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How My Crohn’s Disease Blogging Had an Impact on Family I Hadn’t Seen in Years

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Venturing out to social situations is always something that makes me extremely anxious. Having both Crohn’s disease and anxiety complies already-difficult situations into more nerve-racking experiences.

“What’s the bathroom situation?”

That is my first question when going anywhere. Secondly, and more privately, I wonder how people are going to treat me. I never want to be singled out or draw attention to myself, but it is imperative I have access to a bathroom when I need it. I hate having to ask because I always feel uncomfortable about it. Having Crohn’s disease can be incredibly embarrassing at times and a lot of that is because most people don’t understand what living with Crohn’s disease is really like. That’s why I write about it: to help raise awareness, and apparently, it’s working.

After more than 10 years away, I decided to visit with my extended family over the holidays and the best thing ever happened. It was more important to me than any kind of monetary gift I could have ever hoped for. I hadn’t even made it through the door yet when I was met by one of my younger cousins grabbing me by the hand, saying “Follow me.” I hadn’t seen her in nearly 10 years. I could only imagine where she was taking me. I was so afraid I was about to get scolded for being away so long.

“Here is the first bathroom.” She explained quietly as we stood in the doorway to the downstairs bathroom. “Now, come on,” she said simply and off we went again. There was no real fanfare and no one else took notice of what we were doing. I wasn’t the center of attention but I was being given the necessary information I desperately needed — the bathroom situation.

“This is the second bathroom.” She had a huge smile on her face but was totally serious. “I understand and I read your blog. Now come on.” She was still holding my hand as she led me up the stairs. I felt so loved. It didn’t matter that I hadn’t seen her in nearly 10 years. It didn’t matter where I had been or what I had been doing or even why I hadn’t been around for so long. All that mattered was her showing me that she understood.

“Now, here is the ‘extra private’ bathroom and extra toilet paper is in here if you need it.” I nearly started crying. It was perfect — everything I needed to make my visit more comfortable and less anxious. Three bathrooms, extra toilet paper, compassion and understanding, all without a huge scene being made. The fact my cousin knew exactly what I needed to make me feel comfortable before I even had to say anything was a priceless gift I will never forget.

It wasn’t the bathrooms, though knowing there were three was a great help to relieve my anxiety. It was knowing I had been heard. I was given the gift of true understanding. My blogging about Crohn’s disease and what I go through had made an impact on someone who doesn’t even have the disease. I honestly didn’t even know she read my blog. I was humbled.

My cousin is a paramedic at the local hospital and said that, after reading about my journey, she treats all incoming Crohn’s patients a little differently now. She wholeheartedly understands what I go through and that’s so important. She didn’t just read my blog and go on though; she is actually applying what she learns to help others in the same situation. I was heard and that’s really all any of us with chronic illness want — to be heard. In all my 24 years of dealing with Crohn’s disease, this may have been the single most touching thing anyone has ever done for me. I will never forget it.

Follow this journey on the author’s blog.

Photo by Yuri Levin on Unsplash

Originally published: February 18, 2019
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