Managing the Stress of IBD and Relationships
Let's face it: navigating relationships - whether it's romantic or a friendship - can be challenging. Couple that with chronic illness, and three's really a crowd. Inflammatory bowel disease is a lot to take on from a patient perspective, but it's key that we recognize it's not a walk in the park for our loved ones or friends, either. As a married woman and mom who's battled Crohn's for almost 13 years, I know firsthand what a big role my IBD plays in my family. Stress alone is a huge trigger for me and for many in our community. So, how do we manage that stress and not allow it to be detrimental in our relationships?
When you're hurting. When you're having a bad day. When it's difficult to get out of bed. When you've been stuck in the bathroom for endless hours. Share it. Don't try and protect those close to you by keeping these struggles to yourself. If you suffer in silence and don't voice your concerns, you won't get the help you need.
We celebrate the small victories.
Sure life with chronic illness is not all sunshine and butterflies, but there are plenty of amazing joys and moments that still make up a large part of our lives. Having a feel-good day? Tell your loved one. Recognize there are plenty of times when you feel like everybody else.
We are resilient.
We take the flare ups and the hiccups in stride. Nothing is too big for you to overcome. You aren't in this alone. Take on the horrible moments that bring you to your knees in pain and lean on your friend or loved one like the crutch that they are. Squeeze their hand from your hospital bed. Stare them in the eyes during that painful moment. Find peace just by connecting eyes.
We don't see IBD as a negative.
Remember your IBD is a big part of you, but it's far from being all of you. My husband constantly reminds me - you are not "sickly"...you have a disease, but you are still healthy. That mindset is huge. Whether you believe it or not.
We are vulnerable.
We cry when we need to cry. We admit weakness when we feel weak. We get frustrated and let our walls down. We aren't afraid to show how it hurts. Just because you cry or ask for help does not mean you aren't strong. It means you're human.
We love unconditionally.
In sickness and in health, really means in sickness and in health. Find someone who loves you despite your illness. Someone who doesn't think of you as flawed, but unique. Someone who is inspired by your strength and wants to take all the challenges on by your side. Those who fade to the background, make fun of your struggles, or aren't empathetic don't deserve your time or your energy.
We are a team.
Back each other up. Don't be overbearing, but be there for each other. My husband reminds me to take my daily medication. He never leaves the room during my Humira injection. He takes time off work to attend my doctors appointments. He's never left me for a second in the hospital. Every single night of every single hospitalization, he's stayed in the room. Find someone who does these things out of the goodness in their heart, not because they feel like they have to, but because they want to.
We all have stress in our lives. IBD and stress go hand in hand. But, take my word for it: once you learn to balance your disease with your tribe, the people who are closest to you, the rest will fall into place.
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