The Gift of Crohn’s Disease

I’m a woman who loves to move things around. To try out new colors and words as I stumble around this life I’ve been given. You’ve witnessed my compulsive need to redesign headers and change themes. I wouldn’t be surprised if you’ve reported me to an emergency psychiatrist, trying for a 72-hour hold. One moment I’m curled around my stomach, my sister on the phone asking me why in the hell I thought it was a good idea to blog about my butt, and the next I’m writing a list about all of the good things Crohn’s disease has given me.

Yes, people. I’ve become that person. The one who thinks chronic illness is a blessing in disguise. Because it is.

Chronic illness comes and goes and overstays its welcome. Pretty soon it settles in for the long haul and you realize that without it, you might not be the person you are today. And instead of filling you with regret, you panic at the thought because Crohn’s disease has helped you become exactly who you were always meant to be. Forget the bathroom trips and surgeries. What if I had never been given the chance to write this list? What if I had never experienced the depth of human kindness that can only be found in a chemotherapy ward?

The thought fills me with dread. On this journey, I have laughed and I have cried. I have bitched and I have moaned. But I have gained so much.

Crohn’s disease has given me life-long, compassionate, genuine, and completely wonderful and funny friends. We may be suffering together on this path, but we laugh a lot and talk about things that would make most people faint. These people are as important to me as family. I don’t even need to share their names because they are reading this and sending me waves of support.

Crohn’s disease has given me the deep understanding that life is precious. People without chronic illness can experience life-threatening moments that bring them closer to what truly matters, like the love of one’s family. But then that urgency to live a different way–to not obsess about material possessions and public perception–slowly fades. Crohn’s disease is a not-so-gentle reminder that petty concerns waste limited moments that could otherwise be used to learn and grow.

Crohn’s disease has taught me to love my body and to not be embarrassed by it. One moment I’m fat on steroids with chipmunk cheeks, and the next I’m losing weight and drinking Coke for empty calories. I’ve stopped stressing about how I look. I am no longer embarrassed that I have chronic diarrhea. I will tell my best friend from childhood that I have to get off of the phone because I have to go to the bathroom. (But I will NEVER go to the bathroom while I’m on the phone. I do have some pride after all, and I really want to keep my friends.)

Crohn’s disease has given me the chance to slow down and to reflect. (What else are you going to do in the bathroom besides fail miserably at Candy Crush?) I’ve been able to reevaluate relationships and priorities. I’ve come to conclusions about people I never would have been able to based upon how they react to my disease. It’s given me the opportunity to love deeply. And to let go when that love isn’t returned.

Finally, Crohn’s disease has given me the ability to say, “No.” I’ve grown into myself in so many ways and I have a confidence that I would never give back. It’s true that these gifts have come with some pretty heavy strings, but instead of pulling too hard on these strings, I’ve come to accept them. And, more importantly, to thank them.

What has Crohn’s disease given you?

22 thoughts on “The Gift of Crohn’s Disease

  1. I was just writing a blog pretty much on the same thing! Crohn’s has taught me who my true friends are and who will be there for me when I need them, and allowed me to be more open towards the people I love.. It’s stopped me from doing a Postgraduate Masters that would have been pretty much a waste of time and money. It’s helped me to grow up, I don’t think i’m as immature as I used to be. It’s opened my eyes to things like living with a temporary ileostomy which although was my worst nightmare to begin with isn’t anymore and I hate it when people tell me I’m going through an ordeal, when actually it’s saved my life. Those are just the ones I can think off from the top of my head.
    However much I complain about having this disease, there is no way on earth I’d swap my life for anyone else’s.

  2. Pingback: Without Complaining | operation baby beckman
  3. Crohn’s and I lived together for 31yrs, when it completely turned on me, became cancer, and now it’s Crohn’s plus Ileostomy…I “lost” my rn career, home, friends and am weeping as I write this, healing tears.
    Crohns has given me a knowledge that I have incredible fortitude, physical and mental. I worked full time, through the intestinal, arthritic, emotional pain..TPN and back to school. Steroid dependent and on bowel rest. I changed my course from deans list premed to nursing as my ONE compromise.
    People asked how I did it…how not? Some people have that passion and drive. I came from a long line of strong women.
    I thought the ostomy would kill me. It nearly did in the OR…I developed Addison’s Disease, my adrenals couldn’t take any more. I am a steroid lifer now. Through clots, bleeds, infections…I lived. Icu, step down , colorectal unit…physical therapy. I even tried to go back to work. I continue, 2.5 yrs and three obstructions later not able to work. But I LOVE LIFE!!
    And I PRAISE GOD for this life. Through it all I have learned to slow down and enjoy precious moments. To love and live and learn with All my heart. To make every day the best. I take nothing for granted. It made me a much better nurse. And now, I pray, a kinder, gentler me. Thanks for listening.

    • Thank you, Christina, for your beautiful and inspiring message. It sounds like you’ve been through hell and back. I am so glad you are here, making the world a better place.

      From the other Christina ;)

  4. Chrissy, I love this post! I felt much the same way about colitis – it taught me so much about myself that I might not have learned otherwise. It taught me not to be ashamed of scars; all they mean is I was strong enough to live through something. Colitis taught me not to judge; I lost track of how many times people told me I didn’t “look” sick. Now I remind myself of that when I see other people struggling. Thank you so much for writing this.

  5. Love this post! I can relate to it so well!! I’m 24 years old – diagnosed with UC at 22! Yet to find some sort of remission! It is only in the past few weeks (since blogging) that I have truly been able to reflect on the positives -whilst still many negatives – that this chronic illness has brought to my life! Check out my blog – “My Journey With IBD So Far..” :-)

    • That’s wonderful! If you ever feel like doing a guest blog for my “Voices of IBD” series I would love to include your story and how you hope to help other IBDers having suffered and continuing to suffer yourself. ~ Christina

  6. I’m a new reader and I absolutely love your blog. I’m that way too: Crohn’s teaches you to not worry about the small stresses in life. We have more important things in life. You basically embody the purpose behind making my own blog. Thanks for the great read; I’ll definitely be following!

    • Thank you, Gutsygirly, for reading and commenting! I’m so glad you’ve found my blog and can relate to it. The Crohn’s experience is an “interesting one” to say the least! ;) ~ Christina

  7. It has made me eat healthy! And value my family and friendships. It has brought me closer to and made me realize who my true friends are. It drove me to heavy weight lifting, to gain weight. Which I now have a passion for! It taught me to be creative with recipes..and to say no to food that isn’t good for ANYONE! I call it my blessing in disguise.

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