One thing I know, having lived with Crohn’s disease (diagnosed or not) is that you can’t expect everyone to ‘get’ it. The same can be said for any chronic illness. Some will be incredibly supportive; they will call or text, or visit you in hospital. You will catch up with them and feel genuine kindness and empathy. Some will show compassion and a want to understand. They will offer support and a listening ear, even if it’s once every couple of months. These interactions are just as important. Don’t think that because you haven’t spoken to them in a while that it means any less, because they get it, they understand what you are going through and they care. Others; not so much. You will meet the ignorant, the rude and the petty. These are the individuals that have the ability to make you feel isolated and wrong for having your illness. They will question your illness. They will question your symptoms. They will question your actions. They will nod sweetly and wish you well, all whilst mentally preparing their version of events. Forget them. You will come across them your entire life but all you need to remember; is to forget them. Trying to make them understand won’t ever work because they’ve already made their mind up. Trying to get them to listen won’t work because they’re deaf to anything other than shallow socialisation. They don’t want to know about you or your problems, unless it benefits them in some way and that’s fine. Just forget them. You have you to focus on. Right now, surround yourself with those people we talked about at the beginning. Surround yourself with the people that believe you without question, that listen without judgement and that empathise without sympathy. You are doing great and for those that don’t see it; forget them.
Thank you. For you are the one that calmed me down when things felt overwhelming. Thank you. For you are the one that explained procedures when there was little understanding. Thank you. For you are the one that showed compassion, empathy and kindness. For all the late nights, missed breaks and over run appointments, thank you. For taking my blood as gently as you can, for explaining each drug and it’s side effects, for removing that stitch just a little slower than you needed to just because you understood it would hurt if you didn’t, thank you. For dropping by the house because you worried you hadn’t given me enough dressings, Thank you. Without you I might have felt abandoned, unsure or terrified but you didn’t allow that to happen. You make this tolerable. You make this manageable. So from the bottom of my heart, Thank you.
I’ve had a good run! 5 years counting with no flares, very little pain and managed disease on low dosage of Azothioprine, diet and lifestyle but just a little blip in the master plan of conquering Crohns Disease… I’ve found myself back in hospital with a fistula and an abscess. Whilst visiting Matt on the Isle of Harris, a pain I’d had in my lower back got increasingly worse, I started feeling infected, I was hallucinating, throwing up, and the pain was becoming unbearable. Took myself off to the local A&E on Stornaway where my temperature had sky rocketed, I was irritable and in a lot of pain. The nurses and doctors were amazing; they had me assessed and prepped for surgery in less than 3 hours where they made an incision down my left bum cheek to drain the abscess and suture the fistula. The surgery went really well and I’m now in very little pain at all but it very quickly shot me back into a really dark and terrifying place that you can often find yourself falling into with a crohnic illness. It had me thinking about the long term; how is this going to effect my work? how is this going to impact all of the adventures I had planned this year? Will this happen again and is there anything I can do to stop it? Will this leave me incontinent in the future? Will I need an ileostomy bag again? There are to many questions swimming around in my head that, coupled with my body being filled with pain killers, I very quickly ended up in a full blown panic attack. But reading back over some previously blogs I’d written reassured me that I’ve been here before. I’ve been in that place that feels so completely isolated and lonely and as if no one has ever felt how you’re feeling and the thing that re-reading my blogs made me realise? It passes. It passes really quickly when you remember how wonderful the doctors and nurses are, or how quick your family and friends are to rally around you. It passes, and I think that’s the thing to remember to anyone reading these blogs…all of this is temporary. There will be respite from whatever pain you’re feeling or whatever dark place you’re stuck in. Allow all of the negative feelings to happen, share them with someone you trust and let them wash over you because it will get better, it might just take your body a little time. I’ve always found writing cathartic, and a lot of that in the past 5 years has been privately in a blog or a diary but some times it needs to be shared. I know some very close friends who have been stuck in this really shitty, dark place for a while now but believe me, it’s temporary. Crohn’s Disease doesn’t make you, and don’t you dare let it break you. You will be okay.
This blog is for the individuals that are sitting googling, reading, crying, screaming, not knowing what is going on. This blog is for the guys and girls hiding their stomach cramps, or worrying that people are judging them for losing weight, or gaining weight or not wanting to eat, or having doctors appointments every week or having to trial stupid amounts of dangerous drugs just for them not to bloody work. Or planning out the route to take to work every day so you know that you have a toilet within walking distance where ever you go, or saying no to yet another night out because you know it will be ruined by this stupid illness. This blog is for people that are sitting right now, looking for some kind of solace from the world that they have been hurled in to. This is for you. You aren’t alone and you will feel better, I promise. This pain; it will end. This never-ending cycle of worrying will become a memory. I promise. I promise that this isn’t for ever. There is a drug that will work. There is a surgery that will help. There is a solution to this shitty situation, I promise.
Each time you feel alone, or that you have to hide something. Remember that there are people you can reach out to. You are, and never will be alone in all of this. If its not me, its a friend, or a doctor, or a creative outlet. But you are not alone.
I’m a little lost, two years down the line and I still don’t think I’ve grasped the concept of having something for life. I mean, sure, we’ve all thought about finding your soul mate and spending your life with them. Or getting a tattoo and having it blend into how you define yourself. These are the things you want, the things you search for, but when something is forced upon you, and you have no say in the matter, it is a completely different story. I’m trying to find the words to explain what it is like to have a doctor tell you that you have an illness, a disease, something that will effect your daily life for as long as you dare to imagine that life will last. It infects you, the thought that it is lurking, somewhere, anywhere, everywhere. In your joints, in your bones, in your mind. You wonder if that is what will define you. If people think of you and think of it. I’m struggling with the concept of being on drugs for the rest of my life also. It feels so completely unnatural to force a man-made chemical down my throat every day, just trusting the ‘specialists’ word that this is the best drug for me. As if they know me. As if they think of me as something other than a statistic, I’m 1 in a 1000. That’s all I am. nothing special, just another number. But I think they forget that this is the only body I’m ever going to have, I don’t get a second chance at any of this, and if all we boil down to is numbers then I’m gonna be 100% sure I squeeze every ounce of knowledge out of every specialist, every doctor, every blogger, every nurse, every patient I come across. I will work out the real statistics, from the real people that matter. I will sign up to every medical research trial, give blood at every blood test, try every insane, unorthodox ‘cure’ that there is. But I won’t give up. Not until that day I dared imagine comes along.
Eyes flicker, merging darkness with darkness. Entering a world of infinite possibilities you soften to the sound of your own heavy breathing. Chest rising, and falling, inflating your lungs with crisp, cold air. You feel your heart beat in your chest, hear it in your temples. It’s so quiet you can almost hear the blood flooding your veins. Your fingers begin to tingle as you re-position yourself and move them from underneath your head. Flexing each finger individually, smiling at the familiarity of your hand coming back to life. You wiggle your toes, stretching out fully before curving in on yourself, hugging your arms close to your chest for warmth. You exhale, counting sheep…1, 2, 3. You Inhale, role over, flex your toes, move your hair away from your eyes. You turn, inhale, exhale. Sleep is imminent, you wait patiently for it to engulf you entirely, send you into a world all your own, when your eyes suddenly dart open. A pain sears through you, landing in your back and sending your whole body rigid. Your breathing stops, your arms shoot to your stomach instinctively. You ride the tidal wave of pain, remembering the ritual you’d taught yourself. Count to 4, slowly and surely. 1, it radiates outward, circling your belly button, slithering and circling like a beast stalking its prey. 2, it darts inwards, as if wishing to remind you it can claim whichever part of you it wants. 3, it tightens around you, inside and out you feel yourself clench. Your breathing is sharp, your lungs failing to cope with the intensity. 4, it begins to ease off, your vice-like grip around your stomach loosens. You are catapulted back into reality, sleep a distant memory. A pain only lasting a few seconds, but the destruction is obvious. You can’t sleep, can you? Maybe you can. Surely this time you can. You flex your toes, roll over and feel your arm beginning to sleep, the familiar tingle darting up your arm. Your eyes close, you focus on your breathing. You roll over, you smile, you can feel the blood circling your head, reminding you everything is working. You breathe, in and then out, in and then out. You relax. Your body softens, you clutch yourself for warmth. You smile. Everything is okay, everything will be okay. You feel your eyes close and your mouth fall open, sleep is fast approaching. You turn, you stretch, you breathe.
The sea roared. The waves orchestrating a symphony of perfect disharmony. Clashing and crashing into one another; a never ending crescendo. Descending, impending, alluring, confusing. All-consuming. The mean glare of the moon danced on the magnificent waves, neoteric and electric. Waltzing and jigging and dancing and prancing and leering and jeering; searing and blinding and terrifying. Drowning.