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Cartoons, Candy, and Cramps

Cartoons, Candy, and Cramps

I grew up watching candy-wrapper colored cartoons that were so sweet they’d dissolve your tooth enamel. Seriously, the characters in some shows should come with a nutritional warning because they’re packed with sugar. But, I think that’s part of what makes cartoons so comforting. In those worlds, everything is passed through a technicolor lens. The ghosts, the ghouls, and the grimy creatures from below are all covered in a sticky coating of relatability. The villains are never really evil, they’re just misguided or naive. Don’t even get me started on cartoon heroes. Talk about unachievable personal standards.

I shouldn’t be too hard on the realism of cartoons, though, because they’re not supposed to reflect real life. They’re designed to be an escape from the pressures, perils, and pitfalls of reality. Besides, in a lot of ways, a normal childhood isn’t so different from a cartoon. As a child, you’re wrapped up in a cocoon of warmth, protection, and love. When it gets too scary, disturbing, or painful, you can turn away and cover your eyes.

Then, you wake up

Maybe, you wake up all at once, like someone ripped fuffy covers off of you and splashed water in your face. Or maybe, you wake up slowly, like you do when you’re curled up in the cozy shadow of an inescapable dream. Regardless, you grow up, and you wake up, and you realize there are some things you can’t just escape. That’s why most cartoons don’t have characters with Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis.

How can something invisible be so real? How do you define something that can be so many things to so many different people all at once? How do you explain that bad things can happen to good people unexpectedly? You could try and paint a picture of it.

It lurks behind innocent victims

Its dark and scraggy form is unnatural and repulsive. When it moves, it ripples uncomfortably through the air. Its breath is a humid, noxious blast of moldy turnips and expired sardines. It strikes in an instant before you can even turn around, dripping only gooey globs of sickly salvia. Still, even with a description as vivid as that, you still might never explain it.

Its indescribable form is a sin in the perfectly manicured landscapes of cartoon worlds. Its evil can’t be folded up into a tiny package of definition. It’s easier to ignore the paradox of IBD in fiction, and in reality too. But, when we face it, and stare into its invisible eyes, we can break it down. When we share our stories, our strengths, and our weaknesses, we can beat it. Because if we shout loud enough at the world to wake up, one day it will. One day, the world will realize that an invisible disease is not any less real. After all, you can’t see me as I write this even though you can hear my words. Ask yourself, does that mean I’m not real?

Together, we can make others realize how real it is. We can tell them that we’re suffering and that we’re not just dealing with a stomachache. We can share our stories, and to me, that is the bravest thing we can do. After all, we all know, every monster is afraid of the light.

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.


  • nolafamily
    1 year ago

    Nicely written. I especially like “curled up in the cozy shadow of an inescapable dream”

  • Grady Stewart moderator author
    11 months ago

    Hi @nolafamily,

    Thanks for your kind comment! 🙂

    I’m so glad that you enjoyed my piece. I really enjoy using vivid and expressive language in my writing. Hope you are well! 🙂


    Grady (team member)

  • Amanda Osowski moderator
    1 year ago

    Hi Grady,
    I love the way you talk about invisible illness and relate it to something people are so familiar with. Thanks for sharing!
    Amanda (team member)

  • Grady Stewart moderator author
    11 months ago

    Hi Amanda,

    I’m thrilled that you enjoyed my writing! I’m glad I was able to connect it to a universal experience many people have had. I’d love to see cartoons featuring chronically ill characters in the future. Thanks for reading!

    – Grady (team member)

  • thedancingcrohnie moderator
    1 year ago

    Beautifully written. Thanks for sharing!

    It is definitely hard having an invisible illness; that’s why it is so important to continue to educate others on the fact that although you may not “see” the illness, it does not mean it isn’t there.

    Always dancing,
    Elizabeth (team member)

  • Grady Stewart moderator author
    11 months ago

    Hi Elizabeth,

    Thanks for reading! I’m glad you enjoyed my writing! I agree. It is important that others recognize that “invisible illnesses” are real illnesses. It can be tough when others are unable to understand our struggles. That’s part of why it’s so great to have others in the IBD community who are able to relate. I appreciate your insight! Fantastic input!

    – Grady (team member).

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