I Know What They Say About Me When I’m Not Around

I’ve been living with Inflammatory Bowel Disease since the spring of 2010.  Correction, I was diagnosed during the spring of 2010, but I’ve been living with the condition for much longer. For years I tried to hide it. I avoided talking about Ulcerative Colitis by any means. When other students asked me why I would miss so much school I told them somewhat “altered truths.” I was too ashamed to say I needed colonoscopies at 17, so I told my friends I was out of school because the doctor had to look inside of me and find what was wrong, at times I even said surgery.  To my defense, I have had surgery for my IBD before, but at the time I just used the term to cover anything, whether it was a colonoscopy or a hospitalization.

I was always worried about what people thought of me.

I didn’t want people to think I was weird. I didn’t want people to laugh at me or judge me based on symptoms. I grew tired of people assuming my condition was simply an inconvenience to my life.  Going to the bathroom a lot is inconvenient, but that’s not what my condition is. If IBD was simply defined as “using the bathroom more than the average person,” I would likely still have my colon and rectum. IBD is much more and depending on the severity, if left untreated, can cause life threatening circumstances.

Through all of these years worried about what people would think of me, I don’t think I’ve ever stopped to imagine what people said about me. I guess I always assumed people would have enough respect and decency to keep their thoughts and opinions to themselves.

I was wrong.

In 2017 I worked in support of a patient assistance program that provided copay assistance to patients who were at or below 500% of the FPL (Federal Poverty Level). We dealt with people living with over 60 disease states – from chronic inflammatory conditions like Inflammatory Bowel Disease and Rheumatoid Arthritis, to other chronic conditions like Hep C and HIV. We covered a wide range. This is another reason why I never considered what people said about me or my condition when I was not around.  I’ve been working in healthcare for over 5 years now. I never imagined someone working in healthcare would talk negatively about someone else’s health condition.

Once again, I was wrong.

One day I sat at lunch with two coworkers. They were rambling on about everyday things going on around the office. One of the workers decided to bring up the bathroom. She mentioned how terrible it smelled and then said:

“How can women allow themselves to leave the restroom smelling that way! “

My other coworker decided to cut her off and very loudly mention another one of my coworkers (who also has Ulcerative Colitis), she exclaimed “It could be **name** who did it! You know she has Colitis! She’s always in the bathroom!”  When she saw the look on my face she quickly added “poor thing.” I assume to make her statement seem as if it was coming from a good place.

For the life of me I cannot understand why someone would call out another person because of things that are 100% out of their control. Whether it was an IBD patient or not, no one should be subject to public scrutiny. I didn’t have the heart to tell my coworker what was said about her at lunch. Honestly, I personally didn’t think I would want to know. Needless to say, I am no longer friends with that women who decided to share my coworker’s private business, but I did learn a valuable lesson about choosing friends wisely that day.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The InflammatoryBowelDisease.net 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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