To Anyone Who Rolls Their Eyes at Attending a Chronic Illness Support Group
I did something yesterday I did not think I would ever do. Something that has taken me five years of gathering courage and eliminating excuses. Something that terrified me and filled me with bad emotions. Something that was freeing; something I wish I had done years ago.
I went to a support group.
Did you just roll your eyes or inwardly cringe? I don’t blame you if you did, because that’s something I did myself when the idea was first proposed to me. Support group? I don’t need a support group. I’m handling things just fine, I thought to myself.
Every time someone would bring up the subject of a local Crohn’s disease support group, I would get angry and upset. I was secretly relieved when the support group stopped meeting, because that meant I would not have to go. And you know what? All of that was OK. I wasn’t ready to handle a room full of people with Crohn’s disease, because I was still fighting the fact that I had it myself. I hadn’t come to acceptance, and I fully believe that had I gone to a support group then, my journey to acceptance would have been harder. I wasn’t ready at that time to see people thriving with Crohn’s disease, simply because I couldn’t admit that I would be living with this disease for a lifetime.
However, with the help of time and a wonderful psychologist, I’ve come to a place where I’m ready and willing to embrace my Crohn’s disease. Crohn’s is a part of me, and it’s kind of really cool. I mean, how many people know what a magnetic resonance enterography is, or can explain alternative methods of receiving nutrition?
That’s cool, and cool kids have Crohn’s disease. This past winter, I finally circled back around to the idea of a support group, and I was pleasantly surprised when I actually wanted to go. So I did some digging and found one that met near where I live.
Last night I walked through a set of doors and into a conference room filled with Crohn’s disease patients. I can’t explain how freeing it was to be with those who understand. There was no need to explain what a colo-rectal surgeon was, because everyone had been to one before. I didn’t have to tell people what mesalamine is, because most people were on it themselves. Telling my diagnosis story to fellow patients who had faced similar circumstances was a mental release. What a blessing it was to be surrounded by people with similar life stories and hearts.
I’m so glad I’m at the point in my journey where I can take advantage of this opportunity. One thing that struck me the most last night was how happy inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) patients are. We are like a rare breed. We have experienced more pain and hardships than most people, and yet we all have so much joy and vibrancy inside of us. I really do believe that IBD-ers are the best people in the world, and last night affirmed my belief.
If you are feeling ready to attend a support group, I’m urging you to do so. If you aren’t there yet, it’s OK. Be patient with yourself and take time to just revel in how far you’ve already come. Trust me, you’re doing great.
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