I’m not going to sugarcoat it, Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis are both shitty diseases to have. Literally.
Alongside the horrendous symptoms and surgeries they cause, comes a sense of isolation.
You spend so long in the bathroom that days out become the odd day, a weekend away must be planned months in advance and any necessary car journey involves locating the nearest public toilet beforehand.
Friends start to think you’re bailing on them too often, you begin to feel guilty that you’ve looked at the same four walls for days – and even guiltier that you haven’t left them.
But you know what? Forget those ‘friends’ who make you feel guilty for having a disease that cannot be cured. Forget those ‘friends’ who sigh when you tell them you’re too sick to leave the house, too worried about being away from the bathroom for moments at a time.
Because they’re not friends. Friends are people who understand you and who support you in your time of need. They are people who want to be there for you, who will say, ‘Okay, let’s stay in tonight’, when they know full-well that you are in no shape to be out for the evening.
Of course, when you have an incurable disease, you think nobody will understand. That you have to put up with these non-‘friends’ because you have nobody else.
But you are so, so wrong.
There are people who get you. Who understand you completely. Who know what you’re going through 100%. How? Because they are going through the same thing – well, as similar as you can get, anyhow.
Where do you find these people? On online support groups, places where people turn to find people who just get it. A place where you can admit defeat and gain courage – where people will guide you through your flare-ups and keep you going when you’re in remission.
Online support groups are fantastic. Up at 2am, stuck in the bathroom in pain? Don’t worry, it’s likely you’re not the only one.
And if you want to talk about it, you can. There’s no limit as to how much, how little, or how often you communicate – but it’s incredibly comforting to know that when you do, there is always someone at the other end – and even over on the other side of the world – there to listen.
Your support doesn’t have to just remain online, either. You can end up making such a connection with someone that you end up meeting in real-life and making a life-long friend.
But it’s just as good to know they’re there behind the computer (or phone) when you need them too.
That’s not to say that friends should only consist of those who can 100% relate – you must remember that there are people who love and care for you and who want to understand. They may be trying their best when you don’t even realise it.
But, for when you do need someone who isn’t going to question what you mean when describing your symptoms, there are so many support groups available for sufferers of Crohn’s and Colitis, including The Toilet, Me & IBD, #IBDSuperheroes and #GetYourBellyOut.
Don’t ever feel as though you are alone. Always know that there is someone out there who totally gets it – and who totally gets you.
Words by Hattie Gladwell