Kathleen Nicholls on living and thriving with Crohn's Disease from a young age of 25
It can often be incredibly hard to maintain a positive attitude when living day to day with a chronic illness. By definition ‘chronic’ means; ‘continuing for a long time, constantly reoccurring’. This in itself goes some way to expressing the irritation caused by an illness of this sort. When pain, and (often literally) stomach-curdling symptoms, are a regular part of your day from waking to sleeping, patients generally can’t be blamed for feeling physically and emotionally shattered.
So how do we begin to try and celebrate the little victories in coping with an illness and not allow ourselves to wallow in the inevitable defeats?
Well, firstly, in no hurry. Slooooowly. New patients will always need time to adjust to the changes within their lives following a diagnosis. Bear in mind that these are changes that have been forced upon us. This adaptation to a ‘diseased’ life may take anything from mere months to years after. Adjustments will unfortunately need to be made in order to slot our condition into our lives. It’s human nature that we all want it all. We want financial security, love, warmth and comfort and a good feed every night. We also want luxuries. We want cars, jewellery and wined and dined from time to time. We are essentially needy, and selfish. The majority of the time we will value material things over our health.
When I was diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease at the age of 25, all of these things were about as far from my mind as humanly possible.
I simply wanted to live.
I wanted to make it through ONE SOLITARY NIGHT without agonising pain. I didn’t want to die. My priorities had suddenly shifted faster than my knickers when I came within 30cm of a toilet. I was petrified of losing myself to my disease and becoming a whining hypochondriac who berated everything and everyone in her life for what had become of her. Thankfully, when I was finally diagnosed I was so utterly relieved that all this pain and sickness wasn’t just in my head and that there was someone standing before me and believing me. I had absolutely no idea how important this was until I became ill.
Nowadays, years, (and several inches less intestine) down the line, I understand how difficult chronic illness can be for both patients and those around them. It requires patience and consideration. It calls for a lot of kindness, tolerance and a good dash of perseverance. Over time I’ve developed more empathy for others than I ever thought possible and for something I often described as ‘the worst thing that ever happened to me’, in some senses it’s also been the best. It’s always possible to become the very best version of yourself, illness or no illness. Any condition is only ever as life-changing as you allow it to be.