How IBD Can Change Your Perspective

For the record, I want to make it CRYSTAL CLEAR that I cannot stand when anyone puts a positive spin on living with inflammatory bowel disease. I am not saying we should be complaining all of the time, thinking the worst, fighting it as opposed to accepting, failing to embrace our “new normal” because we are so pissed off about our diagnosis but - Crohn’s Disease and ulcerative colitis are wretched diseases that have the ability to truly tear a person and/or their loved ones apart.

That is all I will say regarding how terrible life with IBD can be for those who have a severe case.

The more I reflect on my life and how I think about things, the more I realize that inflammatory bowel disease has caused me to look very differently at how I perceive the world and other people. New things do come up very often too that make me realize my reaction/response/opinion of the situation would probably be vastly different had I never gotten sick.

I want to expand on exactly how being diagnosed with an incurable, chronic and invisible illness has really changed my thought process regarding certain situations.

I am so much less judgmental than I know I would ever be had inflammatory bowel disease never entered my life. I have noticed I tolerate certain bad habits or off-putting personality traits a lot differently than most of the people in my world. Because I understand where these things come from, I don’t just write someone or something off because they partake in something I do not like. I may not want to be around it, but I no longer think negatively about them.

A few examples...

Smoking Cigarettes

Growing up, it was always ingrained in me (like many of us) that smoking cigarettes was bad for you. They are addicting. They can cause cancer. You all know the deal. I always believed people who smoked in this day and age were ignorant. Given I absolutely cannot stand the smell, I also looked at it as a dirty habit. I could never be with someone (romantically or otherwise) who was a smoker.

I still find the act to be gross but I no longer have any preconceived notion of individuals who smoke cigarettes. I don’t think they are ignorant. I still believe it is a “dirty habit” but one most would prefer not to partake in if it could be avoided. I feel like those people who smoke cigarettes are trying to relieve stress or gain some other kind of mental health benefit. And given I don’t know their life story, they could be in a tremendous amount of emotional pain (or physical perhaps?) and smoking helps them cope. Point being, I don’t know other people’s story so who am I to say or think that something they do is somehow wrong, gross, and/or ignorant.

I absolutely never would have these feelings if I didn’t have a deeper understanding of the human psyche, mental health, physical pain and challenges, etc -especially in the environment I grew up in. Since I did mention in a previous article that I wanted to share little bits about me and my life so you all could get to know me better: I have one very close, immediate family member who is very shallow and judgmental. This person was also never shy about articulating his/her feelings about others who possessed certain qualities that society wouldn’t deem “acceptable.”

How I Think/Feel About Individuals Who Are Overweight

I grew up hearing that if a person was on the heavy side, it was because they couldn’t control themselves, ate way too much and couldn’t get their act together to exercise. Those that were overweight or obese, I was always told, obviously didn’t care about their health either. Ignorant and uneducated would probably come to mind if I/we knew the person ate a lot of fast food as well.

Now my feelings about a person who is overweight are like night and day. The things that go through my mind (again, only when it is mentioned from the person I was referring to earlier in the article - otherwise I don’t give it any thought) now are…

Is this person going through something difficult in their life and they are using food as a way to self-soothe? Is anxiety and/or depression at play with this individual? Is he/she on a medication that causes weight gain for a health condition? Does this person have an illness that does not allow for them to exercise and quick items, which are usually the most unhealthy, is the only way he/she can eat since there is no one to cook and help him/her out? If fast food is at play, I wonder if that person is suffering financially.

How I View Certain Medications and Ways of Treating Various Symptoms

I grew up in a household where medicine was not looked at very highly. My family was/is extremely health conscious so putting chemicals in your body wasn’t something that my parents wanted or felt was right in many instances.

I was always treated properly with western medicine when needed. But when more “optional” medications started coming into play (for example, medications to manage pain or anxiety as opposed to a biologic that I would have died without) I started thinking one way while other people in my life felt differently. This has definitely caused issues but that is something to talk about at another time.

The point I am trying to make with this example is that I no longer feel like me or anyone else is doing something wrong by taking pain medication when it is really needed instead of sucking it up. I also don’t see any problem with a person taking something to help alleviate anxiety if it is impeding on their life. I am fully aware that these medications are just a tool in a person’s arsenal and other non-medicinal things need to be done in conjunction (for example, finding the root cause of the pain, possibly therapy or journaling to help with crippling anxiety).

So while I am not at all thankful I was diagnosed with inflammatory bowel disease {just being super blunt with you guys} I am grateful that I have more of an ability to accept and understand other people. Judging others for who they are and/or how they go through life is not something anyone should be doing and it is certainly not anything I want in my life.

What about you? Have you found that being diagnosed with IBD has changed your perception/views on certain issues? I would love to hear about your experiences!

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