If you suffer from Crohn’s disease, you may or may not still be working a typical full-time job. Some IBD sufferers may have complications that prevent them from working the “normal” 9 to 5. For some, careers, educations, and personal life sit on the back burner while they manage their disease.
When I began having Crohn’s problems, I was in school, and I am lucky enough to have completed it before my Crohn’s got worse.
Months later, my Crohn’s disease progressed and I began to have more troubles, such as bleeding, urgency, incontinence, and the “fun” that comes with getting a diagnosis.
My diagnosis took two years, but during this time, I started a job. Then my perianal abscess and fistulotomy abruptly happened not long after. I had to walk away from the job to recover from one rectal surgery after another. That is when I moved.
After I moved, I didn’t go to work for another two years. Granted, I worked from home writing, but nothing else. Colonoscopy after colonoscopy, endoscopies and pill capsule endoscopies, scans, tests, more ailments like migraines and ovarian cysts, Crohn’s-induced emergency room visits, anxiety, depression, and the fear of an “accident” happening … it consumed my life and I was unable to work.
I am still suffering from my Crohn’s disease and trying to find a treatment plan that works for me. I still see doctors and have tests done, and I seem to gain new troubles weekly. But some things are finally coming under control, and I began a new job a few months ago.
If you are lucky enough to be able to work with Crohn’s disease or IBD, having a Crohn’s-friendly work environment is an essential part of your IBD management. I thought I’d mention a few things that can be helpful when working with Crohn’s disease:
Find a friendly workplace
I know Crohn’s disease sufferers like me hate to be told, “Don’t stress.” But stress can actually exacerbate IBD symptoms. Maintaining a stress-free environment in the workplace or finding a low-stress job can help to prevent the stress from inducing a Crohn’s disease flare.
Restroom availability and accessibility
Bathrooms. Whether we like it or not, they are a major part of IBD. Making sure your employer or future employer has a restroom or two available is not a terrible idea. I know for me, incontinence accidents do happen. I would much rather have multiple private bathrooms available in case one is occupied or I need that extra privacy to cry (I break down after accidents) and get myself back together. Also, I never know how long I’ll be in there at any given time, so making sure my employer has restrooms available for me and my issues is important. I’d even show your restroom access card, which I mention in a previous column, “Crohn’s Disease Essentials and Emergency Kits.”
Unexpected time off and vacation days
“Things happen” when you have Crohn’s disease or IBD. You can be fine one day and a completely different person the next. You can get sick easily with your weakened immune system, you can have IBD emergencies like bowel blockages or abscesses like me, or you can have extremely bad flaring. When these things happen, taking time off of work can be difficult. I suggest speaking with your employers and letting them know what could happen and what you need as a Crohn’s disease patient. Ask about holidays and what their attendance and call-in policy is.
Your Crohn’s disease and personal well-being are so important to manage that making your employers aware of everything can be helpful. Ask questions and make suggestions to better the workplace for your IBD management. If they understand what you are going through and know the risks and emergencies you may have, it’ll be helpful if that time does come.
Your IBD journey may be different than mine. I always suggest discussing Crohn’s-related issues with your team of doctors.
For me, it could be worse.
Note: IBD News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of IBD News Today or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to IBD.