In living with chronic illness, a phrase you may often hear from outsiders is “I don’t know how you do it!” This very phrase was said to me a few days ago and it got me thinking, ‘how DO I do it?’
The ‘it’ in my case is Crohn’s Disease. More specifically, the ‘it’ in this aforementioned conversation was a colonoscopy. ‘Doing it’ in the case of attending hospital, getting treatment, undergoing surgery and all the other nasty asides to living with IBD are really ‘done’ without much thought to be brutally honest. They are unfortunate necessities. A part of my life I really have no say in. My body makes the rules and I just obey them.
In terms of the fear and loathing of Crohn’s related activities, I’d say that definitely dissipates over time. Although some I do certainly dread more than others (e.g. bowel prep, getting a camera fired up my backside, blood tests in spent veins and having my stomach opened up to name but a few). The ‘fear’ of undertaking all of these things lessens over time and experience (certainly for me) but doesn’t ever disappear entirely. I think that’s entirely natural. Much like walking home alone in the dark, I don’t fear it until I’m ‘doing it’. And even then I have a rape alarm and umbrella on hand in case of danger – luxuries I’m rarely afforded/allowed in hospital.
I like to think I’m pretty independent in terms of dealing with my own healthcare. I talk about it openly on here of course, but not as much as I probably should outside. That’s more out of ‘fear’ I suppose; fear of upsetting the people I love and unnecessarily worrying them. Although I often wonder what my limit is? How ill do I get before thinking it IS ok to make it known? They have already been through so much due to my illness that it almost feels selfish to open them up to more pain. But not talking can be just as damaging – so it needs balance – not allowing my illness to overwhelm me and allowing other people to help lighten the load can make me and my loved ones feel better. They feel helpful in a generally helpless situation and I feel less alone. Of course ‘doing it’ with others is always infinitely better. (Stop sniggering).
So how do you do it? Just start by putting one foot in front of the other, every-day. If you stumble, let someone take your arm. If you happen to ‘stumble’ outside Jon Hamm’s Hollywood mansion and he has to lift you aloft singing Up Where We Belong then nurse you back to health, spurring him onto proposing marriage, then even better.