Living with the Unknown as a Teenager
First, as a new contributor, I want to THANK the community advocates team at inflammatoryboweldisease.net for the invitation to offer support and share my experiences dealing with ulcerative colitis. THANK YOU!
The impact of stress on my symptoms
Next, let me begin this new writing journey by sharing my UC diagnosis. As a teenager, I often experienced gut pain and diarrhea. Many times these symptoms hit me when I was experiencing stress or anxiety, which was pretty much all the time.
- “Oh, no! I have a test tomorrow.” Argh!
- “What?? Band tryouts are this week?” Bam!
- “I have to study for my driver’s test.” Wham!
- “That research paper is due on Friday?” Ugh!
Yep, I’ve always been a typical stress muffin. With the added pressure, my gut would send shooting pains through my stomach. This action caused me many times to curl up in a ball waiting for the pain to subside. To lie in bed crying quietly. Or, it might send me running to the bathroom with the “turkey trots” as I called it.
Why are these symptoms happening to me?
What was my problem? Why did this pain and diarrhea occur so often? I needed to know. But, I kept putting off going to a doctor until after I graduated from high school. I kept thinking it would go away.
It did not. In fact, attending college exacerbated the health issues. My stress levels were at an all-time high in college when I noticed the rectal bleeding. That, in turn, led to becoming anemic and almost passing out as I attempted to go about my daily business—working and going to class.
Discovering UC in an advice column
After consulting numerous doctors who couldn’t tell me what was wrong, I happened to read a “Dear Abby” advice column. This occurred in the late 80s when I was nineteen. What caught my attention was a mother writing about her son’s health issues that mirrored mine. In her letter, she noted the diagnosis of “ulcerative colitis.”
I took this article into a physician and stated, “I think I have this problem.”
The trial and error that came with a new diagnosis
Little did I know what all that would lead to including my first endoscopy, my first of now too-many-to-count colonoscopies, years of trial and error with a gazillion different medications, emotional and physical roller coasters, as well as finding just the right gastroenterologist who would truly listen to my health concerns/issues.
Accepting and embracing UC
Now, at age 50, I think I navigate the colitis flares better. This health struggle has been a long, arduous journey, but I’ve learned that what a person resists will persist. So, I do my best to accept and embrace my UC. It’s just a part of me that will never go away. For my particular gut, I have learned a few techniques that help me deal a bit better with the flares.
Overall, I’m grateful to share and connect with others in this IBD forum. This community provides an outlet for all sufferers to vent. To realize that no one walks this journey alone.
Support lifts one’s spirits.
And support is a service we can and must offer each other.
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