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Birthday Planning with IBD

My birthday is coming up and I am having a hard time figuring out what I want to do. Or rather, what the plans should be for a person whose day-to-day health is so unpredictable. I am not someone who generally cares about having parties or being in the spotlight but this time, this year… I don’t know, I want things to just be HAPPY and celebratory. I feel like I am a source of negativity a lot of the time for the people in my life because they always have to “deal” with my medical problems so this year, I just want my birthday celebration to be a true celebration – having absolutely nothing to do with doctors, tests, my recent surgery, medications, etc.

I am going to be 30 years old and even though it is hard to say out-loud, it IS a big milestone birthday. I never was able to have a sweet 16 party because, a month prior, I had my first surgery and a ton of complications afterwards. I remember my parents wanting to take me some place fun for the day since I couldn’t have a party or even be with friends in my condition and I vividly remember trying to decide whether to try Imodium so that I actually could leave the house.

One birthday celebration was going to be spent with my entire extended family and I was really looking forward to it. Since my immediate family have always been health nuts/freaks, this was the first year I even remember ever having a real birthday cake. It was a huge deal for my parents to get that cake for me and of course, I was too sick to even attend. Thankfully it wasn’t where I couldn’t be left alone for a few hours so my parents went to the party without me, made an appearance and also dropped the cake off since that was supposed to be part of dessert, and then came back home to be with me.

Last year, I really thought would be different than some of the previous ones that seem to just blend together now. I thought it would be a fun, happy time with the people I love but… I ended up in the emergency room. All the planning and excitement that had been done leading up to my special day was ruined.

I share these stories with you because I want you to get to know me and a little about my history; not to come off like a sad sack or have anyone feel badly for me. I know most of you reading this have some sort of connection to either Crohn’s Disease or ulcerative colitis (IBD) and I want to help you understand where some of the things I say comes from. Inflammatory bowel disease may impact all of us in drastic ways, but those ways are all different with obviously a lot of overlap. So, I share certain examples or stories in my articles because I want you to get to know ME better as a whole person and that includes letting you into my life a little bit at a time.

Anyway, back to the point.

The two examples of me being too sick to celebrate my birthday and ruining other people’s plans caused me a tremendous amount of guilt. I not only felt awful because well, I physically felt terrible on those days, but the fact that I let people down consumed me. It always does to be blunt.

So, this year, I am trying not to put a lot of pressure on myself. I need to come up with some plans soon and already have a general idea of how I am going to be celebrating my birthday but I can’t shake the fact that I don’t want to set myself up for failure.

When I told my parents that, my dad responded with, “Risa, what does that even mean?” He only calls me ‘Risa’ when he is serious and in a completely non-joking mood so I knew he genuinely did not have a clue what I meant by that statement.

As I explained to my dad, I am hesitant to make concrete plans and then have that be a day (or weekend) of me needing to be on the couch in my pajamas the entire time. I am worried that if we do plan something and get excited about it and it falls through because of the unpredictable nature of my health, it will be devastating once again. But then my other choice is to never plan or do anything because I am constantly worried about something going wrong. I know most of you who suffer from a form of inflammatory bowel disease, or another chronic illness, can understand the internal struggle of this aspect of our lives.

I am hoping, praying and keeping my fingers and toes crossed that on my birthday and the days following, my body will be cooperative. However, I am also trying to be realistic and not put unneeded stress on myself.

I am curious how other people have handled these types of situations or other celebrations. Do you find that you are often let down when you make plans or are you pleasantly surprised? Have you been burned before regarding celebrations you had to miss out on? Does that impact the relationship between you and your loved ones?

Let’s talk about this together!

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.