When your going through something as tough and as painful as IBD, it is so important that you surround yourself around people that matter to you. Not only those who matter, but those who will support you and remain positive whilst you deal with everything from symptoms to diagnosis. This post is sort of connected to one of my previous posts about sharing your diagnosis with friends. I am simply sharing my support network with you, and how it helped me. I can only hope that those reading this in the same position as me have their own or simply build upon relationships after reading this.
When you’re younger you are often part of a large group of friends, sadly (or actually not so) when you grow up your friendship group tends to become smaller. Now this isn’t to be seen as negative, it is something that is natural, you grow apart, you move around, different interests, or you fallout and you no longer feel the same way as you used to. But this is all part and parcel of growing up – embrace it.
If you think about your own life, ask yourself who your true friends are? Who can you tell everything to? Who can you call at 3 in the morning with a problem? Friends come and go throughout life, but you also don’t meet all of your true friends in one go or in one part of your life – life is a journey, constantly moving and changing, you will be introduced to new people all of the time, some will just stick! So if you are worried that you don’t have true friends or you don’t have enough – slow down, treasure the relationships you do have now and just wait for someone else to walk into your life, you may meet them in the most unexpected or a totally cliche way like at work, antenatal classes or at the school gates…
For me at the beginning of my IBD journey my main friendship branches were my significant other, Tom – he didn’t actually live with me at the time as he was up in Newcastle studying for his Masters. But he was at the receiving end of many a facetime call where I was crying, or crippled over in pain, being able to just talk to him openly and have him comfort me from a distance really helped remind me that I wasn’t alone. The second branch was work friendships, I’ve mentioned it before, but I think it is really important to confide in at least one person at work, so that therefore during the day you have someone you can go to if you are having a bad five minutes, or if you just need a cup of tea and a good old natter. For me it was my friend Ana, I told her everything, from my really bad days to the first blood test results and stool samples, I just don’t see how I could have gone to work without her – thanks bae for being my rock!
When I was officially diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis I wrote an email to family and friends (close ones, or so I thought), when you are in a time of need, it speaks volumes at those who reply to you and those who don’t. So another good friend, who responded to me immediately was my old uni flat mate, I saw her recently as well and it was so nice for her to know everything I had been through and to just know that going forward if I need her again she will be there. Don’t isolate yourself and feel embarrassed or that you can’t share things, even just two people can make such a difference – I’m not saying sing it from the rooftops!
And just from these two paragraphs – look at when I met these lovely ladies, university and work – both in the last five years, see what I mean? Life is a journey a friend or a best friend doesn’t mean you’ve known them since birth.
Family isn’t always at the top of people’s list, and trust me I am the first to understand that. I’m an only child, and my parents haven’t been together since I was three. However, throughout all of this my mum has been there for me. Like Tom, she was at the receiving end of many a phone call when I was in pain – or simply if I wanted to complain about work. It’s really important to be able to vent about other things, not just your health issues, you have to forget about them sometimes, don’t let it absorb you. And of course like family does, they look out for you, and will check up on you, which is exactly what you need when you are cooped up in bed having not moved all day.
This one needs to be taken with a pinch of salt. The internet can be filled with such negativity, but if you dig hard enough you will find fantastic networks of fellow IBD sufferers. One of the main reasons I set up my blog and colitis specific social media handles so I could find like minded people, and I have 🙂 two of the main Facebook groups I joined specifically for Colitis have been:
I was originally part of the Crohns & Colitis UK Forum however, this forum in particular needs to be taken with a pinch of salt, there are over 25,000 members and it can become very hectic and political, so I left. I might rejoin in the future, who knows, maybe I’ll see you there?
Over on Twitter there is a monthly twitter chat called #IBDHour it takes place on the third Thursday of every month between 8pm – 9pm, I have joined most of them so far since diagnosis and they are great! Very informal and chatty, it also means my Twitter feed is now filled up with liked minded people who I can connect with on a daily basis – so important when I’m having a bad day or if anyone else on my network is.
Please do share with me your tips and your support network 🙂