You don't have to wait for the other shoe to drop
By Joe Hinksman - Gall Ambassador
I don’t know about you, but when I’m in the chaotic relapses of IBD, I feel more at home and comfortable than one might think. The reason why I believe this happens is that I can too often make a habit, an unhealthy one in my opinion, of identifying too closely with my disease. Yes, I have IBD. And yes, I often require treatment and have limitations that most others don’t understand. There is also plenty of times where my ego can grab a hold of a disastrous situation and exclaim “See?! I told you all my disease was real. Does this flare/surgery/hospital visit/infection/debilitating fever prove to you how serious my condition is?” Because let’s face it, I spend almost as much time pretending I am fine as I do convincing others that I am not, which leads me to my next point.
There are stretches of time where I am not pretending, or convincing. There are times when I am in this lovely land we IBD-affected folks and healthcare professionals call remission. Man, nothing beats feeling good. Food tastes better, the sun feels warmer, even my bed gets a little more comfortable. The brownie I had for breakfast comes with a little less guilt and a whole lot less dread. Note to self: maybe don’t eat brownies for breakfast… maybe. Long story short, and I can only speak for myself so take this with a grain of salt, IBD isn’t a constant nightmare that has to lord over every aspect of my life. In fact, my moderate to severe Crohn’s disease is exactly what I make it out to be.
Please don’t get me wrong, inflammatory bowel disease is a life-long incurable illness that should be taken very seriously. But… Do I have to take it so seriously all the time? One of the biggest mindset issues that I run into is what I fondly refer to as the “waiting for the other shoe to drop” mentality.
Example: I’ve felt reasonably good for some time now. It’s almost as if the quality-of-life-threatening, active inflammation is behind me! This is great! My friends and family are starting to act like I’m well again, and I’m taking on more responsibility in both my home and professional life. Everyone in my life is becoming accustomed to this consistently healthy me, my self-esteem is through the roof! Life is freakin’ AWESOME!… Then, something shifts. Suddenly my old and uninvited companion, anxiety, creeps in. My ego shoves me over and takes the wheel. Wait a minute… I think to myself, I know deep down this is temporary. My IBD hasn’t gone anywhere, in fact it’s out in the parking lot doing push-ups, and at any point, in time my beautiful little house of cards can come crashing down. I am chronically ill. What have I done, I’ve taken on too much… I suddenly don’t feel so well…
Just like that, with next to no provocation, the other shoe has dropped. It’s almost as if I created my next flare, like a self-fulfilled prophecy. I am no scientist, healthcare professional, or psychiatrist, but through my own personal experience I know this scenario to be true.
Here is a possible solution to this mentality that I try to manifest in my life on a weekly, if not daily basis: Why don’t I live my life leading with acceptance. The raw accountable acceptance of the fact that this too, shall pass. The adversities and turbulent times are in my hand of cards, so I might as well play them. What if I put my IBD on the backburner? Sure, my illness can come to the forefront when I’d like it to, like when I need to advocate for myself, receive proper treatment, or objectively set a boundary. The rest of the time I am no better than, no worse than, no different than anyone else. I just am who I am. A regular guy who puts his pants on one leg at a time just like everybody else. If I can reach a point in my life where I can lead with honesty, love and integrity regardless of my physical health, then the only shoes dropping are my own. At the end of the day I don’t believe there is a destination to arrive at in life. I do believe I must make the best of what I’ve got, one step at a time as I travel through life grateful, and enough.