The calm AFTER the storm: handling the BAD days with IBD
The calm AFTER the storm: handling bad days with IBD
Being diagnosed with Crohn’s disease was a blessing and a curse. After fighting for 3 years with no answers as to why my body was so angry, having my specialist tell me “I have no doubt in my mind, it’s Crohn’s disease” was almost a relief. It felt amazing to have an answer and my storm would finally let up. Many people have different situations and experiences with their disease depending on severity and medication/surgery success, but I do believe that every single person with IBD has their share of good and bad days. IBD doesn’t discriminate against age, sex, identity, etc- anyone, anywhere can be affected. My IBD has been well controlled over the last few months despite stress with a lot of positive and negative changes in my life. With all this newness, I decided to start caring more about what I need for ME to be better overall, and how I handle the bad days. I want to share what is helping me achieve this goal.
I remember a time last year when the thought of showering was exhausting. I couldn’t do it by myself. Eating (anything) put me in awful pain and would go right through me. I was so anemic I couldn’t walk up the stairs without feeling as if I was going to faint, and the thought of leaving my bathroom made me want to cry out of fear and frustration. This was consistent, every single day. Now, in comparison, I am working as a nurse, doing spin classes and yoga most days of the week, EATING well, ENJOYING food, and having minimal pain and nausea. Despite all these amazing changes in my health, I still have bad days. For example: with feeling better my body is changing. I no longer weigh 110lbs, and I have gained HEALTHY weight, but it can be a game with your mind to see your body fluctuate so fast, especially as a 21 year old female. It’s frustrating. Like I’ve said and will say a million times, every person with IBD is different and will cope differently. These are some of the strategies I’ve found that helped me through the hardest days:
Ground yourself. Think about where you are, what do you smell? What do you see? Is your breathing fast or slow? Do you feel calm? Allowing my body to adjust to this attention helps me control my breathing and relax further, especially when my thoughts are racing or I’m frustrated/upset.
Understand that it is 100% NORMAL and OKAY to have bad days with IBD, and to be upset about it briefly! When you’re doing well it can be really upsetting to feel crappy/start to flare. The fear of the unknown can be really daunting because you don’t know if these symptoms will stay for a day or a month. Sometimes you need to cry it out, write out your feelings, or confide in a friend/partner who is willing to just listen and physically be there for you to vent.
Try to remind yourself that pain and suffering is temporary. There will always be a positive, a good day or something/someone that makes you smile.
Think about one thing (even the smallest things) that will help you TODAY. This could be reading your new book, sitting outside in the sun for 5 minutes, having a sip of a cold drink and noticing how your body takes it in, it’s totally personal. Thinking ahead to the future is scary for me, so in these times I try to stay in the moment to remind myself I am alive and this will pass like the other bad days have.
I was recently asked by someone “what can someone do for you when you’re sick to help/make you TRULY feel better?”
Honestly I had to think on it for a good minute because I’ve never had someone ask me this before. My response was that I need someone trustworthy and non judgmental to bring me a drink of some sort, and just physically be there with me. The comfort of having a loved one beside you when you’re struggling is extremely powerful, especially when you feel 100% comfortable with them, and having a nice beverage (I’m talking like a Gatorade, maybe a Starbucks, not wine in this case) can help ground and calm you with every sip. Climbing into a nicely made bed with warm blankets and turning on Netflix is another one of my go to’s.
My hope is that whoever is reading this will understand that no matter what you are going through or feeling, the storm will pass. You will not always suffer. Be positive, take in the moment and ground yourself when you feel frustrated. We are all human, don’t ever feel guilty for your feelings.
I also have to say thank you to those who have been there for me. The amount of love and support I’ve gotten in the last four years from you has been overwhelming in the best ways, I’ll never take it for granted.
I happily take questions and comments through my social media or email and love connecting with other women who have IBD! Please reach out to me for anything.
Rhea Jenelle Dufault, is 21 years old and a surgical nurse in Calgary, AB! She was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease in November 2018 after 3 years of physical and emotional agony. Many doctors wouldn’t investigate as far as she needed them to, so finding the right specialist helped get a proper diagnosis. She enjoys being active, travelling, cooking, reading, and so many more amazing things that life has to offer.