The World of "What If"
I had a panic attack last week. It was my first one in a long time, complete with shallow breathing and a red rash on my arms. My chest was tight, tears were streaming down my face and I couldn't seem to calm myself down.
It came on because I started thinking "what if".
- What if that pain in my stomach is Crohn's related and isn't from what I ate this morning?
- What if I'm no longer in remission?
- What if I need to increase my dosage of medication?
- What if I'm in a flare?
- What if I need surgery?
and on it goes..
We can instantly talk with someone about our struggles and see many other people's highs and lows with these illnesses.
While that is definitely a positive thing, having access to so many other people's stories with Inflammatory Bowel Disease can also land us in the world of "what if". We see people in the hospital for serious surgeries and worry that it'll happen to us. We see people on intense cocktails of medications and worry that will be our fate. We hear that we won't be able to eat normal food, hear the horror stories of traveling with IBD, and listen to other people's experiences with dating while living with illness and internalize them, thinking that too will be our story.
I'm not trying to say not to be aware of what could happen when you live with IBD. What I am suggesting is trying not to live forever in a headspace that can cause a lot of stress, anxiety and worry. While we may not have control over some of the things in our lives, we do have control over how we respond to our situations.
Personally, I've adopted the mantra: "One day at a time".
Instead of worrying what could happen to me health-wise a month, six months or five years from now, I've decided to try and be present and focus on only the 24 hours that I have in front of me right now. Being present is really hard, especially since I am somewhat of a worrier, but working on fine-tuning this skill has helped decrease my stress and focus on what I can do today to be the healthiest version of myself.
I've also tried to stop comparing my IBD journey to anyone else's. This is another tough lesson to learn. Whether it be to aspire to be in remission for years on end or to stop worrying that I'll have a flare at any moment, I try to remember that my journey with Crohn's disease is unique to me and that I should try to stay in my own lane and focus on what I can do to feel better. While I continue to ask other IBDers for advice, I try to remember that what works for them might not work for me and what has happened to them might not happen to me.
We are all so different and the way that our diseases present themselves are unique as well. However, one practice that we may all benefit from is to try not to live in the world of "what if". Worrying constantly about what may happen takes the joy and happiness (although sometimes small) away from the present and distracts us from our current lives. Instead of living in the world of "what if", try to live in the land of right now and see what happens. It may just change your perspective on your life and living with illness and help you find some peace and happiness.
Will you help us understand the impact of Crohn's & colitis by taking the IBD In America Survey (US only)?