Withdrawing with IBD
A lot of people, myself included, stress the importance of opening up to others about what you are going through. After all, talking about what you are going through is usually a great way to get things off your chest and expunge some of those frustrations and sometimes negative emotions related to IBD (Crohn’s Disease and ulcerative colitis). Talking and venting has been a huge help to me. But, only to those very few people whom I believed understood and who I knew wouldn’t think of me as a debbie downer if I complained and just needed a moment to whine about all of the awful things I was going through because of my inflammatory bowel disease.
There is another side to it though.
Many people who are suffering a lot because of their IBD (inflammatory bowel disease), tend to withdraw. Withdrawing means something different for everyone. To me, I kind of look at it as retreating inward. That is my own definition so I am not even sure it makes sense to you but hopefully as I continue, it will.
Some things I notice when I am in a withdrawing phase are:
I only focus on my own little world and the people closest to me. I don’t have the capacity to handle anything besides trying to survive each day and making sure my loved ones are OKAY.
I bury my feelings. Even though it is not done intentionally, I know this definitely occurs with me and I believe it is a way for my brain to keep me safe. For example, when I was talking to one of my surgeon’s prior to my most recent surgery, we discussed fertility. That topic is extremely emotional for me and I think subconsciously if my brain allowed me to deeply internalize some of the things that were being said, it would have had a disastrous ripple effect. And I wouldn’t have had the strength to endure what I went through.
I am not as responsive to text messages, phone calls, emails, or anything social media related. I just can’t handle it and it is nothing personal- for anyone reading this who has a loved one with Crohn’s Disease or ulcerative colitis.
I try to distract myself from the reality of my life. I do this in a few ways. One of which is making a huge effort to not expose myself to anything external that might upset me. For example, I was in the hospital when the latest shootings in Orlando occurred. Needless to say, that was pretty much the only thing on television. So, I refused to watch anything about it after hearing what happened and turned to music for distraction when I needed it.
I really don’t want to leave the house unless I absolutely have to. My home is my “safe place” and when I am going through so much, I crave just being in an environment that is known. I don’t have a huge problem going out for a short time with someone very close to me but that is about it.
I wrote something on my own website about how difficult it is to handle the emotional aspect of inflammatory bowel disease and the physical trauma that can come along with it. After being an advocate for about four years, I have noticed that I don’t share quite as much when things are ultra awful for me.
I want anyone reading this to know that while I do encourage talking about your feelings related to your disease (or anything for that matter) and connecting with other people who can really empathize with how you are feeling emotionally, I do completely one thousand percent understand needing to take a step back. Or, withdrawing… whatever that means FOR YOU.
You aren’t alone if you withdraw during difficult times.
It isn’t your fault if you aren’t as responsive to messages. It isn’t your fault if the last thing you want to do is make small talk with people. It isn’t your fault if all you want to do is lay in bed, in your comfy pajamas, and distract yourself in whatever way that you have found helpful. It isn’t your fault if doing school work or being at actual work is the last thing you want to do or feel like you can handle. It isn’t your fault if dealing with other people's problems is something you just can’t even fathom.
I could go on and on but the gist of it all boils down to: withdrawing when you are going through a bad period for any reason is completely “normal” and understandable.
Not everyone finds retreating into your own little world to be helpful. There is no one size fits all way to cope with a severe invisible, chronic illness like IBD (inflammatory bowel disease). I just hope you know you are so far from alone if you tend to isolate yourself during particularly difficult times.
Withdraw if you need to but please make sure you reach out if you need help. We are always here to provide support and hope you find comfort in just reading some articles and comments while in a difficult place. I have always found enormous comfort in that; even if I never hit the “like” button or comment on something. Thank goodness we can all do this from the comfort of our own bed or couch!
What about you? Do you notice you tend to withdraw when things are tough? Or, do you reach out to others to help you get through it? Or maybe a combination? I’d love to hear more in the comments below!
What type of IBD have you been diagnosed with?