Wanting to belong and to be accepted is a natural desire for all people. It comes hand-in-hand with being ill too. When we are sick, we want to forget it usually and have time where we are just with our friends again in a normal environment and life.
So go out. Do the exact things you did before you were sick and you’ll fit in just fine. But you will likely wonder what the other group thinks about you. Will they understand that just showing up after a 20 minute drive was a testament to your strength and how much you wanted to be there? A few friends will for sure, the ones that you allow to know you that well. Some friends will become one of the people that say to others, “Oh, IBD, I understand, my friend has that and he’s pale”. That’s just because they don’t understand it yet. Then there will be days you can’t just live your old life. Days when you will be pre-occupied by thoughts of a washroom or “can I eat that?”.
What your closest friends will do is treat you as they always have. I am lucky in that my two closest friends have known me since I was born and they saw the physical change in me up close. I fit in with them because our friendship is beyond whatever life throws at us. When I am able I still golf with one of them, he always beats me. BUT we enjoy the time together and once every round I get to say “some body’s closer!”. Then when I see my other friend, she and I can play video games, go for coffee or watch a movie. None of this is IBD related. If there is a day I want to rest because of IBD, they are both there the next time I call/text/email/send a smoke signal.
What about the other side? Just go find new friends that have IBD! We’re all outgoing individuals that are easy to find at any of your local establishments, just go and ask to be seated with the IBDers in the crowd. Or go and yell “Where my IBDers at???” and see who cheers.
Once you find us, clearly we’ll just all click and belong. You’ll be with people with ostomies, surgeries, PICC lines, and symptoms from strictures, fistulas, swollen joints, arthritis and so on. But if you’ve never had them, don’t sweat it. I was like that, I thought my symptoms were pretty minor overall. I had a hard time opening up to a community that seemed to have gone through SO much more than I had.
Then I learned something. There are 3 little letters that make the difference to those of us in this community, simply “IBD”. We get that. You are a welcomed member of our health circle. You’ve experienced the pain, the blood loss, the confusion. You’ve likely had ups and downs, prednisone face, such low energy you don’t want to roll out of bed. If you haven’t that’s fine. There has been something that you have gone through that impacted your life. Once upon a time, we all heard a doctor say “You have Crohn’s Disease/Ulcerative Colitis”. That’s a pretty big mental adjustment right there.
You go from not having any idea on what they are to reading all the information you can find. You change from being “healthy” to being “sick”. You have an incurable disease and life is going to change some how. Ya, that’s so easy for anybody to handle and not have some kind of “OOOO crap” moment.
If you have taken the time to learn about IBD, you don’t question our experiences either. You are not likely to come and meet us and praise a miracle cure that all of us need to take. You’ve come from somewhere and gained your perspective on life. You see that people struggle greatly with IBD even if your issues are less complicated.
All that’s the “bad”. What about your good? You work everyday, love dancing, cooking, and have a sense of humour! Great! We’re happy that you are able to succeed with IBD. You are showing us that we can too, that life is still there for us to join in on. I can work everyday as well, but I know a few people that just don’t have the energy. I’m not a dancer, but I’d like to hear what you have to say. Your story can inspire fellow IBDers.
There are many factors that will impact how much IBD presents itself. The age you were diagnosed, the medical teams, how long it takes to diagnose, family history, and on and on and on. There are over 2 million people in the US with IBD, over 230 thousand, in Canada and over 5 million on the planet. You will not be the exact same as any of us. But you will be accepted by us because we don’t care how severe it is. We care that we found somebody else that understands. We care that you have somebody that understands.