When I was 16 years old, I decided I wanted to be a filmmaker more than I wanted to be an actress. But having grown up in the entertainment industry, I knew I needed a backup plan. My mother always advised us to do something we loved, so that we would do it well and always want to go to work.
Outside of film, I loved history. Specifically, American history and government. So, my backup plan was to practice Constitutional law or go into Health policy. I took pre-law classes, minored in history and policy in college. I went about executing a well-thought-out plan. Until the hammer dropped.
My IBD symptoms appeared in college
In the middle of college, my inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) symptoms introduced themselves. Although I wasn’t formally diagnosed until I was 24 years old, IBD put a large block on how I went about executing my life plan. My symptoms began taking over my life. They altered it in such a way that I couldn’t figure out what my next move needed to be. Once I was diagnosed, I still lived in a manner that reflected a healthy person; something I clearly wasn’t anymore. But I was ignorant of the role IBD was playing in my life.
When I had my child, I remained vigilant to continue to live my life as I had before. As if a small demanding human and an arrogant disease had not begun to take over my life. I had been so immobile on change, I didn’t recognize my role in the life partnership I had willingly placed myself in. I was a determined young woman. One who watched independent determined women, her whole life, live an unaltered existence. Or so I thought.
I suddenly couldn't recognize myself because of UC
Ulcerative colitis took my adulthood, magnified it, and then slapped me across the face with it. Within three months of giving birth, I was for the first time in my life without a job outside the home. I couldn’t recognize myself. My body was different. My health was different. My role was different. I had to face who I was: A mother, partner, and patient.
This condition felt like a prison sentence
Some women live for that day they will become a stay-at-home mom and run a house. I was not that woman. It felt like a prison sentence. Perhaps if I were healthier and had more of a choice… maybe then I would have become a willing participant. But, on December 14, 2009, my body made a choice for me when my ulcerative colitis began to flare up 9 weeks after giving birth and only stopped once in the next two-and-a-half years.
The pressure to keep accomplishing things even while flaring
My misunderstanding of IBD, the pace imposed by my new mini employer who never gave me a day off, a lunch break or a raise, compounded by the pressure I placed on myself to be a superwoman —made me resentful, depressed, and sometimes a chore to be around. I will admit it, I was not pleasant at times. Because I was fighting against things I couldn’t fix instead of gracefully transitioning into the blessing of being a stay-at-home mom with a possibly controllable disease. If I had accepted my transition and added some knowledge of IBD, my life would have been a lot easier, I’m sure.
What type of colitis are you living with?
IBD will be here forever and I need to accept that
I wish that someone had pulled me aside and told me that IBD would be here forever, but there would be beauty in the breakdown. I wish that someone would have said, “Change what you can, and accept what you cannot.” I wish that I had a website that I could find a post about someone’s story where they made it! I wish that someone had been there for me and my partner to remind us that we could make it. I wish that someone had said, “Being a stay-at-home mom is the best job you can have. The rewards will be great. Just wait and see.” I wish I could have accepted my life for what it was and looked toward what it could be.
Acceptance didn’t come until I was on the surgical table looking up at the lights, counting backward, praying for a miracle. I wish that I had taken the time to realize that acceptance, doesn’t mean defeat. Because defeat is something that we can’t accept. Not as long as we are living.
Let the transitions take place
Your disease will transition just as your life will transition. I find that it’s best to let the transitions take place. Find the silver lining. Fight the battles you can fight. Accept the ones you cannot. Live and love through it all.
Do you keep a food diary to help manage symptoms?