Surviving Heartbreak with IBD

Sometimes it’s easier to blame every terrible moment on inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). It seems like the only logical thing to do, considering most of the most traumatic events in my life have been centered around my disease. Looking back, I don’t know if I can truly say that the cause is directly IBD. It made an impact, but there are so many variables that go into a single event, it’s hard to directly blame IBD. However, it makes me feel better on occasion. It’s easier to say, “Well, that’s just IBD’s fault.” Truthfully, most of the road blocks are actually speed bumps. They can trip me up, but they can’t stop me.

IBD caused constant flares, fertility issues, medical bills, and difficulty caring for my child

In 2011, my life fell apart. I lost just about everything, including my home, when the person I chose to spend my life with decided that this wasn’t he signed up for. “This” included my constant flare ups, my fertility issues, the medical bills draining our bank accounts and my inability to properly care for our child the way healthier mothers did. He didn’t realize that I hadn’t signed up for it either, but he was lucky enough to walk away from IBD.

Unfortunately for me, I couldn’t walk away from IBD. Instead, I was crushed under the weight of symptoms, guilt, anger, loneliness, grief and one-sided love. And like the pain I felt minute by minute living with ulcerative colitis, I chose to suppress the pain of my heart being ripped out of my chest. I had no time for a broken heart. That was for teenage girls and abled-bodied mommies. I was a disabled mother who quickly lost her partner in parenting overnight. Heartbreak and sorrow were luxuries I didn’t have.

The impact on my physical, emotional, and mental health

Suppressing my grief, and not properly mourning, only manifested into physical ailments and complications. It didn’t create my IBD, but all that happened with the demise of my family took a toll on my physical, emotional, and mental health. It took me much too long to recognize the irritant on my life and disease. But here is how I found my way through toward a path of better whole body healing.

Steps to help with the emotional impact of IBD

Take time to mourn

Don’t hide it. Don’t tamp it down. Don’t pretend like everything is okay. You cannot fool yourself forever. Dealing with it sooner, rather than later, allows you to release it completely. Not leaving room for it to come back later or linger, draining you of happiness. It’s okay to cry, to be sad and to be in pain. Allow yourself to live in the emotions and move on.

Talk to your GI

Sounds weird to say, “Talk to your GI about your break up.” But it’s important that you stay on top of your symptoms during difficult times in case your symptoms are exacerbated by lack of sleep, stress, and anxiety. I keep my GI informed of all changes, positive and negative, as I know my mental health can affect my symptoms. Your GI may also have some mental health resources that can help you get through this difficult time. Whatever your loss is, there are resources available that are IBD-specific.

Do not blame yourself

When I suffered my first miscarriage, I spent 3 months blaming myself. I wasn’t able to pull myself out of the equation. The guilt that comes with having a chronic condition is extremely strong, so during a time of crisis it will absolutely take over. But know that it is not your fault. Living, loving and having children is wholly your right! You have nothing to be ashamed of or guilty of. Love and loss is a part of life whether you are living with or living without a chronic condition.

Talk it out

The worst thing you can do to yourself is hold it in. There is no medal for bravery. It’s okay to be human and vulnerable. And it’s absolutely okay to seek out help with a mental health expert. It might be best to find one who specializes in IBD or chronic illness.

If seeking professional help is not something you are comfortable with, seek out your tribe. Talk with them about what you are feeling in a judgement free zone.

Whatever your loss, your heartbreak, I’m sure that right now it feels like a crushing weight you cannot get out from under. The combination of loss and navigating through disease can be nothing short of overwhelming. But breathe now and give it some time. Mourn the loss and push through. In six months, you’ll find yourself in a better place. And remember, you are not alone.

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This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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