“Excellence is not a skill. It is an attitude” -Ralph Marston
At what point do you ask for help? At what point does everything become too difficult and too overwhelming that you realize you can’t do it alone?
These are questions that I have struggled with recently. Yes, I have a husband, mother, father and extended family who will support me and help me unconditionally, but do they really understand what I am going though? Having Crohn’s can at times be a very dark place- the feelings of hopelessness and helplessness can be very overwhelming. What makes this situation worse, is when you are going through a very stressful time in your life that has nothing to do with your chronic illness. I find that stress is one of the worst things that someone can experience- not only does it cause flare ups (in my case), but it also encompasses everything else- sleep, appetite, mood, productivity, etc.
At some point you have to say to yourself “enough is enough, I don’t deserve to live like this.” Stress is something that can definitely be managed, the problem is knowing where to start. For me, I thought exercise would be a great outlet for stress, problem is that I have been working out 6 days a week for a very long time and the stress was still there. I tried drinking tea in hopes that it would relax me, but that was a “no-go”, I tried deep breathing exercises and that was unsuccessful too. As a clinical therapist I was forgetting the one thing that I preach to many which is to seek help out if you need it.
My dilemma now became “I’m a therapist, I should be able to figure this out! A therapist doesn’t need a therapist!” Well, how wrong I was. I’m still a human being, I do not have all the answers, and that’s OK. I decided to take the steps and ask for help and I have been in therapy now for around one month. I cannot tell you how refreshing it is to have someone who is just there to listen to you, no judgement, just someone there for you. I’m not saying all my problems are solved and I am stress free, but I can tell you that finding balance in your life and taking time for yourself is very important. I started to take barre classes- a mix of yoga, Pilates, and ballet, and I began blogging. Those two things for me really helped to alleviate some of my stress because they are things that I can enjoy and they are things that I use to better myself. But the first, and most important step, is to be able to say to yourself that you need help and that’s OK!
“We can’t help everyone, but everyone can help someone.” – Ronald Reagan
-finding a bathroom with a loud fan
-even better, a bathroom with air freshener you can use!
-your stomach not upsetting you 20 minutes after you eat
-being seated close to a bathroom in a restaurant, plane, train and/or having one close by at work!
-always having Imodium, Pepto Bismol, TUMS or whatever else helps for you on hand
-being able to cough or raise your voice when you’re talking to someone so they don’t hear the crazy noises your stomach is making
-going to the bathroom without having a bowel movement
-someone letting you “cut” in the long bathroom line
-someone saying “yes” to using the employees only bathroom
-having a comfortable toilet seat and good reading material
-knowing exactly what you ate last when you go to the bathroom
-a new pack of underwear
-the healing powers of oatmeal, bananas and applesauce
-and finally…being able to embrace your Crohn’s, IBD, or Ulcerative Colitis and to be able to laugh about it!
“Change your thoughts and you change your destiny.”
I can’t eat the food I love without severe consequences, I cannot go more than a couple hours without using the bathroom, I take nine pills a day and I feel like I cannot go a day without feeling pain at some point (many times most of the day). Many people would see the above as terrible and reason to get them down, but I keep saying to myself, “don’t worry, be happy.” Many people in many walks of life have times of strife, times when they just want to give up.
Yes, I have Crohn’s, yes, it sucks, but no I do not let it take over my life, I am much more and much better than that. Life is full of choices and what you, and you alone make of those choices. Me personally, I have chosen not to let Crohn’s define who I am, but rather embrace it because it is a part of who I am. I think there is a big difference between those two statements. It could be very easy to use my diagnosis of Crohn’s as an excuse to not do many things that are asked of me (and as a young child, I may have faked a stomachache or two to not do my chores), but it can be a slippery slope and you can find yourself isolated, alone, and feeling bad for yourself very easily.
I am so lucky, as are many people, to have the undying love and support of family and friends. People “get it” if I’m going to the bathroom five times during dinner, or the need to know where a bathroom is at all times. All things are adaptable, and these things just become a part of who you are, rather than defining who you are. With a chronic illness it’s a given that you will never feel or be at 100%, but don’t you dare let it get you down! Find something in your life that makes you happy, stick with it, and don’t worry!
Life is an interesting journey and one that you cannot take for granted, even if you are living with a chronic illness. It’s a given that some days will be better than others; some days you’ll want to take on the world and some days you’ll want to lie in bed all day. My thoughts are that it is the internal drive to succeed inside of a person, no matter who you are, that will determine success.
I’m writing this blog today due to the current milestone/success that I’ve had in my life. If you are reading this blog and you have Crohn’s or any other chronic illness, you know how hard it can be to accomplish even the smallest of tasks. You come to appreciate graduating, getting a good grade, or getting a good job as something extraordinarily special. I’ve spent four tough years in college; proud of my B.S. in Psychology I earned, I went on to spend two years working to get my Masters in Social Work, which thank goodness I didn’t have any drama with flare ups. Right after receiving my Masters I had to study to become licensed.
I’ve been working two years now with children and adolescents as a psychotherapist and I’ve come to realize that even though I will always be dealing with my Crohn’s disease, I am thankful that my mental health has stayed strong. As I’ve said earlier, I really think its your own mental determination, and not your physical condition that can determine success. My physical health, even recently, has been far from healthy, but I have been able to stay on track with my goals, and I have just become licensed as a clinical social worker-my ultimate goal. You can be your worst enemy or your best friend and only your attitude can decide!