The Relationship That is Affected Most by My Crohn's
You may have read the title of this article and thought, "Just one relationship? So many of my relationships have been affected by Crohn's!"
While that may be true, there is one relationship, one very important relationship, that is most affected. And that is the relationship we have with ourselves.
My relationship with Crohn's
It is very difficult to love something or someone who has done nothing but betray you and make you give up all of your hopes and dreams. The fickle disease that is Crohn's can be a silent, dormant roommate one day, and then show its turbulent and angry side the next.
It can strip you of all self-confidence and aspiration, leaving nothing but embarrassment and shame in its wake. So, how can you love yourself when you know that you are a shell of who you used to be, can no longer commit to plans, and have given up on all that you aspire to be?
My self-image with Crohn's
I, personally, have asked myself these questions and have felt absolutely "ugly" and "disgusting" several times throughout my journey with Crohn's.
It used to amuse me (somewhat) when people would comment on how "good" I looked when I lost a lot of weight before having my partial colectomy in 2014.
When they didn't know how much I hated my body and barely recognized it. I would have killed to weigh an extra 10 pounds if it meant I didn't have this disease tearing through my body, making me too weak, sore, and sick, both mentally and physically.
Trading places with someone else, even if just for a day, was a dream of mine, just so I didn't have to walk around in this body that had betrayed me more times than I could count.
The effects on my mindset
Living with Crohn's also greatly affected my mental health and how I viewed myself compared to others. I lost all sense of optimism and excitement about life, constantly thinking, "Well, I hope I can..." when making plans, since canceling vacations or a fun night out was becoming the norm. I felt unreliable, not only to others, but to myself as well.
The funny thing is, we are all we've got in life. The only person we spend 100% of our time with throughout our entire lives is ourselves – our minds and bodies – from the day we are born until the day we die.
So, what happens when this relationship fails?
Working on my self-relationship
We can't avoid ourselves or block our number. We can't mail a cease and desist letter or issue a restraining order. We are stuck with our minds and bodies forever, so we may as well heal this relationship that has since been strained.
I have done a lot of work on myself when it comes to healing, both mentally and physically. It was 7 years ago that my parents pointed out that I had lost my "Julieness" about me, meaning I was no longer the bubbly, optimistic girl they used to know. I took that to heart and deeply reflected on what happened to turn me into the negative, bitter, dimly light person I had become.
Living with my disease and experiencing the absolute worst symptoms and flares from it was, of course, the primary reason. But, I knew that I had to start making a change somewhere or I would be stuck with this version of myself that I hardly even recognized.
And that's where I started – I simply started loving myself.
Shifting how I think about myself
My attitude started to shift and I started seeing positive outcomes in other ways. Changing the way I saw myself was the first step in changing the way my disease affected me, which then led to changing the way my disease affected others.
Part 2 of this article – "Steps to Loving Yourself More" is coming soon, and I will dive deeper into how I fully started to love who I was despite being chronically ill, and how you can start improving the relationship you have with your own body, too.
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