I Can No Longer Live in Denial of My Crohn's Disease


“Denial ain’t just a river in Egypt!” This was something a teacher said in a psychology class. Yes, it’s dorky…but hey, it’s also true!

You know, even after 20 years of having Crohn’s disease, sometimes I forget I have this chronic illness. Or what’s even more true is that sometimes I choose to forget this very important fact.

But I mean…who wants to remember that? I’d rather not, to be honest! It’s not exactly an uplifting thing to reflect on. I would much rather focus my attention on the fun things, the feel-good things, the things that makes me tick – rather than putting attention on Crohn’s.

After three major surgeries – having my large intestine removed, experiencing complications and living with a temporary ileostomy and having ongoing treatment – I just want to be free from Crohn’s! I mean, enough already! I want to be free from the Crohn’s that is constantly gnawing at the back of my psyche with its threat of making me seriously ill again.

I want to live my life like a normal, healthy person. Go figure, right?

No more medication, no more doctor visits, no more injections, no more blood taken, no more infusions…I want none of it!

But the fact is I’ll never be free from this illness – I have to take the medication, I have to see the doctors, I have to monitor this sucker. And it sucks.

So…on occasion, the rebel in me – the passive-aggressive magician in me that is denial – kicks in from time to time and assumes its power with tricky thoughts such as: “I feel good, I’m fine, it’s all fine! Crohn’s?! What Crohn’s?! Ha!” or “Surely these immunosuppressant drugs can’t be good for me long-term. I’m just gonna stop taking them for a while! Yay!” or “How about I just delay that colonoscopy for a month…or five.”

But when these thoughts turn into actions, and consequently the body starts to feel sick again, then I (begrudgingly) take the drugs, see the doctor and follow up on the self-care, the care of the disease.

Even with my best and sometimes most conniving efforts, Crohn’s always seems to come out on top. Dang it.

Living with a chronic illness is hard. Not just physically, but mentally and emotionally. Personally, it wears on me. It can be exhausting in more ways than one because it never goes away – it is always there, and always will be.

So, I am learning to live with it. Even if I want to pretend it’s not there…it’s there. And at times I can be more accepting of that than others.

Denial ain’t just a river in Egypt. From experience, it’s also a very ineffective tool when it comes to coping with Crohn’s.

What does help to cope with disease? Talking about it, sharing, writing. These things do help to shine some light on living with the disease.

Also, I am going to start being a facilitator for a support group soon. I am looking forward to that because it will both encourage awareness of the disease and encourage a sharing of experiences with those in similar situations. And we get to make poo jokes!

On reflection, perhaps it’s not just the good things in life we would prefer to focus on – and that makes us, us. I’m not saying Crohn’s disease is a positive thing – because it’s really not. But perhaps it’s these unavoidable challenges that make us who we are too. One thing is for sure – there is learning in it.

With love,

Sylvia

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Thinkstock photo via Tharakorn.


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