Siblings Are Often Forgotten

We talk a lot about how people who suffer from inflammatory bowel disease (Crohn’s Disease and ulcerative colitis) need support. We also talk about how caregivers of those who suffer from IBD, or any other type of chronic illness, need support and TLC of their own.

The impact UC has on siblings

But, what is rarely ever talked about is the impact this disease can have on siblings. Given the average age of onset for IBD is between 15-35, it is obvious that there are many young people who are diagnosed. The age of diagnosis seems to get younger and younger with time but I am not sure if that is due to better diagnostic tools, increased education, or some other external factor. Regardless of the reason, there are many children and young adults who suffer from a debilitating disease like Crohn’s Disease or ulcerative colitis.

Watching anyone you love suffer is difficult. But for a young person, watching a sibling, someone who is around your age who isn’t “supposed” to get a serious illness, go through such physical and emotional turmoil can shake someone to their very core.

Hardships at home because of UC

Siblings are also often left out, especially if the person in the family impacted is being cared for by his/her parents. I know when I was at my worst, my parents would spend so much time taking care of me, driving me to a million different places and appointments, and it was my grandparents or a friend who would make sure my brother was taken care of. I also noticed when things would become very bad with me, my brother would spend a lot of time at a close friend’s house to escape the hardships going on at home.

Processing family emotions

This can cause a lot of emotional angst for anyone. On one hand, you rationally know that it isn’t your brother or sister’s fault that they are ill, but on the other, it is impeding on your life. My parents have had to cancel vacations because of my disease and while my brother was disappointed, he never outwardly blamed me. It is difficult to figure out how to process these emotions. There is also the same helpless feeling that caregivers have. The need to control other things in your life can severely increase since things may seem very unstable at home.

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IBD is a true family disease in every way imaginable. That is another reason why patients often struggle with such enormous guilt. While we need to provide patients and caregivers with an enormous amount of understanding, love and support… the same is true for siblings of those suffering. They need to be able to vent their frustrations in the same way we all do. They need to be able to share how they are feeling and learn how to cope with it as opposed to bottling it all up so they don’t make anyone feel badly. These emotions are real and can be life-changing for anyone.

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