Much is said of Crohn's Disease being an 'invisble illness'. This can be both a curse and a blessing.
On the postive side, no one knows you are sick unless you tell them. On the negative.. no one knows you are sick unless you tell them.. It can be difficult t get across just how awful you feel on the inside when there is not as much as a trace of it on the outside.
But what is to be said of those other symptoms of Crohn's that aren't so invisible? The ones we, and others CAN see? They are unfortunately countless and can be at times, incredibly infuriating. Visual symptoms of the condition on the outside of the body can make a patient feel constantly aware of their illness. They can act as a big flashing, garish sign-post pointing out there is SOMETHING WRONG WITH YOU. Thus causing people to ask you about something you perhaps wanted to remain unspoken.
Of course I am by no means ashamed of having Crohn's. I am 100% happy to openly discuss my condition, at any time in any place. Although perhaps not during a film (rude), or in a library (rule-breaking), or during a sex act (fetishy and just plain weird).
So in the spirit of talking openly about those nasty visible symptoms, here are but a few of them i've had the displeasure of encountering in my Crohnie career to date..
1). Sore, flaky, dry scalp.
This can be intensely painful and irritating. An itchy head is by no means attractive (as every dandruff shampoo ad is ALWAYS telling us), and can lead down a slippery slope to feelings of anxiety and shame. I get this a lot before and during a bad flare-up. I'v tried lots of cosmetic and natural 'remedies' but have yet found anything to ease it. It seems when one symptom hit they all jump on top.
2). Hair falling out.
Again closely linked with number 1, my hair often falls out in clumps, and at an alarming rate during a flare. It's usually as dry as a bone and thinning rapidly. I have traditionally thick hair, which runs in the family, and often ache for the days when it was irritating me by falling like a lions mane around my face.
3). Dry Skin.
My once baby-soft skin gets dry and chapped and can be painful. Kindly, and because Crohn's is ALWAYS considerate, this normally happens around my face and neck. No hiding from that bad-boy. There are times when it hurts to apply face cream or even brush my hair.
This is the main offender when it comes to Crohn's side effects, and the one most sufferers experience most regularly. It often strikes suddenly and for prolonged periods, with seemingly no warning. I bloat a LOT. After most meals, in the evenings when my body is winding down, or when I want to wear a slim fitting dress, or when I only have one pair of clean jeans available and they're skinny jeans.. I can go from slender to 6months gone in 60seconds flat.
So what have we learned from this brief look at all these lovely side dishes we seem to get served alongside the main, diseased meal?
That we are thick-skinned (and dry-skinned) and incredibly tolerant. That we can cope with whatever life throws at us and handle each situation with the grace and dignity it requires. That although we can feel, and look ugly on the inside (believe me, i've seen the colonoscopy pictures), we can let our positivity shine through on the outside.
Aw who am I kidding... does anyone know the number of a decent plastic surgeon in my local area..?