Taking IBD One Step at a Time

When handed a lifelong illness, it is very easy to feel overwhelmed. Seeing the light at the end of the tunnel is almost impossible, especially since this tunnel has no end (yet). Between tests and trying new meds, hospital stays and surgery, living with Crohn's or UC is not for the weak, and really wreaks havoc on our minds as much as it does our bodies.   

To avoid feeling overwhelmed by this disease, it is best to take each event just one step at a time. Doctor's appointments, colonoscopies, new treatments, etc. Each of these can seem daunting, but when approaching it in bite-size pieces, it makes living with a lifelong illness a bit easier.

Disease management: break it down

Being diagnosed with Crohn's disease or ulcerative colitis

When you are diagnosed, everything feels like a series of waves crashing over you repeatedly, unable to give you a moment to catch your breath. Learning about the disease and how to live with it, and determining the best treatment method is just the tip of the iceberg, which can be quite overwhelming. 

But, taking it one step at a time and not getting too far ahead of yourself is key in keeping your mind from jumping to conclusions and assuming the worst. It will also help you stay focused on what is discussed during doctor's visits so that you know exactly what is going on with your body and how it is being treated. Then, once that is established, focus on the next step. This may include further testing or getting insurance set up for your new medication, and don't get any further ahead than that.

IBD tests and procedures

It is quite difficult not to feel anxious about any testing you need during your journey with Crohn's or UC. Whether it is a colonoscopy or a more simple CT scan, our nerves can get the best of us, and going through each test can be overwhelming. Just take it one step at a time. 

Step 1: Schedule the test. If you have to prep for it, make that step 2. Maybe fasting prior to your test is step 3.  Driving to the test can be step 4. Literally take the entire process on a step-by-step basis, which can also help if you are nervous about the test itself or the results, and will prevent your mind from assuming the worst.

Treatment for UC or Crohn's

Hearing stories from fellow patients about how many medications they had to try before finding "The One" is frightening. I personally tried 6 medications before finding my "magic potion" that worked for my body, and I am glad I didn't know all that I had to try and what I had to endure until I found it. 

Upon starting each new drug, I approached it step by step. First, get it cleared by insurance. Then get signed up for an initial infusion, actually get the infusion, have blood work done to test drug levels, assess my symptoms, and so on. 

It could be quite daunting knowing all of the hoops you have to go through before actually being able to start a medication (and feel it start working), but going step by step will help you see successes throughout the process and make the finish line feel closer.

Managing flares

Lastly, handling a flare one step at a time is critical to keeping your mental health in check. Should you feel the onset of a flare, assess your symptoms based on how they are at the moment. Call your GI, have the proper testing done, and so on. Do your best to avoid jumping to conclusions that this is like the last flare that left you hospitalized, and try not to go through the laundry list of what you have to do before you know you will feel better.

It can be easy to feel overwhelmed with IBD

There are many other events that occur while living with Crohn's or UC, all of which are best handled when taken step by step. Do your best to not get overwhelmed, and should you feel anxiety creeping in, stop and focus on whichever step you are on, and do not look forward or back from that step. Just focus on what is going on NOW. 

It may not cure your disease or get you the test results you are hoping to hear, but it will make the entire process more manageable, which sometimes, is what we need most.

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