Is It Possible to Be Happy With Ulcerative Colitis?
When I read comments posted on social media about living with ulcerative colitis, I see many people sharing their pain, despair, and anxiety. Life with an IBD is, without a doubt, challenging. But one person's question stopped me in my tracks when I read it. One sufferer asked: Is it possible to be happy with colitis?
What a simple question. And yet, it's an important one that requires introspection and an open heart. Let me explain how living over 30 years with colitis has changed how I view my digestive system.
Crohn's and colitis are painful and limiting
First, anyone with an IBD requires persistent changes to one's daily life. How you eat, how much you sleep, getting exercise, going to work, and juggling all aspects of life require thoughtful planning and a willingness to be flexible. Flare-ups interfere with everyday routines. So, how can a person find happiness in the constant movement and rearranging of life?
As silly as it might sound, I believe we can find happiness by making peace with UC. You might think to yourself, "Peace?? What is she talking about? Making peace with a poopy, painful colon? No way!"
I despised by UC
Let me explain. At one time, I despised my digestive system with all of its rage and flare-ups. It depressed me to be in such pain and constantly running to the bathroom. I hated having to change clothes when I didn't make it to the potty in time. Friends and loved ones heard me complain about it. I often ended up mad and angry over spending too much time counting floor tiles in public restrooms.
But that was a long time ago. I was young and easily rattled by my UC "dragon." (That's my pet name for UC.) Now that I'm older and wiser, I view colitis through a different lens. As my dad loves to say about almost everything in life, "It is what it is."
Changing how I respond
Today, I accept my colitis and even embrace it. The flare-ups remind me that life is full of pain and angst. But I don't need to fixate on it nor lash out in anger. How I respond to abdominal pain, diarrhea, gas, bloating, mucus, and other symptoms matters most. That's what we should remember about all aspects of life: it's our response that determines the outcomes.
So, when the waves of a flare arrive, I shrug it off and remind myself, "It is what it is." Breathe deep, wrap your arms around yourself, and love the body in which you live. Through this caring and tender process, UC seems to loosen its grip on me. In other words, just go with the flow of UC. Ride the wave.
Besides, there's no reason to let it control one's moods or feelings. It's our body – our physical "home." And when you relax, notice how everything around you eases. Isn't this how life works with all of its challenges anyway?
I refuse to empower my UC
Over the years, I've learned to just accept the "is how it is"-ness of now. I no longer fixate, focus on, or bemoan my UC state of body. I just refuse to empower it. It controlled my life for so many years. Now, I no longer allow that because that doesn't feel good.
What does feel good? When I distract myself with good-feeling thoughts, I physically feel better. Even in a flare, I focus on deep breathing and exercising to keep my mind off the pain. I treat myself extra kindly with bubble baths and time with my dog. I read more and take it easy until the flare subsides.
That's it. I'm gentle and kind to myself.
Finding my happiness where I can
By making peace with UC, I've found that it has made all the difference in the length of my flares and symptoms. Plus, now that I'm age 52, I think about this Marcus Aurelius quote: each morning I wake up: "When you arise in the morning, think of what a precious privilege it is to be alive – to breathe, to think, to enjoy, to love." It is such a privilege to be alive and receive another opportunity to bring peace and love into the world.
So, to answer the question that stopped me in my tracks... Yes, I know it's possible to be happy with UC. By shifting my attention away from it and focusing on all that feels good, I can indeed live in happiness and appreciation. I hope that everyone who reads this article finds the power to do the same.
How do you find happiness with UC? We'd love for you to share your thoughts on this topic. Please leave us a comment. Namaste.
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