I remind myself that not liking or accepting my disease won’t make it magically disappear. I am now trying to see, learn and focus on the positives of having it. I am thankful for the lessons it has brought and for better understanding people living with similar issues, which can really form special bonds. One of my best friends has Celiac Disease, so we love venting to each other about stuff that “normal” (healthy) people wouldn’t quite understand. I am also thankful and remind myself that it could be much worse; I could have flare-ups much more frequently, or even have a disease that medicines can’t help to control. I am learning to eat healthier, be more active and to remain relaxed (because stress is one of the worst causes of a flare up) and keep my mind in a calm and positive state.
Suffering with this has also taught me to laugh at myself. One day I had typed in “Ulcerative Colitis” on Pinterest, of all places, just to look at what other people were saying or doing about it. So many people have made jokes, memes, pictures, and quotes that had me laughing to myself about this horrible thing for the very first time ever. One in particular has become my mantra for a bad flare, “Some days, the best you can do is to not sh*t your pants in public.” (Which, yes, commonly does happen with UC…I told you it’s glamorous!).
When “stuff” happens, you can either die of embarrassment, or you can just learn to laugh. (I always say if I can’t laugh about it, I’ll just end up crying about it. And I would much rather be laughing.)
So whatever you may be going through, try to see the humor and the positives of it. Learn from it. Be thankful for what you still have and focus on that. I know I could be a hermit and cry and complain all of the time (and yes, some days I do that) but I refuse to let some little confused pieces of my physical being bring me down and make me miserable. I have way too much fun in my future to be held back by some little illness.