Stop Changing Your Food Plans for Me
When I first got sober in July 2020, I felt incredibly awkward going out to meet friends. Not because I was insecure with my choice at that time, but because they suddenly started acting like their own choice to drink was somehow offending me. They started altering their own plans based on my sobriety, and that made me feel strange. I made a choice to stop drinking; it doesn’t mean others need to do the same. I appreciated the sentiment of wanting me to feel comfortable, but it made things more awkward than anything else.
I feel the same way about food and ulcerative colitis. To all the people hosting a party, gathering, dinner, social hour – whatever – that includes people living with UC … please stop altering your food plans on my behalf. While I appreciate the effort to ensure everyone, including myself, have something to enjoy, I promise I’m OK “eating around” any restrictions.
I’ve spent 20 years of my life having to move around the limitations that UC has afforded me. I’ve adjusted exercise plans, travel plans, eating plans, friendships, relationships, and so many other things due to UC. I’ve had to research alternative places for dinner that have better restrooms. I’ve begged people on flights to switch with me so I can have an aisle. I’ve timed my exit to use the restroom around how much time I have until I really have to go. I’ve packed my own snacks and drinks. I’ve left parties early and arrived late. I’ve altered pretty much every aspect of my life at some point due to UC, and it’s pretty exhausting.
But I’ll tell you this: the last thing I want altered on my behalf are other peoples’ plans. Maybe 10 years ago I’d gladly answer all the questions about what I can eat; not today. Today I feel 100% confident in my skin when it comes to UC, which means I feel 100% comfortable managing my own restrictions without disturbing those around me. Call it the people-pleaser in me, or call it not wanting to draw attention to myself. I choose to call it “acceptance.”
Part of me accepting my UC every single day is taking responsibility for what I need because of UC. Sure, the medical system can afford to accommodate the chronic illness community a bit better. Sure, society in general needs to be better built for autoimmune disorders. And sure … it’s not necessarily fair that I was dealt this card. But for me, I don’t need or want the world to stop spinning because I can’t eat popcorn. I’ve built my life around UC accordingly, and that means confidently accepting invitations without an asterisk on my RSVP. This is what I do to respect myself, my disease, and my own self-esteem. It helps me with acceptance to also accept responsibility for my own needs.
But that’s just my story – if I’m a party guest, I want to be an easy one. How do you navigate your IBD needs around social gatherings?