10 Great Things About Having Ulcerative Colitis
Let me start by saying this: I know how much this disease can suck. I’ve felt so much of it myself, and I have dozens of friends who deal with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) on a daily basis – often symptoms that are way worse than my own. And I know it does take time for a patient, especially a newly diagnosed one, to get to a place of peace with their body. I was diagnosed 16 years ago and still have days where I hate my insides and what they’ve put me through.
Still, I believe there are some benefits, some good things – even some blessings – that come with having ulcerative colitis. Once you’ve worked through the darkest days, you can slowly open your heart to the great things that happen even though you have a gut gremlin. For example…
1. You know your body’s limits. You know your body better than anyone else, and because you have an intestinal disorder, you know better than the “normal” human what you can and cannot eat, drink and do because of it. Where one person might be testing their limits for the first time, you already know where those limits lie and can plan accordingly around your gut.
2. You have a keen sense of where every bathroom is. Literally, every time I’m out with friends or family – save my IBD community – I’m the first to be asked, “Do you know where the bathroom is?” Why yes, yes I do, and it takes approximately 12 seconds to walk over to it.
3. You have an increased sympathy for stomach pain in others. Stomachaches can be a tricky ailment in any social setting; a lot of people have a “suck it up” reaction to them. While most of us do assume that our pains in the gut are far worse than just an “everyday stomachache,” our hearts do go out to anyone who is dealing with discomfort in this area. We know how it feels!
4. You’re super, super quick. Personally I have mastered the art of getting the bathroom job done efficiently on most days. Unless it’s a more serious flare that calls for several minutes in the can, I can usually be in and out faster than anyone else in line – and this comes in super handy when you want to disguise a #2 as a #1 trip.
5. You have a permanent excuse to live in leggings or sweatpants without judgment. Whenever given the opportunity, I opt for looser-fitting or stretchy items around my stomach. It’s just more comfortable that way.
6. You have the opportunity to dive into a new community, one that can support you and one that might need your support. I would have never, ever discovered Team Challenge if I didn’t have colitis. I found them because I was pursuing answers about my body, and the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation’s program opened me up to so many others with inflammatory bowel disease. I’ve met some of my very best friends because I took the opportunity to seek out a network.
7. You do learn to be gentle with yourself. This one’s a toughie – it’s something I work on literally every single day. As a runner, I feel I’m automatically harder on myself than other people are on themselves. I always want something more, something faster, something stronger. So when my gut sidelines me even for a few hours, I beat myself into the ground about it. But over time, you do learn to adapt and to listen to what’s happening inside of you. Colitis afforded me the gift of patience and acceptance – two things I probably would never have considered necessary otherwise. Be gentle with yourself, your body is doing the best it can with what it’s got.
8. You will talk openly about probably the most embarrassing thing there is to talk about in a social setting. Whether it be work, out with friends, at a party, with family or wherever, talking about bathrooms and poop and everything in between will, over time, probably become commonplace in your world. Why is this a positive? Imagine someone sitting across from you, visibly uncomfortable because of some digestive distress, too mortified to say anything. Seeing how open you are will create a safe place for them to voice how they feel, and suddenly you’re a confidant.
9. You are pushed straight out of your comfort zone at an accelerated pace. Let’s be real: living in constant fear of where the next bathroom is (forget long car rides) is basically one of the most uncomfortable situations to be in. And the nerves make it worse. You’re in a permanent state of living outside that zone, so really pursuing anything else – be it public speaking, jumping out of a plane or scuba diving – turns into a “I’ve come this far, why the hell not?” opportunity.
10. You can literally go to the bathroom anywhere. And I mean anywhere – amiright?
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Thinkstock photo via alexandra_comaniciu.