My Fighting Words for Crohn's Disease
Once I received the news of my diagnosis, my life view began to change. The disease was turning my life into something I didn’t want to live and me into someone I didn’t want to be. I had to call off work many times due to sickness. I was missing a lot of family gatherings and social outings with friends. I spent a lot of time at home just trying to deal with all the symptoms and side effects that each new day would bring.
I was experiencing anxiety about just leaving the house for fear I would need a bathroom and not be able to make it to one. But what bothers me the most was that I couldn’t keep my commitments or do the things I enjoyed doing. I’m a very independent, self-sufficient person to begin with and I value sticking to my word. But then enters Crohn’s, ready to teach me a life lesson – I’m not in control.
Crohn’s was making me focus my attention on all things medical, leaving little room for anything else. That can get really depressing, really fast.
I remember looking into the bathroom mirror one day at work and I didn’t recognize who was looking back at me. I didn’t recognize myself at all, in fact, I was sure I was seeing someone else. My color was gone, cheeks shrunken in, and deep dark circles under my eyes. I looked like death. It felt like I was dying before my very own eyes and there was nothing I could do but watch. Almost an “out of body” experience. It was horrifying!
Truthfully, all I could think was, “This isn’t what I asked for! This isn’t what I wanted my life to be like!” Even when I was in the hospital, both times with the most excruciating stomach pain ever, I remember saying out loud, “I don’t want it! Make it go away!” Looking back, I laugh. As if for some reason, saying the words, “I don’t want it!” really would make a difference. Psshh! Like the inflammation in my body cares what I want!? Silly Jana! But, I realize now, those are fighting words. As long as I am saying, “I don’t want it!” I know there is still fight in me and I intend on giving this disease a run for its money. That’s all it takes – that one little ounce of fight in you.
So, I began spending all of my free time researching Crohn’s disease so I could understand as much as possible about what was happening to my body, and in turn, my mind. I wanted to learn everything I could in hopes of having a better quality of life. I used the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation website as my go-to resource for everything as my doctor suggested. I requested all their materials on treatments, diet, etc. and I joined their online support group to hear from others about their experiences.
I saw something I didn’t want to see in the mirror that day and it was terrifying. But it took that scare and it took all that pain I’ve been through to get me where I am now. It’s those moments that motivated me to seek knowledge about my disease and support. It also motivated me to be a more active participant in my own healthcare. I would call the nurse when I was experiencing symptoms or side effects and we would address the issue head on. I began working with my team of doctors, keeping everyone in the loop about my condition. It’s the best thing I could have done for my health, and for my peace of mind too.
This disease may take us through a really rocky ride – depths of depression, breaking points of pain, and it might even make you face your fears. I truly believe that it’s only during those lows that we find our strength time and time again. So, next time you feel those familiar feelings of sadness and disappointment that come with a flare, say to yourself, “I don’t want it!” You might laugh, which is good – but you might also find your fight… And that is something I wish for all of us. To keep fighting and pushing for that better quality of life that we all deserve.
Follow this journey on The OWLF Blog.
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