woman at a cubicle nervous about other people listening to her

Living with IBD in the Corporate World

I was diagnosed with Crohn’s in 2009, the same year I started my career as a financial advisor. Was it a coincidence? A cause? We will never know. However, what I do know is that mixing a demanding job with Crohn’s disease creates a perfect storm for disaster.

I was often caught in uncomfortable situations where my stomach and my schedule did not align, and stressing about whether or not I would have to use the bathroom only made things worse (that awful, vicious cycle!!) so I had to get creative...

The location of the bathroom

The first company I worked at was set up as one large room with cubicles in the center with offices around the perimeter. Unfortunately, the bathrooms were in the middle of the large room, where I knew (or imagined) everyone knew how many times, and for how long, I used it.

I was extremely self-conscious about going to the bathroom throughout the day, and sometimes even purposely pulled my hair up into a ponytail so that it looked like the reason I was in there was just to do my hair.

I thought, perhaps, I was being overly sensitive until a colleague made a point to asked if I was “getting my laps in” one day when I frequented the bathroom especially more than normal. I simply laughed and said “yes” but it only added to my self-consciousness of using the bathroom multiple times an hour. Needless to say, my hairstyle changed at least 3 times a day most weeks.

Taking clients out to lunch and dinner

Another difficult part of my job was taking clients out to lunch or dinner, especially when I was having a bad day and could not tolerate more than a banana and rice. There were many times I switched the meeting to just getting coffee, as I knew I would get an iced tea and just sip on that without being obvious.

And, in one instance, I prefaced the meeting with “I am expecting an important call” in the event I had to get up and leave urgently to use the bathroom. Setting up a potential disruption in the meeting was always key!

Handling conference calls

The same was true when I was on the phone with a client. There were several occasions where I would be in the middle of a call and have to use the bathroom NOW. So, I would say a call that I was waiting for was coming through and I would call them back in 10 minutes.

They never questioned why I got off the phone or felt slighted by me abruptly hanging up on them, but it was not one of my proudest moments, to say the least.

And now...

I was declared in remission in 2016, and left my financial advising job in January 2018 to launch my health coaching career full time. 

Although I am not suffering from the same symptoms as before and not finding myself working in an office where I feel scrutinized about my bathroom habits, I still keep these memories in the back of my mind and am more than happy to share the tips to avoid uncomfortable situations with others.

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