Anyone who has seen or heard me writhing in agony, weeping with embarrassment or slumping in an exhausted heap may read this post with a wry smile on their face, but I wanted to write about how despite all its tough times, Ulcerative Colitis has also been a gift.
When I was first diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis back in 2003 I went through a whole grieving process; Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression and finally Acceptance. Once you have accepted the disease and the path it will lead you down, you realise that without it, you wouldn’t be the person you are today. You realise that this disease has changed you, and on the whole, it has changed you for the better, you may be physically weaker, but the strength you have to find to deal with a chronic illness makes you a fuller, kinder and more open person.
Now don’t get me wrong, I am not trying to romanticise Ulcerative Colitis or Crohns, it is a heavy cross to bear, there have been many times that I have cried till I had no tears left, that I took my anger out on those around me and that I shouted the immortal words of “WHY ME?! ITS NOT FAIR!!!!!”
But along with the hard times, the medication, the pain, the hospitalisation, the surgeries and the emotional war that rages within you during a flare up, having Ulcerative Colitis has also given me so much. It has shown me that I am braver than I think I am, tough as an ox and that I have it in me to inspire others.
When I was a mother of three by the time I was 23 with no qualifications and then given what at the time felt like a life sentence of blood and shit, I never thought I would be at a point where my words were being read by thousands, that I would receive messages of support and cries for help from all over the world. I never believed I would be asked to speak at International Women’s Day, little old me? Im just a girl from Sheffield who doesn’t know what she wants to be when she grows up!
Ulcerative Colitis has lead me down a path of meeting people like me, who deal with this disease every day, who I can talk about the things that would turn most peoples stomachs and just make us laugh.
It has shown me that I am surrounded by the love and support of my family and friends. When I was in hospital for surgery last year and in the months since, I have been completely overwhelmed by the compassion, kindness, humour, love and help of those around me.
It has made sure Im damn straight on the fact that life is precious. You never know what you will face and my Ulcerative Colitis reminds me that you are here once and not for very long. Live hard, live with love and follow your dreams. Don’t waste time on the shit that means nothing, concentrate on what you want and how you can get there. Hold your loved ones close and enjoy life.
It has made me take stock of what is important to me. My husband, my children, my family, my friends, my self esteem, my morals. It made me look at where I wanted to be and made me make it happen. My husband and I sold up and moved to a big rented mill in the countryside to expand our photography business, The Picture Foundry, it was scary (still is!!) and hard work but making the move has improved our lives and brought us closer together, our business is thriving and moving forward all the time. Ulcerative Colitis really moulded me into a person who is brave enough to make the changes I want in life.
It has stopped me being afraid. Or at least made me work on my fears. After having major surgery to have your bowel removed it makes you feel like you have faced the toughest times and so those things that frightened you before are no where NEAR as big or bad as the disease you live with.
It has taught me to respect and love my body. Its the only one I have and despite its faults I need to look after it. After all it has been through I think it is pretty amazing! Yes, it has a stoma and scars but I have learnt to embrace the changes and not be embarrassed of them. Through weight gain from steroids, epic diarrhoea, being pumped full of drugs and being cut open, my body has stayed resilient and kept me going through it all. I love my battered and scarred body.
Finally Ulcerative Colitis gave me the opportunity to slow down and release control. When I am ill, when I had surgery, I needed to release the reins and allow myself to be weak, to be cared for and to let others in. It made me realise that my husband is amazing, he cares for me in such a tender, honest and funny way. He never judges, never wavers in his love or attraction for me and makes everything better.
Its good to be a strong person, to have self esteem and confidence, but now and then it is good to relax, to be cared for and treasured. Im lucky to have such amazing people around me.
Im lucky to have had Ulcerative Colitis.