Thursday, 17 August 2017

Good Grief



I’ve written a little in the past about the similarities I find between coming to terms with a chronic illness diagnosis and the stages of grief. It’s been on my mind again recently for different reasons: the idea that just as grief rears its weepy head every so often so does the same feeling of loss that comes with having an incurable illness.

Lately I’ve been missing my beloved Grandmother quite a bit and recalling how I felt when she passed away.

 

*I didn’t at any point say this blog was going to be a rollercoaster of non-stop fun so get off now I’ve you’re not tall enough to come on this ride*

 

My sweet Granny Peggy died when I was in my early twenties. I was in the first flush of romance with my first ‘proper’ boyfriend and heading on a holiday. She died in hospital, I was there, thankfully, along with the rest of our close family. She was ‘ready to go’; she told me as much many times, and now that I’m older I understand why a little more; then I just couldn’t bear to hear the words. I didn’t want her to go and selfishly wouldn’t so much as contemplate the thought, choosing instead to do everything aside from putting my fingers in my ears shouting “LA LA LA” to avoid the conversation. She wasn’t being selfish; she was just tired.

 

My Gran was my salve. We lived in the flat downstairs from her for many years, the whole of my childhood in fact, and she was a safe bosom to run to whenever I felt overwhelmed, sad or just needed someone other than a parent to listen to my childish nonsense. What I always remember most about my Gran was her sense of humour, she laughed a lot and loved to hear us laugh. She loved to throw me back and give me ‘French kisses’ (her version of this was just pecking my neck until I giggled and wriggled away like a happy eel), we danced around her kitchen a lot and she let me draw on almost all of her treasured possessions. I wrote her poems and stories and she lauded them all with praise worthy of a Pulitzer.

 

So reminisce aside what does all of this have to do with Crohn’s Disease? Well the grieving I do every so often for my Grandmother feels painfully similar to the grieving I do for my life pre-Crohn’s. Right now I’m flaring and feel decidedly awful most of the time; when this happens it sends me into a flurry of anxiety. I worry about how long this will last, how it will be remedied, what adjustments I must make to my life and what it must feel to live with or be around a person such as myself struggling with keeping it all together and not finding much room for anyone or anything else. Sound familiar? Grief is all-consuming and unpredictable just like chronic illness. It strikes when you least expect it and lingers for much longer than you’d like.

 

But sometimes, you forget. Sometimes you feel good and that’s OK. It’s OK to revel in feeling happy despite loss. It’s OK to remember happy times and not feel guilt for what you could or should have done during the bad. So when you are struggling with illness (or grief) and feel lost try to remember the good; and that that good will come back around in time. Focus on what you have and not what you have lost, because sometimes that’s all we can do to get through. xo


Wednesday, 9 August 2017

Eat, Drink and Be Poorly

When you have a bowel disease the relationship with food can be, at the very least, a complicated one.
In my mind and in my heart I LOVE food. I love the smells, the sights, the taste of it. I love the comfort it brings, the happy memories it evokes, the new experiences it allows. But my stomach HATES it. My stomach physically despises it. Rejects it faster than a 3-legged-puppy at a dog shelter. (Which is something for the record, I would never do)
And therein lies the issue – the one place where food should find its happy, nourishing home before starting its journey into the sewage system, is stunted by an intense, repellent disgust for anything I choose to shovel into my cake-hole.
Food and the partaking in eating it, may seem initially like such a basic human need that we can often lose sight of how wonderful an aspect of life it can be. We associate often unknowingly, food with socializing, with blossoming romance, cultivating friendships, nurturing our children. It is associated with being part of something. This eats into (pardon the pun) a common issue patients with chronic illness have; feeling on the outside of things.
For me the idea of going ‘out for dinner’ is great. I love thinking ahead about what I’ll wear, scoping out the menu in advance to see what looks delicious, anticipating the great conversation I might have in a cosy environment. But then, much like a selfish lover, that thrill disappears as quickly as it comes.
I am then met with the stark reality-reminder of what might actually happen; I’ll worry about what I can wear to disguise the inventible bloating that comes after one morsel, I’ll panic over what I can eat that doesn’t contain an ingredient that will cause me pain (clue: nothing), I’ll worry about a potential lack of bathrooms or my tables’ proximity to a bathroom, and worst of all, I’ll worry about ruining the evening for my companion before the night has even begun. All this anxiety serves [can’t stop won’t stop with the food puns] to put a dampener on what should ideally be an exciting and fun prospect.
Much like any bad relationship, when you love something that causes you nothing but pain you must learn to cut all ties. Not quite as easy with food, due to that pesky aspect of needing it to stay alive.
Food is an inescapable part of life, so in order to avoid an early meet and greet with the Grim Reaper, some form of adaption must take place. We must learn to fit it into our life in a way that causes us the least mental and physical torture. No easy feat. Or should that be no easy feed?! Haha ha ha no you’re right probably not.
For me there has been no ‘diet’ I’ve found to absolve my symptoms (and believe me I’ve looked). Over time I’ve established the main foods and drinks which I know will particularly upset me, I try as much as I can to cut these out. Often IBD is so utterly unpredictable that ‘safe’ foods cause just as much discomfort as others; this is a particular gripe of mine, especially when it takes so much will power not to eat what I love.
On the whole my appetite is as elusive as a vegan at a cattle market. I generally don’t crave food: against my will I’ve conditioned my brain that ‘food = pain’ and this is a hard mentality to break out of. Don’t get me wrong I still eat and drink as much as I am able, I ensure I stay hydrated when I am unable to tolerate food and I seek advice when food is off my proverbial menu [don’t take on the pun-queen unless you want to be humiliated] for longer than I’d like.
I suppose this blog is just a reminder you are not alone in seeing food as an uphill challenge. What may seem like an unthinking aspect of the day can be a stressful and anxiety inducing experience for others. So don’t beat yourself up if you struggle to finish your plateful, just be sensible, patient with yourself and your body and take care of yourself. And if you ever see me eating soup in a steak house please don’t judge.