A woman curled up peacefully on a floor cushion.

Being Selfish With Crohn's

Choosing yourself may sound easy, but it’s actually quite difficult. It takes a bit of skill. Many of us may like to believe we choose ourselves (and our health) when we need to. And we would like to believe that we make ourselves a priority. The fact of the matter is – we don’t.

Fighting our natural instinct to give

We as humans, but especially as women, have a nurturing nature. We are raised to believe that caring for others is the best, most amazing thing we can contribute to this world. In addition to that, we’ve been conditioned to believe prioritizing ourselves would make us selfish.

In response to these teachings, we follow the societal standard and continue to put the needs of others before our own. Thinking this is how it should be. But I’d like to be the first person to tell you: it shouldn’t.

Prioritizing myself like I prioritize others

Prioritizing others’ needs over your own can be dangerous as someone living with a chronic, autoimmune disease like IBD. It’s why I didn’t realize I was in a flare for years. Or why I didn’t seek medical attention prior to being diagnosed.

When I was only a child, I had a sick mother. I knew – even at that age – she deserved all of the care. So I put my needs, my symptoms, and my pain on the back burner so that she could continue to get the care she needed.

But it doesn’t have to be this way. During instances like this, I have learned that no one party deserves care over another. Both parties can simultaneously receive the medical treatment they need. When the caregiver is also a patient themselves, we must learn to balance the responsibilities of both titles. Not just one.

Recognizing the toll of my Crohn's

Prioritizing self looks different for each one of us. For some, it will be allowing others to play more of a role in our children's lives so we have the ability to think outside of the parental mentality for a while. For others, simply saying “no” more often may do the trick.

For a very long time – and to an extent, even to this day – I was a “yes” person. One of those people who nod their heads and agree to everything the other party is saying. I bit my tongue a lot. And this caused me a lot of burdens, both internally and externally.

My mental burden began to take a physical toll on my body. I was stressed, doing things I have no desire to do, and mentally replaying instances where I should have used my voice and spoken up about things that bothered me or things I was uncomfortable with doing.

Choosing myself for the sake of my health

For me, prioritizing self looked like me speaking my truth regardless of who was listening or what they had to say about it. It was letting people know not only that I couldn’t make it to an event, but that I couldn’t make it because I was in a flare. I was hurting. I was uncomfortable.

If prioritizing myself in any way makes me selfish, I’ll take that. I will certainly take selfishness over mental and physical discomfort any day of the week.

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