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To Anyone Who Rolls Their Eyes at Attending a Chronic Illness Support Group

I did something yesterday I did not think I would ever do. Something that has taken me five years of gathering courage and eliminating excuses. Something that terrified me and filled me with bad emotions. Something that was freeing; something I wish I had done years ago.

I went to a support group.

Did¬†you just roll your eyes or inwardly cringe? I don’t blame you if you¬†did, because that’s something I did myself when the idea was first¬†proposed to me. Support group? I don’t need a support group. I’m handling things just fine, I thought to myself.

Every¬†time someone would bring up the subject of a local Crohn’s disease¬†support group, I would get angry and upset. I was secretly relieved when¬†the support group stopped meeting, because that meant I would not¬†have to go. And you know what? All of that was OK. I wasn’t ready to¬†handle a room full of people with Crohn’s disease, because I was still¬†fighting the fact that I had it myself. I hadn’t come to acceptance, and¬†I fully believe that had I gone to a support group then, my journey to¬†acceptance would have been harder. I wasn’t ready at that time to see¬†people thriving with Crohn’s disease, simply because I couldn’t admit¬†that I would be living with this disease for a lifetime.

However,¬†with the help of time and a wonderful psychologist, I’ve come to a place where I’m ready and willing to embrace my Crohn’s disease.¬†Crohn’s is a part of me, and it’s kind of really cool. I mean, how many¬†people know what a magnetic resonance enterography is, or can explain¬†alternative methods of receiving nutrition?

That’s cool, and cool kids have Crohn’s disease. This past winter, I finally circled back around to the idea of a support group, and I was pleasantly surprised¬†when I actually wanted to go. So I did some digging and found one that met near where I live.

Last¬†night I walked through a set of doors and into a conference room filled¬†with Crohn’s disease patients. I can’t explain how freeing it was to be¬†with those who understand. There was no need to explain what a¬†colo-rectal surgeon was, because everyone had been to one before. I¬†didn’t have to tell people what mesalamine is, because most people were¬†on it themselves. Telling my diagnosis story to fellow patients who had¬†faced similar circumstances was a mental release. What a blessing it was to be surrounded by people with similar life stories and hearts.

I’m so glad I’m at the point in my journey where I can take advantage of this opportunity.¬†One¬†thing that struck me the most last night was how happy inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) patients¬†are. We are like a rare breed. We have experienced more pain and¬†hardships than most people, and yet we all have so much joy and vibrancy¬†inside of us. I really do believe that IBD-ers are the best people in the world, and last night affirmed my belief.

If¬†you are feeling ready to attend a support group, I’m urging you to do¬†so. If you aren’t there yet, it’s OK. Be patient with yourself and take¬†time to just revel in how far you’ve already come. Trust me, you’re¬†doing great.

The Mighty is asking the following: What’s one unexpected source of comfort when it comes to your (or a loved one’s) disability and/or disease? If you’d like to participate, please send a blog post to [email protected] Please include a photo for the piece, a photo of yourself and 1-2 sentence bio. Check out our Submit a Story page for more about our submission guidelines.

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