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10 Ways Crohn's Disease Prepares You for Pregnancy

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“Raise your hand if you’ve ever had an IV…”

I nonchalantly look around the room and notice I’m one of two women in the newborn class at the hospital who raises her hand. Then I start thinking about how scary it might be for all the completely healthy people who’ve never stepped foot in a hospital as the patient, who’ve never had pain medication or surgery, who’ve never experienced a hospital stay with their husband. That’s when it hits – battling Crohn’s disease for more than 11 years has prepped me for this journey and given me confidence going into delivery.

BabyBOY

Here are my top 10 reasons why:

10. Packing the hospital bag.

So many people stress over what to bring and what they’ll need. Normally with a flare, I’m bent over in pain rushing to throw together loose odds and ends in a bag, on a whim, with no rhyme or reason. You know what you’ll actually use (comfy pajamas without a waistband, a phone charger, face wipes that allow you to wash your face without getting up, your own shampoo, etc.) and what you’ll never touch.

9. Dealing with frequent bathroom breaks.

In the first and third trimester you constantly need to take bathroom breaks. As a Crohnie, you’re used to scoping out where the bathrooms are in public places and know what it’s like to be woken up in the middle of the night when you need to use the bathroom.

8. Your condition is not invisible.

Once you start showing, complete strangers, friends and family alike treat you like you’re a VIP. Everyone wants to help you, hold doors for you, give their seat up for you, bend over for you, help you reach for items at the store, you name it. When you’re in pain or uncomfortable, there’s no need to struggle in silence because everyone loves helping out a preggo woman. Whereas when you’re struggling with Crohn’s symptoms you look healthy to bystanders and can cover up symptoms if you want to.

photo by J Elizabeth Photography www.jelizabethphotos.com
Photo by J Elizabeth Photograhy

7. Stretchy pants.

Forget the days of having to worry about your skinny jeans or that belted dress restricting your stomach and giving you stomach pains – living in stretchy maternity leggings and dresses for months on end is heavenly. I’m keeping those bad boys post-baby to wear when my Crohn’s acts up!

6. Handling diet restrictions.

If you’ve encountered a Crohn’s flare you might expect a nutritionist at the hospital or at your GI’s office to talk with you about what to avoid and what you can eat. You’re used to a list of foods (fruits, veggies, anything fried, caffeine, nuts, popcorn, etc.) that hang over your head as possible kickstarters for inflammation. I swear – since my Crohn’s diagnosis, if I even try to have movie theater popcorn, I get the same look from my family as I would if I asked for an amaretto stone sour while pregnant! When you find out you’re pregnant and need to refrain from sushi, large doses of caffeine, lunch meat, alcohol, unpasteurized cheeses, etc., it’s a walk in the park because you’re used to having willpower when it comes to refraining from certain foods and drinks, even if they are your favorite.

5. Living with pain and discomfort.

The back, hip, and rib pain that comes along with pregnancy as your joints and ligaments loosen up from the relaxin hormone and prepare for childbirth is eerily similar to what it feels like to be on 40-60 mg. of prednisone. As someone with chronic illness you’re used to tough days and not feeling 100 percent.

photo by J Elizabeth Photography www.jelizabethphotos.com
Photo by J Elizabeth Photograhy

4. Needles are no big deal.

From IVs to blood draws to giving yourself Humira injections, etc…you become desensitized to needles and don’t stress over it. While an epidural or spinal block sounds daunting, it’s just another shot to you. You know how it feels to get pain medication and how your body responds to certain drugs. For instance, I know I’m not a fan of Morphine and will ask for some Dilaudid and Zofran after my C-section if that’s the route I end up going.

3. Previous abdominal surgery.

According to the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation, 75 percent of Crohn’s patients will require surgery at some point in their life. If you’re like me, you’ve had a bowel resection and already have the “C-section scar,” so you know what it’s like to heal from abdominal surgery. My doctors told me healing from a C-section will be much easier than the removal of 18 inches of intestine, along with my appendix. It’s sounding like I’ll be having a scheduled C-section at 39 weeks. If I hadn’t gone through my surgery in 2015, I feel as though I’d be very anxious and apprehensive about going under the knife to bring my baby into the world.

photo by J Elizabeth Photography www.jelizabethphotos.com
Photo by J Elizabeth Photograhy

2. Comfort with your caretakers.

Between multiple hospital stays with my husband by my side, along with my family and my in-laws, I know who I can count on and how those closest to me respond during health situations. During the newborn classes the instructor mentioned how many husbands have to stand in the corner of the room during delivery or can’t witness a C-section, with many fainting or passing out. I’m comforted by the fact that my husband is my rock and his support, compassion and patience always get me through everything. I know he’ll be holding my hand and keeping my eye on the prize until our son is born.

1. Going to the hospital for something good.

This is the best part of all! Whether you were just diagnosed or you’re a chronic illness veteran, this is one of the few times in life when going to the hospital is for a great reason. Whatever pain you endure is temporary and whatever recovery is needed is all a result of bringing a life into this world – a child you get to love and adore, a new member of your family. This is one of the few times your pain has purpose.

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Photos by J. Elizabeth Photography

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What 'Interstellar' Taught Me About Living With Crohn's Disease

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We are given a finite amount of time to breathe on this planet.

In an infinite universe that stretches across never-ending space filled with stars and nothingness, we are assured of one thing: one day, we will cease to exist – like a star that has outlived its shine and propels into blackness as we look up into the vastness with our telescopes and make a wish on its death. We smile and point as the flash of our long-lost relative in the sky takes its last flight; something in our carbon, oxygen and nitrogen make-up becomes enlivened by our twinkling twin taking her last breath.

We don’t do that when the beings we love on this earth perish.

We know that although time is relative and can be stretched and squeezed in the vastness of the universe light years away from where we exist, on this star that we exist on, it is finite. We celebrate shooting stars that happened years ago, but we can just see now, on this little blue dot, where time starts and stops when our hearts do — and all that really matters is how we spend our time in between those moments.

If you haven’t assumed by now, I watched “Interstellar” last night, so obviously, as a college grad with no background in science whatsoever, I now understand the field of physics and could easily submit my resume to NASA. I’m sure my background of analyzing Shakespeare with 14-year-olds will serve my colleagues at the space station well.

As Cooper and Brand explore another dimension by way of a wormhole, time passes more slowly for them, especially when they land on Miller’s planet, where an hour there is seven years on Earth, or Mann’s planet, where a day is 67 hours long followed by 67 hours of night. How often we have all quipped what we would do if there were more hours in a day. You see, we humans are in a rush. We’re in a rush to get to work. To make dinner. To have children. To get the house clean. We’re in a rush to get to that place where we’ll finally be content. And in the end, we learn that we’ve rushed to death. And in those final moments, we realize that all of the rushing was such a waste of time — and as we look back, we realize that our finite time on earth can’t be sent through a wormhole to stretch and squeeze, but can only be recorded in the memories we leave behind — the time travel of our loved ones will happen only when they close their eyes to dream of the idiosyncrasies of our former selves.

The mission that Cooper and Brand set out to do is testament of the invincible nature of the human spirit. They understand the gravity of their decisions to leave, but it is not until they are up in the darkness, realizing that they may never come home, that time catches up with them. They are paralyzed in the slow, seemingly infinite amount of time in another dimension, and when they return, all of a sudden they are propelled into the finite nature of the planet. Their loved ones have aged, and while in the darkness searching for salvation, they have ceased to really live.

Those of us living with chronic conditions have a funny concept of time. We go through the motions, from appointments to lab work to alternative therapies to bed when it’s just not happening today – and rinse and repeat. Then all of a sudden, we have these moments that stop us in our tracks. A realization hits, generally (for me) followed by a full-body sob that starts in the immobilization of my feet, works its way up to my throat, and exits through my wide open-mouth cry, swelling my face and drowning my eyes with tears that can’t be tamed with tissues or comforting words.

In those moments of desperation, I realize how much time has passed since normalcy, what life has been missed out on as the world has kept spinning at its own pace and loved ones with good intentions have carried on with their own rush.

Crohn’s disease has been my other dimension. My “Miller’s Planet.” My place where I have aged internally, but externally still appear young. For the last 14 years of my life, decisions have revolved around the complexity of my dimension. I have sat in my mind and rationalized solutions — my spaceship’s auto-docking mechanism has malfunctioned several times, and I’ve searched and searched for ways to manually force it into cooperating. I’ve chased the station as it spins out of orbit, forcing my ship to attempt to spin at equal speed, and meet up and join the thing that will bring it optimal health, and dare I say, normalcy.

While I’ve done that, time has passed. I’ve emerged out of the wormhole just long enough to take a peak before I have to go back in to work on my ship, and I looked out into the world. I caught a glimpse of what I’ve missed, and it shook me. It stopped all waves of my internal communication that moves towards solutions, and left me on the couch with a bowl of dairy-free cookies and cream ice cream with Oreos crushed up on top, followed by a long period of staring at the wall, paralyzed in my husband’s arms. Tell me what you’re thinking at this moment, he pled. There weren’t words; there was just a painful realization that couldn’t be articulated. And it was all centered around time. Dr. Brand articulates this painful fear perfectly when he states, “I’m not afraid of death; I’m an old physicist — I’m afraid of time.”

I am not an old physicist, yet I too am petrified of time.

Yet the one constant that I know to be true, that has traveled through my dimension, co-piloted my malfunctioning ship, and willingly become lost in the wormhole, is love — and like Brand says, that is the only thing we’re able to perceive regardless of time and space. When I become hyper-aware of the finiteness of existence, I have an anchor to remind me of this, and to him, I am infinitely grateful and in love.

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We go through this life with invincible, rushed force that time is on our side and will bend and stretch when we need it to. It won’t. But you have a decision today to decide how to spend the time that you have, and the levels of awareness you are willing to tap into in order to focus on what the purpose is of your time here. And I hope when you emerge through the wormhole of your dimension, you find peace and satisfaction.

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Images via Interstellar Movie Facebook page.

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How I Use Painting to Express My Experiences With Crohn's Disease

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I am an artist and I have Crohn’s disease, a gastrointestinal disorder. This has resulted in six abdominal surgeries as well as the removal of my colon and part of my small intestine. The disease has caused a lifetime of pain and struggling. Art has provided me with the tools to transform that pain and anguish into beauty and healing. Line and color provide a conduit through which I can reach into the deepest part of myself and share the treasures that lie within.

This has been a war — the life or death battles, the inability to process emotion while trying to simply survive — but it is not the war we see on TV, online or in print. It is a much more familiar war, one that takes place in the human heart as we struggle to find meaning and purpose amidst pain, tragedy and loss.

painting of man opening up chest by daniel leighton
“Opening Up” by Daniel Leighton

This painting is called Opening Up. It represents a moment in time during the process of transformation. The figure in the painting is exposing himself, opening up his wound and finding beauty and treasure where there had once been pain and agony. He is opening himself up now, whereas in the past he had been opened by others. He is still too vulnerable to look at the viewer, so he looks away as he exposes himself. He wears a mask and a full body suit as an added layer of protection, to boost personal power and offset trauma.

I was first hospitalized in the mid ‘70s, around the age of 5. It was a horrifying experience – both because of the procedures I went through and because of the way they were handled by the people who performed them. I felt dehumanized during this experience because I always knew that if they saw me on a human level, at the level of their heart, they would have handled things differently. Instead, they taped me up, tied me down and shoved a tube down my throat, leaving me defenseless and completely vulnerable. This was the first in a relentless series of traumas, physical and emotional, medical and otherwise, which still haunt me today.

Trauma occurs when the amount of emotional energy, which is generated from an event, exceeds the amount that is discharged afterward. As a 5-year-old, I did not know what trauma was or what to do with these feelings. Something inside of me did though, and it ignited a quest to find a way to process what happened and find peace again.

I decided early on that after everything I had gone through and everything I had to deal with on a daily basis, I refused to be unhappy. After all of the pain and struggling, shame, fear and humiliation, unbelievable choices regarding treatment options and the innumerable challenges I faced, I was determined to make it all mean something. Painting is that something.

I see feelings as images. Before I started painting, I spent a lot of time trying to explain to people (friends, family, therapists) what I was seeing in order to get them to understand what was happening inside of me. That never worked all that well. Eventually I turned to filmmaking. I received a degree in film from UC Berkeley and won a few awards along the way. Though I still love making films, painting has given me a level of artistic satisfaction I had never experienced before.

Several years ago, I experienced a major flare-up of my Crohn’s disease. My doctors couldn’t explain what was happening or why and I knew this was something beyond their scope of treatment. The symptoms were not unfamiliar: diarrhea, spasming in my throat and stomach, piercing headaches, back pains, nausea and fatigue. I started to sketch to express myself and to be able to show some of the people close to me these visions that I had been trying to describe in words for all of these years.

During that time, as difficult and painful as it was, I discovered something wonderful: I drew and I painted and I felt better. Spasms and pain would ease and I was releasing some of the emotional energy that I had held within for so many years. I discovered that I had the ability to portray emotions I had once believed I was all alone with and that people who saw my work, whatever their circumstances, were moved by it. Perhaps most importantly, I could draw and paint for hours on end and I always felt better when I did; I had found my calling.

This post has appeared on The Huffington Post and BHAESA.

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Going Outside My Comfort Zone: Road Tripping With Crohn's Disease

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I have lived with Crohn’s disease for over 15 years, and by now we have begrudgingly made peace with each other. I have learned to live with the unpredictability of a chronic illness, and try my hardest to not let it limit me. Up until this past year, there has been one thing I have avoided – extended travel. Besides trips with my family, who know all about Crohn’s, I have never really ventured far with friends or partners. This past summer I decided to put an end to this. I planned a two week road trip with one of my closest friends, and pushed myself out of my comfort zone.

Below are a few helpful tips that made my experience easier:

1. Be prepared. In any travel situation, or during a flare up, I always have my  “Crohn’s kit” on hand. For me, this is an essential piece to lowering anxiety while being away from home. I keep a bag with me that has water, a couple of easily eaten/digested snacks (bananas/rice cakes/etc), spare leggings, toilet paper, a plastic bag, and hand sanitizer. I like to run with the motto that if I am prepared for the worst, it probably wont happen. If it does, well, at least I’m prepared!

2. Have an honest discussion with your travel partner. This is something I have become very familiar with. It comes in handy in all sorts of situations. Let people know about your disease in however much detail you are comfortable with. For me it goes something like this, “I just want to let you know, sometimes my Crohn’s acts up and I feel sick really suddenly. We may have to pull over, stop, or leave. So if I ask, can we please do so as soon as possible?”

3. Let go of your embarrassment. Crohn’s flare ups mean different things for different people. For me, I may only have five to 10 minutes (hopefully) before I need to use a washroom. I have come to the conclusion that I can’t always make it to one, especially when driving. It’s embarrassing, it’s awkward, but I can’t control it. There were two emergency highway stops in the middle of nowhere, and with California being in a drought, there was not a lot of privacy. I made do with the help of clever towel/car door placement. It was uncomfortable and could’ve ruined the day, but I decided at the beginning of my trip that sometimes shit happens (literally) and you just have to move on from it.

4. Fuel your body properly. Unfortunately, one of my old go-to strategies used to be avoiding eating until I was somewhere with a washroom. I very quickly learned this doesn’t work, and leads to immense hanger and poor nutrition. When traveling, it can be hard to find foods that work for Crohn’s. My method has now become to get food at grocery stores, and prepare it myself. This is especially helpful when you are on a long road trip, and stops are often at gas stations with limited options. Get a cooler, stock up, and drive on!

5. Keep trying. It is so easy to stay in your comfort zone when you are sick or have anxiety around health issues. I never realized how much I was limiting myself until I decided to try something different. Taking myself out of my daily routine and feeling vulnerable was scary, but in the end incredibly rewarding. I let Crohn’s dictate so much of my teenage years and 20s that I now refuse to let it do so in my 30s.

Chronic illness can seem like such a life limiting diagnosis. It took me a few years, and lots of failed experiments before I found a way to cope that worked for me. Crohn’s does make travel more challenging, but being prepared, having coping strategies, and support can make it doable. Next on my list will be a solo travel mission, and Crohn’s had better get on board because I’m no longer letting it have a say!

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Thinkstock Image By: Choreograph

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10 Ways Chronic Illness Has Made Me a Better Version of Myself

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Everyone’s chronic illness journey is different. Each person touched with the “spoonie” brush has experienced different diagnoses, time periods of illness, symptoms, medications, emotions, healthcare plans, doctors, surgeries and prognoses. One thing that each of us may likely have in common though is the experience of some kind of evolution – a growing or changing of identity as who we are as individuals is impacted forever. I stress though that I am not referring to a change from a healthy person to a sick person, as who we truly are is certainly not defined by a diagnostic label. The evolution I refer to is the growth we experience within ourselves as the hardships we endure begin to alter our perceptions of our lives. Whilst our physical selves may seem to run at a loss as we experience pain, weakness, fatigue, surgery or medication side effects on a daily basis, I truly believe that who we are on the inside is largely enhanced and improved by the struggle.

My chronic illness journey began about 12 years ago when, at 17 years old, I began to experience some stomach issues that were identified as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). These symptoms would come and go, “flaring” on occasion. Experiencing recurrent bouts of anxiety meant that many of my symptoms were often linked to my stress levels or even to hyperawareness of my own body. Over the years, I continued to lose small amounts of weight. Following my father’s death from cancer in early 2015, the symptoms began to worsen but were again put down to the stress of his passing. It was lucky that an unrelated gynecological ultrasound detected several swollen loops of small bowel in my lower abdomen that warranted further investigation. One colonoscopy and CT scan later, I was finally diagnosed with Crohn’s disease. After managing my new-found lactose intolerance, intestinal stricture and small-bowel inflammation with diet, short-term Prednisone and long-term Azathioprine therapy, the gynecological issues I had had previously began to exasperate. It was time for the laparoscopy that had long been on the cards. Just two months ago, it was confirmed that I also have endometriosis. Extensive adhesions were found throughout my abdomen (caused either by the Crohn’s, endo or both) and what could be treated was removed during a three-hour surgery. And that brings us to now – and so the journey continues!

When I reflect on my story so far, I notice how far I have actually come, not only in terms of my physical health, but mostly in terms of my mental and emotional well-being. My experiences are certainly none that I would wish upon anybody; however, I am quickly learning the importance of not resenting or begrudging them. One of my favorite quotes is: “We cannot change the cards we are dealt, just how we play the hand.” Acceptance of our journey as “spoonies” is what allows us to open ourselves up to learn from it and see a positive side to everything we go through (even if not straight away). The lessons I have learned already are countless, but for the sake of this blog, I have come up with a list of 10 that I feel have changed me the most and have helped to put me on a path to becoming a better version of myself.

1. Always be grateful.

No matter how sick you may feel at any given time, appreciate that you are alive and that there is so much in your life to be thankful for. Take time to practice gratitude.

2. Never underestimate your strength.

Sometimes we are unaware of how strong we really are until we are truly tested. Our bravery and persistence cannot fully be realized until we experience fear and challenges. When you learn that you can survive more than you ever thought you could, it’s a pretty amazing feeling.

3. Grow your resilience.

Each hurdle thrown your way may be difficult for a time, but each boundary is growing your ability to recover. You have survived everything you’ve been through to date. Remember this (as well as the strategies that have worked for you) for next time. You will need them again.

4. Your energy and “healthy times” are precious.

When you only have so many “spoons” for each day, savor them and use them wisely. You can never be sure when your next flare-up of symptoms will be, so make the most of the time that you have feeling well. Know the limits of your spoonie body. Listen to it when it tells you to stop.

5. It’s OK to be selfish sometimes.

Take time for yourself without guilt or reservation. If you need a rest, take it. If you want to pamper yourself, do it. Cancel some plans. Learn to say no. You might resent it at first, but you will thank yourself later.

6. There’s something to be learned in every hardship.

In every struggle, find the hidden message. There is always something positive to be gained, no matter how small. Learn. Grow.

7. Take care of your body.

Love, nourish and care for your body for what it is. Never resent it or wish it were something more. It is what it is and it shouldn’t be “blamed” for its shortcomings. Bring your mind and body back together as one. Do some yoga. Love yourself.

8. Educating yourself is important.

Read extensively and critically. Research everything. Know your disease, medication and body inside out. Alleviate some anxiety by being more informed. If something doesn’t seem right, ask questions. Find as many ways to help yourself as possible.

9. Cherish those who support you.

Notice who checks in with you when you’re unwell. Identify who you can talk to about your health and who seems to feel uncomfortable discussing it. It may be that that aspect of your life is just too much for some people to deal with. Accept that, and surround yourself with the right support when you need it. Join a support group. Follow Instagram pages that inspire you. Read a blog. You aren’t alone. There are people who understand.

10. Be positive – always.

There is always beauty in the battle. Perhaps we have been given our journeys to teach us more about who we are and to change our perspectives. Maybe being unwell has made us more grateful for the days we feel good, which many may take for granted. Perhaps we have been enlightened by the understanding that good health (and our lives) are fleeting, and now know that each day truly is a blessing.

As I said from the outset, everyone’s chronic illness journey is different. The lessons I have learned so far may be very different from yours. Whatever our experiences may be, I hope we can all learn something, grow ourselves and find the positives within the journey. Whilst we will always experience sad and negative feelings along the way, it is important that we acknowledge our frustrations but be willing to let them go. It is by letting go of the bad that we make room for something better and, ultimately, someone better. If the “beauty in the battle” refers to the silver linings that emerge from our struggles, know that the greatest “beauty” to come out of your journey will likely be you.

This post originally appeared on The Chronicles of Girls.

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Thinkstock photo via KristinaJovanovic.

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7 Tips for Success in College With Crohn's Disease

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College is a new and exciting experience for all, but taking care of yourself, staying caught up in school and having a social life can be very difficult to balance with a chronic disease. Colleges can be very accommodating to your needs, but you must be proactive. Below are some tips for success in college with a chronic illness that I have gathered while battling Crohn’s disease and gastroparesis as a pre-medical and now medical student.

1. Register With the Office of Disabilities

Crohn’s disease, along with most other chronic illnesses, is technically a disability. According to Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Americans with Disabilities Act, any institution that receives government funding must provide reasonable accommodations and adaptations for students with disabilities that may affect their education. Most private schools will also make these accommodations, which may include access to a private/semi-private bathroom, single dorm room, ability to schedule classes at times of the day when your symptoms are better controlled and test accommodations. These test accommodations may include the ability to reschedule exams in case of acute illness and stop-the-clock testing if you need to use the bathroom during the exam.

2. Talk to Your Professors

Explain to your professors that you have a chronic condition that may result in acute flare-ups. You may need to leave class urgently to run to the bathroom, miss class or reschedule exams. I went to a small school and my professors were very understanding, concerned and eager to help me succeed in any way they could. For example, we took our final exams in a large gymnasium with at least 100 students in the room. I was flaring at the time and knew I would need to leave the exam a few times to use the bathroom. Instead of interrupting the other students taking their exams by opening the loud door several times, I asked if I could take the exam in my advisor’s office. My professor was completely OK with this and I felt more comfortable being able to freely use the bathroom without interrupting anyone.

3. Stay on Top of Your Assignments

You never know when a flare will hit, so do your best to keep up with your classes. Staying caught up and not procrastinating (as hard as it is) will reduce your stress when it comes to due dates and test preparedness. If you do end up flaring or getting sick, you will be in a better position academically to catch up.

4. Discuss Your Diet with Your School Nutritionist

Chances are, if you have Crohn’s disease or another chronic condition, you follow some kind of special diet. Contact your college’s Health Services for a special diet form that your doctor can fill out. You can meet with the school nutritionist who will point out the foods in the dining hall that you can eat. The chefs may be able to make you special meals. I had the option of texting the chef what I wanted to eat and what time I would be coming, and he would make me a special meal. Also, do not hesitate to ask the dining hall staff about ingredients, as meals may not be labeled well. Your health is more important than eating something that may contain an ingredient that will make you sick.

Or, if you have your own kitchen, meal prep. Try to make enough food to last a few days at once, and you will not have to cook very often. If you freeze one meal every time you cook, pretty soon you will have a great frozen meal rotation. My mom is amazing and makes lots of soups, bone broth, chicken and turkey patties that I freeze and can defrost for quick meals. Give my Citrus Ginger Chicken Stir-Fry a try (AIP compliant, gluten-free, dairy-free, refined sugar-free) if you’re looking for some meal prep ideas!

5. Look into Medical Housing

A certain number of rooms in every residence hall are usually reserved for students with medical housing. Talk to your school’s Health Services and Housing staff about the various housing options so you can feel comfortable living at school, stay well and succeed academically. Most colleges can provide a private/semi-private bathroom so you do not have to run to a communal bathroom during painful episodes. Certain residence halls may even have access to a kitchen which is helpful if the dining hall does not accommodate your diet to your liking.

6. Find a Local Physician

If you attend school far away from your specialist, look for a doctor nearby. This local doctor should be able to work with your home doctor as a team. Be sure to transfer your prescriptions to a local pharmacy. Oftentimes, the pharmacy can deliver your medications to your college’s Health Services. Health Services can also perform routine blood work so you do not need to travel to a lab.

7. Focus on Self-Care

Be sure to take care of yourself. Sleep, eat well, exercise and do everything you can to keep your stress to a minimum. Look for a support group nearby if you find comfort in talking to others going through the same battles as you. Talk to your friends and roommates about your disease – good friends will be there for you, check in on you and even drive you to your appointments. Your friends will understand if you are too fatigued to keep up with them, do not “party as hard” or if you need to cancel or modify plans last minute. They may never truly understand what you go through, but they try, and that is all that matters.

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College should be the most incredible four years of your life. You get to live with your friends, hang out with them 24/7 and learn in a supportive community. Crohn’s and other chronic diseases definitely complicate the college experience, but with plenty of self-care, accommodations and support from your friends, you will be successful, learn so much about yourself and have the best time of your life.

This post originally appeared on Sweetened by Nature.

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