person struggling to swim while another person sits in a flotation device

The problem with 'why don't you just... ' and Crohn's disease

Hands up from who has heard the phrase "Why don't you just..." when talking to people about Crohn's or UC. I feel like I hear this every day at the moment!

Recently, I posted on social media about the fact that, here in the UK, so many public toilets are closed due to coronavirus. So while we are starting to see more and more things opening up again finally, it's impossible to plan any trips or even long walks. This is because I know there are no open toilets on the route.

I live in a tourist village so I want to just walk around our streets but there are no public toilets options and the cafes and pubs are all closed.

People ask questions like:

"Why don't you just not go out?"

"Why don't you just get a radar key?"

"Why don't you just wait to see how you feel?"

Living with a chronic illness is complicated

These aren't, in themselves, terrible questions. But the "why don't you just..." tone suggests that living with a chronic illness can be simplified. My illness is complicated: I have zero ideas of whether my illness will flare.

I have zero warning when I go from a good day to a bad day in around five seconds. And while the radar key scheme (where the individual is given a key to open all disabled toilets) is a great idea, most areas suffer from a lack of disabled toilets (a whole other article!) and not all of the facilities are compatible with the key. There is rarely a "why don't you just..." solution.

People don't understand Crohn's disease

Another example. Before lockdown, I ended up being very ill in the middle of a restaurant because I was served dairy (despite the waiter insisting it wasn't dairy-free). Dairy is not my friend. I was pouring with sweat, in agony, and was dashing back and forth, baby in tow, to the nearest toilets.

"Why don't you just cook at home?"

"Why don't you just not eat out?"

"Why don't you just take an Imodium?"

Unhelpful comments from others

Again, not terrible questions. Imodium can sometimes help (but I think my husband thinks it works instantly!) but can sometimes not. Why don't I just not eat out and cook at home?

Well, again, that's a point I take and it would certainly be easier. But don't you find it's incredibly easy for healthy people to remove an experience from you in one sentence? To just accept that perhaps I should forgo all socializing, birthday parties, and meals out.

The same people who are queuing up waiting for McDonald's to open are ok with just telling me I should never eat out again. Why should we have to give up large parts of our lives?

There are no quick fixes with Crohn's

Here are some more of my favorites:

"If you're tired, why don't you just sleep?" Because I'm tired even when I sleep.

"If you're struggling, why don't you just take your medication?" Because it doesn't work instantly, even if it does at all!

"If you're unwell, why don't you just call your doctor?" Because sometimes, my doctor has zero answers too.

Now I've written about it, I've realized just how much "why don't you just..." is part of the conversation with those who have chronic illnesses. When was the last time you heard it?

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