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UC Has Changed How I Think About Health

I used to think of health as a straight line, and on one end, you were really healthy. On the other end, you were sick, but “sick” meant something like the flu, or a bad cold. However, somewhere between my ulcerative colitis diagnosis and my first flare, I realized that health isn’t a straight line at all. It’s actually a fluid winding road that has sudden blind turns and changes in elevation. Sometimes there’s a fantastic view along the way, and other times the scenery is desolate, dry, and boring.

That’s the real map of what health looks like. 

I also used to think in black and white; that was thanks to a very black-or-white upbringing, where everything had to have its perfect spot in either right or wrong, left or right, this or that. There wasn’t any room for gray; actually, there wasn’t such a thing as gray. (I find that ironic, seeing as now gray is one of my favorite interior colors in our house.) However, as I’ve gotten older, flare-y, wiser, and, well, just more open-minded, I’ve realized that everything, especially health, has to have gray. Falling into a box of either healthy or unhealthy isn’t a thing. There’s so much that lives in between, and there’s so many different shades of both ends. 

For example, according to how I choose to define my health, I’m “healthy” right now. I’m not flaring, I’m active, I’m getting enough-ish sleep, I’m mentally feeling great about myself, and I love my life. But if you ask my ex-fiance’s mom if I’m healthy, her interpretation would be “you don’t want to marry someone who is sick all the time.” (Actual quote.) Sure, according to traditional western medicine, I will always be “sick” with UC. But according to me, I’m healthy despite it. Both work; it’s really up to the person and how they want to define their own health.

Choosing to see health as a spectrum has made coping with UC a lot easier, too. My old all-or-nothing approach was way too stressful to maintain, so today I enjoy living closer to the left, closer to the middle, or closer to the right. All are good in my book. 

If you’re struggling with how to define your own health as it relates to UC, try this:

  1. Assess how you feel today right in this moment. What’s the answer?
  2. Take that answer and see if that’s how you want to feel tomorrow or the next day. Is it?
  3. If it is, allow today to be a healthy version of you. If it’s not, allow today to be a more unhealthy-leaning day, and know tomorrow will be better.

Regardless of the day, week, month, or even year you’re having, you deserve to give your body and mind some grace to fall into the gray, because gray is OK.

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