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How My Friends with IBD Gave Me Hope

Living with any chronic condition can be lonely. Many of us have friends and family, but how many of us have people who really understand what we are going through? It’s rare. It’s hard to find people who aren’t living with any form of Inflammatory Bowel Disease that can truly relate to our life and experiences. Sure, empathy is great, but it’s not the same as experience. It doesn’t replace the feeling of knowing someone has actually been through what you are going through.

For a while, I didn’t have that

I didn’t know what it was to have a friend who fully understood me. I had never experienced that joy that strikes your body when you hear someone say, “I know the feeling.” If someone did say it to me, it was usually out of ignorance. They didn’t really know what I was talking about. Usually, they were talking about something entirely different. They didn’t relate to me and how could they (ever)? I’m not angry with those people. I know their efforts came with good intentions. I know they don’t intentionally mean to disrespect me or undermine my condition, they just don’t get it. Lucky for them, they likely never will.

A lot of people look at those of us living with Inflammatory Bowel Disease as if we’re at fault. They think if we make better “lifestyle choices” or add more veggies to our diet, we’ll be cured. It’s so rare that I meet someone who doesn’t have IBD that I don’t have to explain my condition to. There’s always something the world just doesn’t quite get.

Because of this, I lost hope for a while

I didn’t think I would ever meet people who fully just got me. I’d seen close friendships at school and on TV, but I knew I’d likely never find a bond like that. Deep down I knew no one would possibly be able to fully understand me without understanding my condition and the impact it’s had on my life.

Until I met my friends

The first time in my life that I ever felt understood was when I made my first friend with IBD. It was like I’d been holding my breath for years and could finally let it out. It was like I’d been keeping all of these secrets from the world, even prior to my diagnosis. I was finally able to open up. For the first time in my life, I could be completely open and honest. I could laugh about things that would have been odd to a “healthy” person. I could cry about things that none of my other friends would have even remotely understood. Meeting people who lived with my condition gave me hope in people and myself. It showed me a different dynamic to friendships and gave me a safe place to run to when I had nowhere else to go.

I wish everyone with my condition could experience the joy I felt by meeting my friends. Whether in person, online or even a pen-pal, the relationship is priceless.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.