Kristin’s Story – No Filter on Anxiety
By: Kristin Harris, Companion Editor
If you have ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s, you know the toll the pain takes on your body. You know that the disease can leave you bedridden, unable to eat without running to the bathroom. You know it can put you in the hospital, and in a lot of cases, you can or will undergo multiple surgeries. You know that your life begins to revolve around medications and what you can and can’t eat.
These are all things that are talked about and generally understood with IBD. The hardest thing I had to speak up about for myself? Anxiety. Your mental state is almost completely overlooked with IBD. I suffered with UC from my diagnosis in 2007 at 18 years old to the day I had my colon removed in 2013. But at that point, another battle had just begun with recovery, two more surgeries, living with an ostomy for a year, and re-learning how to live and function with an internal J-Pouch. Although I was relieved of the excruciating pain and sickness of having a colon, I was a complete mess.
There wasn’t a single doctor’s visit where I was asked about my mental health. I was never asked if I had major — or ANY — anxiety, and because it was never addressed by a medical professional, I felt it was taboo to even talk about. Before my surgeries, car rides traumatized me. The idea of being anywhere away from a bathroom was enough to keep me chained to my house. The second I felt that wave of anxiety hit me, I was doubled over in pain and running to the bathroom. I couldn’t even sit in a quiet waiting room of a doctor’s office without wanting to scream. Just going to family events took every ounce of my mental and physical strength. The disease gave me anxiety, and anxiety worsens my symptoms. Seems fair, doesn’t it? Unless you deal with this disease, no one can understand the mental toll it takes on you, leaving you incredibly fragile and on the verge of a breakdown. And breakdowns I had — most being on the bathroom floor by myself, door locked.
Don’t be afraid to seek help. I wish I had reached out to a therapist years ago when I was at my worst. I finally reached out to my family doctor post-surgeries and now take anti-anxiety medication as needed, and I feel like I’ve regained control. There’s still the anxiety and fear of the unknown with my future health, but there isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t stop and take a deep breath, telling myself “everything will be okay”.
This is my life with IBD right now, unfiltered.