I struggle with a chronic illness, called ulcerative colitis, but one thing that has helped me cope with it is being open about my struggles and talking to people. Because of my illness, I often don’t participate in social situations. I am not supposed to drink alcohol, or I could have horrible side effects. So, I often turn down opportunities to go downtown or hang out with friends at happy hour because I feel like I would be a downer for my friends while they have fun. If I get a flare up, it makes my whole world stop. I physically am unable to eat, or move around very much, and I am in a lot of pain. The hardest part of this whole experience though, has been being the only one I know who struggles with it. Often times if I mention it, somebody knows somebody that has a similar problem, but it isn’t the same as being able to talk to someone who really knows what is going on inside of you.
The best thing I have done to handle it is to talk about it. Once people know, they understand why I turn down gatherings or why I can sometimes have a bad day. And, they genuinely care about my wellbeing and ask questions so they can be more knowledgeable about chronic illness. The people that have been the most helpful to me are my parents. They would do anything to make me feel better, even helping me get an emotional support animal so I have a companion on those tough days.
Personally, I didn’t want to share my story on social media because I’m not looking for sympathy from a bunch of strangers that feel obligated to say something. I like informing people so they are more aware of struggles that myself and others face, and so they think differently about chronic illness, because it’s not always something you can see. I think people can choose not to post about struggles because we want to put on a different persona on social media. They don’t always want to show those moments of weakness for the world to see. I don’t mind talking about it, and I tried posting it once, but it wasn’t the reaction I wanted. People started saying it was really sad and they felt bad for me. But I didn’t want that. I just wanted to start a conversation.
For anyone going through something like this, my advice is to find someone to talk about it with. Whether it be a parent, a friend, or a therapist, I think it really helps to get it off your chest. Bottling it up inside can lead to resentment, depression, and loneliness, and everyone deserves to feel like they have someo