So, last week I shared with a group of women — some of whom I know very well, others I don’t know at all — the whole Crohn’s thing. (I don’t know what else to call it.) Most were supportive, either by asking appropriate questions or wishing me well and hoping that I would get better with my new treatment. They said they had learned something from what I had shared.
But one woman really made me angry. I didn’t know her at all. She informed me that her husband had Crohn’s disease and had it for their entire married life of 30+ years. First, she informed me, Crohn’s could not possibly be genetic because neither his parents nor any of their children had the disease. I tried to explain to her that just because none of them had the disease did not mean there wasn’t some degree of genetic inheritance to it. In fact, in my opinion, most conditions have a genetic component. Neither of my parents has Crohn’s, nor do my children or my siblings, nor my niece and nephew, but my mother’s sister does. And most people I know with the disease can trace it to another relative who has the illness, or to another inflammatory bowel disease, Colitis.
But that wasn’t what bothered me most about this woman. What bothered me most was when she said that people with Crohn’s disease tend to be more sensitive than other people, and that they tend to hold things inside and that is the reason why they have Crohn’s disease. Well, that set me off. One of my pet peeves is that I can’t stand people who think that emotional distress or emotional unhealthiness is a reason for Crohn’s disease. I can’t control my Crohn’s any more than a Type 1 diabetic can control his or her diabetes, or someone can control developing cancer, or someone born missing a limb can “think” until the limb appears. Those examples sound ridiculous, right? Yet, because I have a disease that attacks my digestive system, somehow I can control it.
I informed this woman as nicely as I could — but admittedly through gritted teeth — that Crohn’s is an autoimmune disease that happens to wreak havoc on the digestive system and that it is not something anyone can control. She didn’t reply.
I also should note that Crohn’s attacks are a very specific feeling, at least for me. The exhaustion is different than, say, exhaustion one might feel after a busy day. The stomach discomfort is not the same as you would get if you had a stomach bug. It’s certainly different than the discomfort you might feel if you were stressed out about something.
I want people to understand this. I want them to understand that I know my body. I want them to understand that I’m doing everything in my power to be healthy. And I mostly want them to understand how to respect me and my illness.
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