My Shadowy Companion Called "Flare"
"I really hate messaging you this today, but is there any way you can get my first 3 classes covered? I'm having a BAD colitis flare and can't leave the bathroom to get ready."
As a teacher working in a school district that's short-staffed, I know missing a day of work creates havoc for an administrator. But as one with colitis, I also understand that my body dictates what I can and cannot do. Timing doesn’t matter to those living with Crohn's or ulcerative colitis.
A flare is always lurking...
At age 52, I believe that I've been experiencing remission for quite a while. In my mind, I feel more in control of my colitis than it controls me. I watch how I eat, I choose daily exercise, and I consciously apply stress-management techniques.
But I also know that I carry around a dark companion. Even in remission, I live with caution. I understand that colitis still lives within me. It lies as the backdrop of my body. It's a sort of background character — ready to appear at any given time. A flare can arrive on the scene like the flame of a struck match. And like a burning match, a colitis flare is red, hot pain.
The start of a colitis flare
So, when I texted my principal on this day, I felt the agony of my colitis reminding me of its presence. It had awakened me and sent me racing to the bathroom where I remained, sitting on the commode, for a good 45e minutes. At that point, I pushed myself to the shower. In my head, I kept repeating, "You've got to get ready. You've got to get to school."
But even in the shower, the abdominal pain pounded with such ferocity, that I couldn’t even stand upright. In resignation, I surrendered to sitting in the tub as the shower pulsated over my body. It hurt to move. I wanted to remain curled up with knees drawn up against my chest. Through snail-like movements, I got myself clean.
Cleanliness wouldn't last long as I found myself back on the porcelain throne contending with another diarrheal assault. What had I done to allow a flare? That was the question pummeling my mind as the pain continued pounding in my gut.
But I knew the answer. Just like everyone knows their body best, I knew how I allowed my shadowy companion called "flare" to step out of its darkness into the forefront.
From remission to flare after indulging
For the past few days, temptation got the better of my rational mind. Through cake and cookies served during "Teacher Appreciation" week, I caved to my sweet cravings. I relished the saccharine delight of chocolate chip cookies and buttercream icing goodness. Within those confectioneries, sat the ingredient gluten, ready to take me down.
And it did. I knew that gluten didn't play nice with my body. Experience taught me that lesson long ago. But temptation got the better of me. Now, I paid the price.
Breathing through the intense UC pain
It took me 2 hours to find enough strength to crawl out of my bathroom and into my bed. Once in bed, I decided that my goal was to curl up and not move. To just breathe. So, I did. I took one deep breath in. Held it for 3 seconds. Exhaled out. And I repeated this again. And again.
Managing a colitis flare isn't easy. Some sufferers may need to seek treatment from a physician as soon as possible. Living with this disease for over 30 years, I knew I could ride out this flare in time. With my body, I've learned that what I resist will persist.
So, what did I do? I rode the wave of pain. I got still. And breathed... deep, slow breaths. What I know to be true for my body, deep breathing allows air to flow through each cell and calm my nerves. The stress and anxiety of this flare would not get the best of me. No way.
And you know what? The more I breathed — slow and deep — the more pain subsided. Little by little, one deep breath at a time, I noticed how pain receded, like moving from high tide to low tide.
Then, I practiced a little self-talk. Because in the middle of that flare, I mentally scolded myself for not making it to school. As my body fought itself, so, too, I fought myself with negative thoughts.
Why beat up on myself? What nonsense to create nasty mental diarrhea when my body was down. That way isn't nature's way. We are meant to be love in action. And what we create in our minds, our bodies follow.
Once I surrendered to the flare, rode the wave of pain, and let go, I noticed my body and mind respond in kind. I gently reminded myself that everything was alright. That my students would be fine without me for a day. That a flare was't the end of the world. That everything would work out fine.
Resting and calming the flame
In short, by showing myself a little bit of compassion, I could rebound a bit faster. And I did. My body rested. My mind rested. I breathed deeply. I drank plenty of water. And my cells reciprocated in kind.
Now, this all may sound like hokum. But during this flare, I was able to smother the flames.
What do you do to ease a colitis flare? Please share your thoughts. Because each body is different, your method of soothing pain might just help someone else. In this community, we offer each other hugs by sharing ideas.
So, here’s my hug to someone that needs it. Please, give your own HUG today.
How open are you about being diagnosed with IBD?