The word ‘support’ is a bit of a weird one. It has weird connotations to me – like ‘support group’ or ‘support bra’ but sadly neither of those items are what I want to talk about (although let’s see if I can slip them in somehow…)
What I really want to put on the table, is the importance of getting the support you need when you are battling a Chronic Illness like Crohn’s Disease and why not allowing yourself to be supported is probably hindering your health.
Family is a bit of a sensitive subject to me. I would love to say that through all of my battle so far with IBD, I’ve been able to have my Mum there with me to hold my hand, there on the end of the phone after a rough day or there in the Hospital when I’m having another shitty blood test (sometimes, quite literally). Unfortunately my Mum passed away when I was 16 years old, leaving behind a husband and five children. I suppose it is even more unfortunate that I am now 25 years old and yet, despite having a surviving parent, still feel orphaned from what I used to know as my family unit. Not having a Mum or Dad there for me through my struggle with diagnosis to my battle with dealing with the disease in my daily life now is often a hard pill to swallow, and something that I often find challenging to put a brave face on for. To not have that reassuring figure to talk to when I was sent for a Bowel Cancer screening, to not have that comforting hug when you feel like it’s never going to get better and to not have someone who will love you unapologetically through your most testing moments is tough, I can’t deny that, and for someone like me in the circumstances that I find myself in – you have to find that support elsewhere.
Luckily during the start of this journey, I was with my long-term boyfriend who also doubled-up as my best friend. If I’m honest with myself, I would sometimes feel like he didn’t quite ‘get it’ to begin with. I felt frustrated and alone and angry that no-one seemed to want to talk about it with me, or that when they did, the conversation could so easily come to a close and they could move on with a new topic whilst I was left having to continuously deal with it. Instead of opening up to people or understanding where I could vent my thoughts, feelings or worries, I began to slowly resent people. I felt hard done by that no-one understood what I was going through and I felt annoyed at the world that I didn’t have someone so intuitively close to me who could appreciate just how hard I was finding things.
The truth is – people are not mind readers. I have wasted so much time in my life feeling annoyed at people for not reaching out when I’m feeling crap, only to then realise days later that had I of spoken up then I would have had the attention I was needing. For people like me and for many others who I have spoken to, there is a sense of feeling like a burden; a worry of feeling like you’re moaning too much or that you’re not as care-free or easy-going as you perhaps used to be. The funny thing is, that harbouring those doubts only seems to create a negative energy and atmosphere around you, which undoubtedly pushes those exact people away who you need.
It is okay not to always feel brave, or strong, or happy, or okay. Allow yourself to be vulnerable at times, and then allow people who you love and trust to help pick you back up. Help can come from anyone, anywhere and at anytime. It could be a friend, a partner, a relative, a teacher, a colleague – whoever they are and wherever they might be, if they are able to understand you in a way that speaks to who you are and what you need, then they are worth keeping close.
Support is crucial. It is this recognition of not being able to deal with things alone or in silence that first motivated me to create GUT INSTINCT and it is something that I try very hard to continue to carry with me in my daily life.
In my experience, no bad has ever come from asking for help or asking for someone to listen. I found that the more I spoke, the more people understood. The more people understood, the easier it was for them to reach out unprompted. I may not have any conventional ‘family’ set up, but I have beautiful brothers and sisters who breathe life into me; gorgeous friends who have stuck by me through thick and thin and wonderful others (be our relationships romantic, professional or otherwise) who have all been there and been fantastic. Although sometimes life seems cruel or unbalanced, you get out what you put it. Don’t allow yourself to become victimised by an illness but do allow yourself to be helped on days when you need it. Don’t allow yourself to become selfish but do allow yourself to reach out and be there for others. But most importantly, don’t allow yourself to suffer in silence – whatever it’s about.
Be there for people and allow people to be there for you, too.