I’ve had people question me on how I muster up the courage to talk about my condition so much. I’ve had patients thank me for the work I do and my advocacy efforts because they personally don’t want to share their own experiences. – For whatever reason, more than likely fear of judgement or embarrassment of certain symptoms and stigmas associated with having Inflammatory Bowel Disease.
I can completely relate to those who are afraid to talk about their condition because I too was once in their shoes.
I was diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis in high school. I was a Tennis player, a member of many clubs, and I loved English. Being diagnosed with a chronic condition was never in the plans, so once I got that final verdict of IBD, my world was turned upside down. I was young, I didn’t know anything about my condition and I didn’t know anyone with it.
So I chose to hide.
Instead of facing it head on, I tried to continue living life as if I was perfectly healthy. Not my brightest idea. For the people who knew I’d been hospitalized or noticed I’d been out of school a lot I had an easy solution for answering all of their questions: lie. Every time someone asked me about my hospitalizations or frequent absences, I would come up with some kind of awkward excuse that really didn’t make any sense. It just didn’t feel right to me having to explain what a Colonoscopy was during my senior year of high school.
Graduation time came and I was so scared. I attended one of the most heavily populated high schools in Charlotte, NC so when it was time to graduate I knew the ceremony would be a long one. I had a plan: identify bathrooms as walking in, if ceremony runs too long, walk slowly out of the back door. This way it looks almost planned; better than running I assumed. When the ceremony came my mind was so preoccupied with the festivities, I didn’t need my plan after all. Years passed and more “plans” of similar nature were needed until I practically had a “plan” for every occasion. It took my first surgery for me to realize how ridiculous that was. Not ridiculous that I had a plan, ridiculous that I needed one.
It’d been around three or four years since I was diagnosed and I was still living a life that revolved around Colitis.
Colitis determined what I did and did not do each day, Colitis determined what job I chose, what insurance I chose, what outfit I chose.
Now, when people compliment me on how open I am about my Colitis, occasionally I ask myself: How did I get so comfortable with my condition? How did I get from point A, of being so embarrassed and afraid, to point B of embracing it? The answer is simple.
I no longer look at my condition as something “nasty” that I need to hide.
I don’t view myself the way I once feared others would view me. Ulcerative Colitis – Inflammatory Bowel Disease is my condition. With every medication, every procedure, every surgery, it has become a part of who I am. And I no longer view that as a bad thing. Everything I’ve been through with my condition has molded me and made me strong. It’s taught me so many life lessons most people wouldn’t know at my age. My condition made me fight for my life, giving me a greater purpose and passion in life.
In short, how am I so comfortable talking about IBD? I’ve accepted my life and condition for what they are and choose to let it empower rather than overpower me.