plate of food with nails instead of vegetables

Eat Your Vegetables

Eat your vegetables! My family, my father, in particular, emphasized this heavily growing up. He had a large garden in the backyard. He wanted us to eat cauliflower, Brussel sprouts, cabbage, spinach, turnips, beets, squash, and, worst of all, asparagus.

These he grew in large quantities. He felt they were healthy and eating them would help us grow up to be big and strong. His heart was certainly in the right place. He loved us and wanted what was best for us.

Intense agony from eating vegetables with Crohn's

Unfortunately, though, what he couldn’t have known, at the time, was that I had Crohn’s disease, and, as a result, these vegetables would cause me intense agony.

Roughage can be difficult for anyone to digest, particularly someone enduring an auto-immune reaction. Often, during dinner, I’d have to step away from the table. There was a white couch near the table and I’d collapse on it holding my stomach. “Ahh,” I’d say, “my stomach hurts.”

Family didn't believe the pain of Crohn's

My father was certain I was making it up. This was reasonable. After all, I wasn’t exactly the first kid who despised vegetables.

Kids are crafty. They invent excuses to not do what they are told to do. Only, sadly, in my case, this was not some form of subterfuge, some adolescent ruse. The vegetables really bothered me, initiating a deleterious inflammatory reaction.

As one of four brothers, we were naturally all competitive. There was a limited amount of attention our parents could provide. Hence, we jockeyed for what we could get.

It is human nature to prey upon the weakness of others. It works the same way in the jungle. The hungry wolf does not care about the feelings of the wounded deer.

And so it was in my home. My brothers, seeing the eldest and most favored son, down, so to speak, lunged at me. They’d make fun of me. Deride me. Insisted I was fabricating my illness.

My father in no way discouraged this. Not that I blame him. I really don’t. After all these years, I can see now that he simply did not know better. There wasn’t a significant history of Crohn’s disease in our family at the time, and, as a young, otherwise healthy-looking kid, he really imagined I was just fine.

The toll of others not believing me

But though I no longer hold a resentment, those years, falling onto the couch, after the salad course, or some vegetables my mother would force onto my plate, while no one believed me, took a toll. Yes, I am not bitter; still, the feeling of being ostracized, even attacked while in pain, will never quite leave me.

These experiences solidified my position in my family as an outsider. They also changed me, fundamentally. I understood from that point forward that, even those who are supposed to love you most, those closest to you, are not above kicking you when down.

In later years, my family has been good to me. In many ways, they have made amends. What is more, I really am at peace with my past—a major positive in terms of my overall sense of well-being.

Learning to overcome obstacles

Thankfully, too, I am no longer depressed and have less Crohn’s symptoms, possibly at least in part because I have worked through my resentments, and because that rage, that inflammation of my system, has somewhat dissipated.

Nothing is perfect. I continue to face many obstacles, both in the realm of health and wellness and elsewhere. This year, for example, in addition to health issues, I’ve had deaths in the family, illness in the family, loss of a job, and many other obstacles.

But, fortunately, my capacity to manage obstacles has improved. I have learned to find new ways to persevere. What is more, IBD now seems to be me not just a plague, but, in certain ways, a gift...for it has propelled me to look more deeply into myself and explore what really matters. It has also helped me use my time wisely and appreciate all that I do have.

Thanks for reading and I would be thrilled to hear about your own formative experiences and what you have learned from them.

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