After feeling unwell for quite a while, most people’s reaction to the diagnosis is a mixture of shock, anxiety, uncertainty – and sometimes, relief. Shock because you have been told that you have an ongoing disease – something that you’re stuck with –and anxiety at the thought of taking daily medication for a long time, perhaps indefinitely.
You may also feel uncertain and unsure what to expect. After all, you may not have heard of IBD, Ulcerative Colitis, or Crohn’s Disease before. So it’s natural to feel concerned and confused, particularly when doctors don’t yet know the actual cause of the illness.
In the longer term, it is often the ongoing and unpredictable nature of the disease that can be especially difficult to live with. Just when you think you have come to terms with your IBD and are beginning to get on top of it, there may be new situations to tackle. It can all seem so unfair.
For example, you may suddenly have a worse flare-up than before, or start getting unpleasant side effects that are difficult to manage. You may find that, if your medication is not working as well as had been hoped, your doctors recommend surgery.
More positively, you may discover that a new drug works better and helps to keep you in remission for much longer than usual. Or, following surgery, that your most troublesome symptoms have disappeared.
It is common to feel angry and upset about being diagnosed with a disease like IBD and some people initially respond by being in denial. While no-one can pretend it is easy coming to terms with an illness, accepting you have a medical condition, and that there may be times when you have to take things more easily, can help you keep a balance in your life.
It may mean, for example, that when you have a flare-up you have to make adjustments and take time to recuperate. On the other hand, when you are well you may be able to live life to the full. Many people with IBD do well in their studies and are able to work and have successful careers.
Major life changes can cause anxiety and stress. Getting used to the idea that you have a long-term and potentially embarrassing illness like IBD is going to take time, and feelings of anxiety and depression are understandable. As well as having to deal with the physical symptoms like pain, diarrhea, and fatigue, you also have to deal with your emotional reactions.
So, if you do feel worried, or depressed, don’t dismiss your feelings as irrational or signs of weakness. Try not to feel guilty
or that you’re making a fuss about nothing if you need to have a rest or to take time off work.
Talk to our IBD team and review section on the left menu to learn more about how to live your life and successfully manage your IBD.