There's something that's been on my mind lately, and this blog seemed to be the perfect place to get it off my chest. I know it's something I've been guilty of, others certainly have, and there's even a chance you have been too - being a little too quick to judge.
Having a chronic illness, I some how seem to find and befriend others who also deal with health challenges on a regular basis, sometimes more so and quicker than others. Call it a sixth sense if you will. I'm sure that it's a common thread that runs throughout societies, because it's human nature to bond with those in similar circumstances.
Recently I was speaking with a friend who falls in this very category. While she doesn't have Crohn's Disease or a similar digestive illness, she does have an auto immune disease, just like my Crohn's. She was feeling frustrated because people around her were giving her flack for not being her usual energetic self while she experienced some health issues. She complained that because she didn't have a visible physical disability, people just wrote her off as lazy, even though she would have given all the riches in the world to be up and at 'em like she normally is. Boy, do I know that feeling.
For the most part, you can't see all the physical scars that my 35+ surgeries have left me with, and most days I'm glad for that. Some days, when others give me grief how much I am or am not doing, I wish you could. Not because I want you to feel sorry for me, on the contrary. I don't want anyone's pity. What I and thousands and perhaps millions others like me would appreciate is a little pause before you rush into judgment on what we are or are not capable of.
Since falling ill with Crohn's and being placed on steroid therapy, I've been on the overweight side of the scale. It's not something I'm proud of, and it's a battle I've constantly lived with since. Years and years of taking 60-120 mg of steroids a day would make even Twiggy look like the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man on her best day. While I haven't been on steroids in years, thank goodness, I still live with the nasty side effects, one of them being my residual weight. I go to the gym, I workout, I swim, I watch what I eat, and slowly, I'm winning that battle. But I also have to deal with my body, one that has been riddled with a ferocious disease and aged with the residual effects, and will continue to be so until the day I die.
It's hard to understand for most people on the sidelines, and I don't blame you. I've lived with this illness for over 13 years now, and I'm still figuring it out. I'm lucky that I've been in "technical remission" since 2001, meaning that my digestive tract no longer shows physical symptoms of the ulceration caused by Crohn's. That's a wonderful thing, and I thank God everyday for it. But as far as the rest of my body goes, it will never be the same.
I always fatigue much more than normal. Because I lack a colon, I require almost twice the normal amount of fluid each day to stay hydrated. If I don't get it just right, it only adds to my fatigue. Also because I have no colon, I also struggle with nutrient absorption, which can add to my fatigue problem, and has now lead to chronic kidney pain and stones. The rheumatoid arthritis that's been here since I was 16 causes constant pain in my hands, knees, ankles and hips. Because I have an ileostomy, I have to be sure that every time I eat, the food is small enough to pass through my now-narrowed small intestine and won't cause a blockage that could send me to the hospital. My ostomy also means that I'm monitoring my skin around the site to prevent serious infection, and that my very expensive ostomy products are never too far away. Thanks to some truly nasty reactions to the chemo and other serious perscription meds I've been on, the laundry list goes on and on. Despite this, most days I don't really notice anymore, because it's my life and thanks to some accommodations I've had to make, and it's better than the alternative, not being alive. It's also just become part of my daily routine to watch out, check for, and treat accordingly all of these symptoms. But for all anyone knows to look at me, I'm just an over-weight woman who won't work out enough.
The days on which I can make it to the gym, make it through a typical work day, or not wake-up feeling like I've been run over with a semi-truck are the really good days that I'm very thankful for, because I know how few and far between they can be. There's millions more like me who may deal with different diseases like Fibromyalgia, Lupus, muscular dystrophy, diabetes, depression, arthritis, and a myriad of other illnesses, but to you, whether you're a friend, a co-worker, a neighbor, or whomever, they're just lazy.
I've done it myself, judged others without thinking, without pausing, because it's just so easy to do, and frankly, it's easier than taking the time to think about what the real cause is. But the next time, in that brief flicker before you curse them under your breath, think a terrible thought, just stop, think and consider that there maybe more than meets the eye. Perhaps, one day, they might return the favor before judging you to be too old, too fat, too slow, too skinny, or just too darn lazy.