You're Not a Failure for Choosing Medication
Last updated: September 2023
Have you ever seen something in a book, magazine, or online in a meme that resonates deep down to your core? I began writing this after seeing an Instagram story posted by a fellow patient advocate.
The Instagram story was a screenshot of an article written by someone living with anxiety. The author wrote about how she tried to treat her anxiety naturally by committing to more self-care practices. At some point, the author realized this wasn't enough for her body and she eventually embraced medicine as part of her treatment. The author initially felt like she had failed herself, but later came to the realization she had not.
The author wanted others to know that if they were in the same boat, they too, have not failed.
Reading this brought me relief
I am not quite sure why this cut out of an article impacted me so hard. But I felt a deep sense of relief after reading it. For one, I didn't even know I was looking for. In a sense, I think it gave me permission to feel better about how I started biologics.
It's hard to know what came first for me, Crohn's disease, or psoriasis, or psoriatic arthritis. I was a teenager when all 3 diseases first flared, but I didn't know it then. When I think about how I lived with these diseases for close to 2 decades without treatment, I get mad. At one time, I was also under the mindset that if I went this long without meds, do I really need them?
The pain of being off meds
However, not receiving treatment has left me, more often than not, in a constant state of pain when walking. Performing basic motor functions with my hands is now an epic challenge. Food and I have a very complicated relationship. My scalp aches and itches on a near daily basis, as do the other parts of my body affected by psoriasis.
In 2012, I went into my worst flare-up to date. Within a year, I became fully debilitated and was fast-tracked for disability. I have had many layers of emotions, in particular, leftover from the day I had to crawl to the bathroom because arthritis had set in at the soles of my feet. I knew deep down that the searing intense pain in my feet was a feeling that was here to stay.
How did I get here?
Despite all that I now know about inflammatory bowel diseases like Crohn's and ulcerative colitis, there are still days where I struggle to wrap my head around how I got here. How I went from "clean eating" and going to the gym twice a day to disability.
Yet there I was in 2013, declared disabled. It's hard not to feel on some level like you’ve failed.
This Instagram story made helped me realize a few things. It helped me acknowledge how even though I was desperate to start biologic treatments by 2013, I still overwhelmingly felt like a failure. I felt a personal responsibility that it was somehow on me to make me better. Yet, I hadn't held the previous doctors who misdiagnosed me as a teen nor the ones who didn't treat Crohn's after I was diagnosed to that same standard. Sure I blamed them, but I blamed myself more.
They failed me. It's not the other way around. All I've ever done was try to stay afloat.
I'm doing better these days
These days, I am doing better and it's not because of a particular diet or performing the latest fad in self-care rituals on the regular. Nor is it because I bought a PDF book by someone infiltrating Facebook groups touting they have found the cure to what ails me. And it's definitely not from detoxing my liver with a tea that celebrities promote on social media.
Diet and exercise most definitely have their place in treating IBD. However, it was not the end all be all for me. I've come to accept that.
So, if you have chosen to go with medicine and feel, like I once did, that you've somehow failed yourself. You haven't. Also, you didn't "not self-care enough." Go ahead and continue to self-care all you want. But please know – YOU DID NOT FAIL.
What has been the most helpful for managing IBD symptoms?