Living With Crohn’s Made Me Reimagine My Success Story — And You Can, Too

Growing up, I was reassured that no matter what my dreams were, I would still be able to achieve them despite being diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease. At 10 years old, that was a reassuring fact — since I had no idea what said dreams would be.

As I fought every battle Crohn’s threw my way, my dreams became centered around what success would look like, both for myself and in terms of societies’ standards. If I based my dream off what the TV shows and books told me, then as long as I got good grades, went to an amazing college, and landed the “dream job” then I would find that success, and I would feel fulfilled. My dream was set: I would be a boss babe and climb whatever corporate ladder I found myself on.

I had not realized that everything I was being told on what success looked and felt like, was coming from an ableist society. Why would I think that? Everyone told me that the world had changed and would be able to support me and my disease, that no one would bat an eye at the girl with the invisible disease. That maybe it’s invisibleness would instead be a superpower.

My dream, which felt more like a mirage, came crashing down halfway through my senior year of college. I was 24 years old, had 14 years of Crohn’s Disease experience, and was being told for what felt like the millionth time that my life needed to be put on hold due to the disease. My latest complication was perianal fistulas and a horseshoe shaped abscess that wrapped around my spine — the boss babe dream needed to be put to the side. But wasn’t society supposed to be able to support me with my disease? Was I not told numerous times that the accommodations that could be made for me would never affect how I appeared to the world? That my level of success would never be viewed as different from everyone else’s?

By this point in my life, my self-esteem and success went hand in hand, and my dream of being a boss babe was contingent on it. I 100% believed everything I was being fed in college, that if I landed the “dream job” I would be content and praised as being successful. With how much I felt I had already lost from this disease; I knew I had to hold onto the mirage and not let the disease postpone my life again. So, while I suffered from my disease complications, I graduated college and landed my dream corporate job.

Everything was ok for a while, and my dream of being a boss babe continued as I tried to balance my full-time corporate job, and my latest complication. Something started to feel off to me though, and I was noticing that everything I did never felt good enough. At the end of most days I was too exhausted to properly take care of myself, and had no work life balance while managing my health. I was confused with the promises society had made to me because it was becoming evident that there was a disparity in work ethic between “normal” employees and those that are disabled. It was mind boggling to me because while I was able to do my job with my disease, Sally Sue across the corridor couldn’t answer an email without complaining.

I quickly started to figure out what felt off about it all, I was realizing this dream wasn’t going to work with the way society currently was. Even if I tried working harder, stopped comparing myself to my teammates, and set better work/life boundaries it might never be enough.

I kept trying but was not granted the promotion that was promised to me, the one I had felt was the ultimate boss babe title. In retrospect it saved my life, because I had finally realized that if I wanted my health, both physical and emotional to be okay I would unfortunately need to pivot my dream.

I honestly still struggle with all of this. Two jobs and many flare ups later, I find myself still doubting my worth. I struggle with feeling less than at anything I do because of what’s considered “normal.” I also have realized that working with modifications and accommodations isn’t going to help get me to that boss babe level that I originally pictured for myself. If anything, they discourage me even more since every time I have had accommodations, I have noticed different treatment. I just never fully feel comfortable using them.

The playing field in the adult world will never be level until people are more open and understanding that not all disabilities are visible. Along with the preconceived notion that people who have such disabilities cannot be as great of a worker as a “normal” employee (in my opinion we are harder workers than “normal” employees). I decided to take matters into my own hands. See my dream was still to be a boss babe, and to keep my same work ethic, but not at the sake of my health. At the end of the day, I was forced to make a choice, original career goals or my health.

I created my Instagram, and brand, Badass with a Bad Ass shortly after not getting that promotion. My original dream has morphed into a primal need in me to focus more of my energy on battling society’s view of IBD. My goal is to not only raise awareness for the IBD community, but to also provide inspiration to others out there who might also be struggling with finding their self-worth. Because in the end it was never about me and what I could achieve in an ablest created society. I was always the badass, even if the corporate world couldn’t see that.