I was diagnosed with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) at 17 years old. Initially, dealing with my diagnosis was somewhat of a relief. I’d been suffering from symptoms for so long prior to my diagnosis, I was just happy to (finally) have an explanation for what was going on in my body.
As a 17-year-old child, my life would change drastically. I was going through things I never imagined as a teenager. None of my friends were on steroids. None of my friends were gaining weight as fast as I was. None of my friends were tiring out after a few hours of school.
After a few months of medications and follow-up appointments, it wasn’t too long before I couldn’t recognize the person I saw in the mirror. From the outside looking in, I’m sure people talked. After all, I was in high school. I needed so many things at that time, but I didn’t know how to voice those needs. Instead of trying to explain my diagnosis and my needs resulting from it, I chose to hide my condition and pretend everything was fine.
This is actually more common than you may think. Some people are too ashamed or embarrassed to share their IDB diagnosis, especially with the widely spread misconception of it being a “pooping” or “bathroom disease.”
How to support friends, family through an IBD diagnosis
- Allow them to vent. When I was diagnosed with IBD, I think what I needed most was to share what was on my mind. Just having time to speak and share my innermost thoughts on my condition, and how it affected my life, would have been so helpful. It probably would have helped me to adjust much faster to my new lifestyle after being diagnosed.
- Don’t give medical advice. We have enough doctors; we n