Overdoing It With IBD: Recovery After Large Life Transitions

Recently, I wrote what it was like house hunting, during a pandemic, with IBD. I also wrote an article about planning for and managing a move while also managing my Crohn’s disease.

Reflecting on these, in retrospect, I didn’t do a great job prioritizing myself during this life transition. And as such, my physical health suffered.

Pushing myself... and my IBD

I charged full force ahead through packing, planning, lifting, sorting, moving, and unpacking, and then I had no choice but to stop.

My joints ached in the worst ways. The pain in my stomach was palpable and constant. I was in and out of the bathroom, incredibly dehydrated and physically fatigued. I was, as you can imagine, not at my best.

About a week after our furniture had arrived at the new house, I found myself in a puddle on the floor of my shower, crying hysterically. I felt vulnerable and exhausted and everything hurt. Something had to change.

This increase in symptoms, this flare-like feeling, it wasn’t a surprise to me. But, it was to the people around me.

Overdoing it and hiding my symptoms

I had tried so hard to push through what I was experiencing that I hid it pretty well from my husband and my daughter and my parents. That hiding had to be the first thing to go in changing things around.

First step: Tell people I was struggling. This felt really hard. It had been a long time since I’d had to admit that I needed help related to my health.

The last time it had happened, I wasn’t yet a mother. My perspective has changed since then, and so have my attempts to keep things from separating my daughter and me.

I sat down with my husband, and let him into the conversation I had hoped to avoid. I told him how my symptoms had been increasing over the past several weeks, and that I wasn’t able to hide them anymore. I admitted that I couldn’t keep pushing through without some sort of reprieve.

He asked what I needed.

Recognizing what I need

I’d been asking myself this same question a lot over the weeks prior, and I’d come up with a few very specific things:

  1. Time to myself, to lay still with my heating pad.
  2. Support with the remaining physical tasks around the house.
  3. Help with our daughter outside of my work hours.

These things weren’t easy to request, and they weren’t even really things I wanted, but they were things I knew my physical health needed. Next step: I needed to accept support.

Lack of control with IBD

I tend to very type A, I like being in control, and I have a lot of opinions. So, when the reality was that I needed to let other people do some of our unpacking, our arranging, or organizing, I felt really icky about it.

In the past, when I’ve struggled with my IBD, it’s only been work or personal events that I’ve missed out on. I was always able to find a way to rest, mentally as well as physically, when it was evident I needed to.

This time, I really struggled to release my control. I would lay in bed with my heating pad, the TV on in the background, and I’d run lists on my phone and in my head – things I wanted to do, things I hoped someone else was doing in the way I’d want. It wasn’t helpful for my healing or my health.

The reality was, I had to let go.

Letting go so I could recover

This was a really important lesson for me, one I haven't had to learn in a long time. By holding tight to the things I wanted to manage (or micro-manage), I was holding onto the symptoms wrecking my body.

I was keeping the stress and anxiety wound really tight, so nothing could rest or recover. This wasn't sustainable. This wasn't going to let me get back to work and motherhood and life.

If you've struggled with this before, how did you overcome it? How did you gently teach yourself to be ok with letting go?

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