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When People Throw Shade Your Way Because of Your Chronic Illness

For many people with Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis (UC), weight can fluctuate greatly. Our appearance becomes something we can no longer use to identify ourselves.

Personally, I had what is termed “moon face,” which is a rounding of the face due to prednisone. This steroid is used for Crohn’s and UC patients to calm flare-ups. It acts as a miracle drug most times, but the side effects are numerous. In most instances, people feel well enough to do things outside their home once more and get quite a big appetite. This sometimes causes people to gain weight excessively. I was never overweight, but if you only saw my “moon face,” then you might have thought I was.

My biggest problem during flares was not being able to eat. As soon as I’d have one bite, I would have to run to the nearest restroom. Even water would trigger my colon to spasm. Because of this, I would lose weight.

I’ve always been thin, so losing any weight was quickly visible. At my heaviest, I weighed 113 pounds, and at my lowest, I was 87 pounds — maybe a bit less. My clothes just hung on my body. Pants, shorts and skirts wouldn’t stay on because I was too thin for them. Getting undressed to shower would make me cry because I would see my malnourished body (or what was left of it) in the bathroom mirror. Trying to pick an outfit for the day was depressing because I struggled to find something that would stay on me and maybe help make me look not so sick. Shopping, forget about it.

What I have been trying to get to is this: When you know someone who’s ill and has lost significant amounts of weight, don’t degrade them because of it.

It has never bothered me to talk about my weight with people because I felt like it helped people understand my disease. I always felt bad canceling or just saying no to events with friends because I felt like they would think I was blowing them off. Being open with people about everything made me hopeful they would understand it wasn’t that I didn’t want to spend time with them, but I couldn’t spend time with them.

Sometimes, though, being open with people doesn’t matter. Sometimes you run into people who don’t or won’t take into account everything you go through on a daily basis. And they can be mean.

I refuse to let anyone have power over me, but unlike the saying “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me,” words can hurt. A couple of times at my lowest, my appearance was used against me out of anger. I was told that I looked disgusting, I was a skeleton, I looked like a boy because I had no shape and a few other things I fortunately have forgotten about. These things hurt, not only because of how mean they were, but that’s how I already felt about myself. I didn’t need to be reminded.

I understand people aren’t always going to like you for whatever reason, but remember this: Don’t ever retaliate by pointing out flaws that one can’t control, especially when it’s caused by a chronic illness. Everything we have to deal with — all the pain, worry, fear, sadness — shouldn’t be intensified by another’s insensitivity.

If you’re dealing with a chronic illness, I’m sure there will be people who will try to throw shade your way, but remember the pain you feel is temporary. You will always be beautiful. Deepen that beauty by doing nothing in return, and I believe you should pray for the person who is trying to ruin your day. You’re stronger than they could ever be because of everything you endure. It may not be now, but you will feel better. Don’t ever give up and don’t ever let anyone break you, at least not for good.

No one is perfect, including myself, but each and everyone of us can strive to be better human beings to one another.