Yesterday marked my one month anniversary since being diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis. If I were to tell you that I am thankful to have my diagnosis, you would probably call me crazy. However, it is so true! Having my diagnosis means that I am finally receiving the treatment I need to continue living. I am no longer making trips to the Emergency Room nor am I being misdiagnosed (Road to Diagnosis). Having a diagnosis also helps me to better understand what is happening to my body. A better understanding of my condition and the symptoms related to it has helped me to communicate with my family, my friends, and my coworkers about what I am experiencing. This communication in addition to finding others diagnosed with Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) has helped me to not feel so lost and alone in my sufferings.
The words “self care” have always been foreign to me until now. It took being diagnosed with an autoimmune disease for me to understand that it is important for me to take care of myself. Being extremely stressed increases the risk of an Ulcerative Colitis (UC) flare up, which means that once I was diagnosed, the only choice I had was to learn to relieve stress and take care of myself. Anxiety, stress, bad moods, major life events, and worrying can worsen the symptoms of IBD. As I was unable to exercise when I was first diagnosed, I was forced to look for other means of stress relief and self care, which include (but are not limited to) bubble baths, reading, binge watching my favorite TV shows for the millionth time, writing, getting plenty of sleep, and learning how to use make up (look good, feel good, right?). I am able to exercise now, but I am happy to have an arsenal full of different stress relief methods as my UC has a mind of its own sometimes. I am thankful that I am to put myself first when it is needed as it has actually changed my life, my attitudes, and my relationship (for the better).
Are there days that I wish I didn’t have an incurable disease? Abso-freakin’-lutely, but being diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis for just this short month has already changed things in my life. The biggest change I’ve experienced with my diagnosis is how big of an advocate I am for myself, my health, and my overall well being now. No one likes to be called a pushover, but I’ve always been the type of person to do whatever others needed me to do without any regards to how it was impacting me. As stress can increase the risk of a flare up or worsen the symptoms of IBD, I’ve had to learn to say no to people and even to say no to myself. I’ve recently had to advocate to my primary care physician about my health as they do not understand my condition nor my symptoms. I’ve had to explain to work exactly what I’m going through. Listening to my Gastroenterologist has been necessary, but also listening to my body and knowing when I need to rest versus when I can push through. I’ve always been advocate for others, but rarely have I spoken up for myself. I am appreciative of my new found ability to speak up!
I’ve always thought that I have made it through quite a lot, but I guess you don’t realize how strong you are until your body is attacking itself from the inside. I could have never imagined what it was like to suffer through 3 bathroom trips an hour while sitting a 12 hour shift or what it meant to study while unable to warm up due to severe anemia. Now with my treatment, I have learned to muster up the energy in order to take care of business before returning home and crashing. I have learned to not let an urgent bathroom trip during a gym session stop me from finishing my workout. I’ve not only managed to physically be strong, but I am learning each and every day how strong I am mentally and emotionally. This disease can things at a moment’s (and it has), which means that I am having to learn to not let a bad moment or a flare day ruin my positive outlook and my “can do” attitude. Notice that I say “I am having to learn” and not “I have learned.” This is definitely a process and as this diagnosis is still fairly new to me, I believe that I am managing it quite well. I have quite a bit of gratitude to learn how strong I truly am!