A Note to My Teen Self about Crohn’s, Canceling Plans, and Communicating With Friends
Crohn's robbed me of many things as a teen, including ease with friendships. Teens are not equipped to have sick friends, nor are they equipped to be the sick friend.
Recently, “friends” posting pictures from back in the day helped feelings and memories surface. I wish there was a way to go back in time to coach teen me on how to handle things better.
It’s hard not to think that my relationships with certain people could be drastically different, today. Here are the events I was reminded of and how I wish I could have handled things differently.
Missing out as a teenager with Crohn's
I missed out on a lot as a teen due to Crohn’s like friends’ parties and milestone events. Canceling last-minute was a normal occurrence for me.
To this day, I grapple with residual feelings of disappointing people due to my illness. Canceling attending a sweet 16 and Quinceañera party haunts me to this day.
An hour before attending my best friend’s (at the time) sweet 16, I had what I now know is a panic attack. I panicked over going to her home and what if my guts attacked. What if I got sick in front of everyone?
I wasn’t feeling great, and with every new trip to the bathroom, my panic intensified. I called her about 15 minutes before the party was to start, that I didn’t think I could make it. She was used to me being sick, but it was growing old.
How I would have handled events and canceled plans differently
If I could do it over, there are a few things I would have done differently. First, I should have discussed with my friend in advance that I fully intend to show up, but either may be late or need to leave early.
Second, I should have had the same discussion with my parents and made a plan to help with that. Third, I should have continued to get ready for the party, despite multiple trips to the bathroom.
It’s been my experience, more often than not, I’ve been able to relax and enjoy myself once I am somewhere. Crohn’s anxiety really has revolved around the “what ifs” floating in my head, not actual things that have happened before.
Parents struggling to understand Crohn's
You may be wondering, “Why didn’t your parents make these suggestions?”
I wish they had possessed a better handle on my condition and symptoms, back then. I can totally see my mom coming up with that compromise now. We all struggled together.
A changed friendship after a missed trip
That missed trip to Disney on a charter bus, I mentioned above, houses a big regret for me. To this day, I feel like I let down my friend, as well as her parents who put so much effort and money into planning that trip.
Things I knew for sure — the bus was going to leave at 4 am sharp and mornings were always extremely difficult for me.
I was so hopeful that I would be able to do that trip. But my symptoms were awful during the week leading up to it. Eating and attending school were becoming two things I could not do well.
With less than 24 hours to go, I called my friend and canceled. I explained how I was fearful to go. After that call, I felt our friendship shift.
Luckily, a mutual friend replaced my spot on the bus. He was the only guy on a bus full of girls and parents and uncles and aunts and cousins. Not so lucky was that I got to hear from all of our mutual friends how he had obnoxious gas that entire bus ride to Orlando.
I felt immensely guilty they had to deal with that, but secretly relieved it was him and not me. So, there was that.
Back to the moral of the story...
If I could go back, I would have done several things differently.
Hiding symptoms of Crohn's from friends
First and foremost, I would have asked her if I could have been a last-minute decision. I would not have been offended if the answer was no. She and I didn’t have many classes together that year, and she didn’t see how sick I was throughout the school day.
I rarely complained to friends at school, I just disappeared. People thought I was aloof or skipping. Classmates have seen my story and reached out on social media after seeing my story. A few have even apologized for how they perceived me during that time.
Personally, I think it is so critical for young people to be knowledgeable and open about their Crohn's disease. The more we communicate, the fewer chances exist for misunderstandings.
Have you disappointed someone you care about due to your Crohn's disease? Let's discuss it!
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