If you’d told me 2 years ago that I’d be questioning my identity due to being diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease, I’d have laughed at you.
I’ve always been into fitness. Until I was a young teenager I used to swim competitively. I’d be training 8 times a week, before & after school, and spending my weekends at competitions. Then as I got older, I moved away from swimming when I found my love for weight training. Again, I was training frequently, had a good diet and felt great!
I was so healthy, and so focussed on being healthy, that getting a chronic illness never once crossed my mind. Why would it?
So, when I became severely ill in 2021, it was hard to come to terms with.
I started to experience agonising stomach pains, my gums had completely split on one side, I was going to the toilet upwards of 6 times per day, felt nauseous and unsurprisingly had no energy.
I knew something wasn’t right, and after seeing my GP a few times I was referred to the hospital as an urgent case due to the severe level of inflammation in my gut. My inflammatory markers were over 2000 times higher than what is considered “normal”.
I underwent numerous tests over the following few months and was ultimately diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease.
I’ll never forget the moment I received my diagnosis. I had convinced myself it would be nothing, or we could treat it and I’d be back to my normal, healthy self in no time. So, when I saw “Crohn’s Disease” there in black and white, I broke down. This was going to be with me forever? How was I going to deal with it? Would I even be able to?
I’d already had to scale back my training. I could barely stomach any food, and what I did eat wasn’t being digested. After multiple sessions where I felt like I was going to be sick, or faint, and even some days struggling to go for a walk, I realised I couldn’t push myself the way I used to.
And subsequently, I felt completely lost.
This wasn’t me. It felt like I was in a body I didn’t know. A body that could no longer do the things it had always done.
It was a hard realisation that I’m not invincible like I naively thought I was.
I’ve never suffered from poor mental health, until the time following my diagnosis. My body was fighting against me after so many years of looking after it. I could no longer spend my time doing the things I love, I was in constant pain, and I didn’t know how to deal with it all. I don’t like to admit it, but I had days where I wondered what the point was if this is what my life was going to be like now.
I think I scared myself with how I was feeling, so I started going to therapy. Following this I began documenting my newfound Crohn’s Disease journey on social media as I realised that writing things down, or saying them into a camera, was easier than having a face-to-face conversation with my loved ones. It allowed me to get things off my chest and process some of the thoughts I was having. I would recommend this to anyone who’s struggling with something similar.
I’ve also been able to connect with people going through a similar thing. Knowing I’m not alone in how I was feeling and what I was going through has been a huge comfort. But I’ve also been able to start spreading awareness around Crohn’s Disease. It may only be in my little corner of the internet right now, but it’s progress, nonetheless. Additionally, it’s helped me to feel like I’ve got a purpose again. I may not be the fittest, or physically strongest person in the room anymore, but I am the person who is helping others to understand & process their chronic illness. I think that’s still a pretty great achievement.
From personal experience, these are some tips I’d give anyone going through a flare or a bout of bad illness! #crohnsdisease #crohnsflare #chronicillness #flareup #recovery #remission #crohnsandcolitis #crohnsandcolitisuk #ibdawareness #crohns #ibd #chronicpain #medicaltiktok #medicaladvice
I won’t pretend that I’m not still very much a work-in-progress. But I am starting to accept the fact that I need to respect my body in a different way to how I used to. Rather than pushing it to the extreme, I need to slow down when necessary and factor in more time for recovery. I’m seeing my diagnosis as a new challenge, rather than an obstacle. However, I am hopeful that one day I’ll be able to train again without having to worry about pain, or whether I’m going to urgently need the toilet mid-set (has happened!).
I like to think there’s always positives to be found in any situation. I didn’t ask for this disease, and to be frank, I don’t want it! But it’s shown me that I can overcome challenges that once seemed impossible. I’ve always worked on being physically strong, but I think now I can say I am mentally strong as well.
To anyone else with Crohn’s Disease, or another condition that they’re struggling with right now… I know how you’re feeling. You’re not alone. And whilst the disease may have turned your life upside down and mean you can’t do all the things that you once could, there’s still plenty of things you can do, and new things to learn!
Life may look different now, but you’re alive and that’s what matters.
Think of your diagnosis as a new beginning and a chance to rebuild yourself into whatever you want. Not everybody gets that chance. In some ways, we’re the lucky ones.