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What I've Learned After One Year of Having IBD

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A year ago I wrote into The Mighty as a newly diagnosed member of the “poo crew” – or more formally known as someone who has IBD.

What do I have to say about my condition one year on? Do I have any pearls of wisdom for others who are going through the same thing as me? Are there any top tips for what to do once you’ve been told you’ve got a chronic condition? The short answer to that is, I can’t get you past taking it in any way you can and it’s a forever changing condition. I can, however, give you some pointers as to what I’ve learned so far (my mantras, so to speak).

– Join Crohn’s and Colitis UK. I found some fantastic people in my local area who all get together regularly and discuss fundraising, gatherings and all things poo-related. They’re a good bunch, they can offer a plethora of information about your condition and they can often be your first call when you need a bit of advice about handling your condition.

– Don’t, under any circumstances, listen to people who belittle your condition. Some IBD drugs mean you’re susceptible to catching more illnesses, and/or them lasting longer. This means you can sometimes spend a good amount of time being ill in one way or another, and that’s annoying at the best of times so it’s OK to say so. It also means you get good at building barriers of anti-bac around yourself in the office when people have a cold.

– Praise the NHS. Don’t get me wrong, they aren’t perfect. Some GPs ignore symptoms or shrug you off. However, our treatment is free and it certainly wouldn’t be in many other places. The specialists in my hospital are fantastic and demonstrate our health service at its very best and we should be thankful for what they do (just don’t be afraid to fight for swabs).

– Your support network is key. My friends and family have made any bad days good again. I know this speaks for any part of your life, but I think these people should know they’re appreciated for the extras they do when you’re not feeling as well some days, in the smallest or grandest of gestures. One of my friends even makes sure I’m eating enough vegetables. So just remember, you’re not alone. And make them banana bread as a thank you.

– Treat yourself. A common theme has threaded this year… and it comes under the hashtag #TreatYoself. Now, I’m not encouraging over-indulgence to the extreme… but the occasional spa day, a bar of chocolate, lazy weekends, treats after hospital visits (that tradition belongs to another one of my friends that I’ve happily stolen, and it normally involves ice cream), lush baths, bacon crisps… (you get the jist) are all OK.

– Look after yourself. This probably brings together some of the above points, but it’s a valid one and one I’ve started to understand. It might mean getting some early nights, or having that long lush bath. It might mean going out having a dance with your mates until the early hours and trying to do spice girl kicks in the street. It might mean meal preps and probiotics, or going and climbing some mountains, or sitting in and watching films. It might even mean just taking your medication and drinking more water (I still need to get into a better habit of that last one). But look after yourself, in whatever manner makes you happy. There’s not much you can do about having IBD – sometimes it will be better, and others it will be worse… the ebbs and flows of poo crew life I suppose! But something you can control is looking after you. Do your thing and I know I said it a year ago, but I’ll say it again: Know we’ve got this!

– Oh!! And travel insurance will cost you a bit more. (Just make a note!)

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Thinkstock photo via Evgeny Gromov.

Originally published: October 22, 2017
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