A pair of feet stepping on the bottom of a brick wall in the grass trying to look over.

How My Crohn's Can Make Me Feel Like an Outsider

Crohn's disease can easily make you feel like an outsider. Why? It often exacerbates a sense that you are not like others. It also frequently alters your priorities away from the norm.

I feel like an outsider at special events

There are many examples that demonstrate how this can happen. For one, at a wedding or bar mitzvah where people eat lavish food, IBD sufferers often stand apart.

I do at least. I have to watch my diet strictly... No dairy, no beef, no coffee, no cake, etc. Further, owing to IBD, I may end up missing key parts of a wedding... The first dance, the cutting of the cake... Since I'm often stuck on the porcelain throne.

Finally, since I don’t drink alcohol, which exacerbates my Crohn's, I often can’t participate in various ceremonial moments such as the champagne toast.

Traveling with IBD isn't the same either

Another example of how Crohn’s disease can make you feel like an outsider is travel plans. Friends make travel plans without having to worry about food and water quality. Nor do they have to consider the state of bathroom facilities.

In my case, though, these are primary concerns. This explains why I am leery of visiting Mexico. After all, my stomach is problematic enough without having to risk spending my vacation on a dingy public toilet after food poisoning triggers a flare.

Having children with Crohn's can be hard

A third example is the way many of my friends have big families with numerous children. Again, I differ here because I require a lot of self-maintenance. When you have a chronic condition, the time you spend taking care of yourself can make taking care of children on top of that seem overwhelming.

Some with our condition are parents, of course, but it certainly can make doing so seem more trying. Of course, my decision to stray away from the norm often distances me from my peers.

The key element I learned from all of this is I’m best off embracing my outsider status. What I mean by that is to try and look at it as an asset.

I embrace being an outsider

I grew up watching early Marlon Brando and James Dean films, which cemented in my mind the idea that it’s cool not to fit in. I also was the black sheep in my family, and the class clown in school, so embracing being an outsider was never really a huge stretch.

Today, I find it liberating to be an outsider. Like a salmon, I can’t help but swim upstream. Fitting in is overrated anyway. Or, as comedian Groucho Marx famously put it, "I’d never belong to a club that would have me as a member."

There are advantages to being an outsider, too. It helped me with developing comedy material as a stand-up comedian. It also enabled me to develop more unique fictional worlds in the novels I’ve written.

Having Crohn's has shaped my perspective

Finally, it gave me some added insight into my own psychological issues, pointing the way to greater self-awareness. This is at least in part because, as an outsider, I’ve obtained more of a bird’s eye view of humanity.

Being an outsider can help in other fields too. If you are in the sciences, perhaps you will be more prone to taking an unorthodox view, since you’ve already learned to separate from the herd. This can be invaluable. After all, the greatest scientific thinkers... Newton, Galileo, Einstein... All were outsiders.

The downsides vs. the upsides

There are downsides that come with being an outsider: social exclusion, loss of opportunities, alienation. But this seems a worthy tradeoff. I’ve found it best to embrace my outsider status and accept that Crohn’s disease separates me from my peers.

Has Crohn's disease made you feel like an outsider? If so, is that something you embrace? Why or why not? Thanks for reading. I look forward to your comments below.

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