Now that I’ve returned to work, I feel like I’ve become two different people. One is Chronic Crohn’s Chrissy, who is supported by her wonderful husband and sassy kids because they understand her daily physical challenges; and the other is Conscientious Coworker Christina, a blog writer for a non-profit filled with staff who don’t have rooms reserved at the hospital or have to time their meetings around the toilet. Every moment of the day, I am one or the other, but have yet to be able to exist as both.
I start my days on “The Crohn’s and Ulcerative Colitis Diaries” Facebook page and Twitter, spending two hours reading posts in between packing school lunches and running to the bathroom. I catch up with the friends I’ve made since opening up about my disease on the most public of all platforms–the magical interwebs–and I can’t tell you how much these posts mean to me. To read about the challenges my fellow Crohn’s and colitis sufferers face, and the successes they achieve, is both heartbreaking and heartwarming. But most of all, it’s validating. I take strength from the fact that I’m not alone, and I try to add my voice to the discussion as well as post news articles to encourage the empowering exchange of information. And, yes, I do throw in a gratuitous cat meme from time to time to lighten the day. (And by time to time, I mean every. damn. day.)
When my kids are safely off to school, I put Crohn’s Chrissy on the back-burner and turn on Conscientious Christina (who has zero time for petty things like soul-searing, gut-wrenching fatigue). When I write, I feel at home, shaping words into effective sentences to help support the organization’s goals. When I have to run to the bathroom, or my fingers throb and burn with IBD arthritis, I try to separate myself from my pain so my other self doesn’t come through. I don’t have time to be consumed with what I like to call the “whats” of Crohn’s disease: “What do these symptoms mean?” “What did I eat?” “What can I do to make it stop?” and, most importantly, “What ancient deity did I piss off in another lifetime to deserve this?”
Conscientious Christina doesn’t have time, yet, for Chronic Chrissy, but I know that one day I will have to make room for both. It’s impossible to live as two separate people–to feel closed off from your coworkers because they can’t possibly understand what you’re going through no matter how hard they try. It embarrasses me to admit that I have to go to bed at 8 p.m. to get ten hours of sleep in order to take care of my family and to work the next day. And it’s even more embarrassing to admit weakness and to have to call in sick because I was up all night before, wracked with agony, glued to the bathroom, sweating and shaking because a chronic illness that I never wanted decided to choose me.
How do you navigate your separate worlds? Have you managed to successfully blend your two identities as Working Joe/Jane and Sick Joe/Jane? Or are you like me, walking two roads, your brain trying–but failing–to concentrate on which path to take?