September 02, 2019
I was 19 when I first started to experience abdominal pain, fatigue, urgency and bleeding when going to the toilet. At first, I thought it was stress – I was working, studying and not sleeping a lot because of noisy neighbours, not to mention taking a host of antibiotics for skin infections.
What Ive Learned From Talking Openly About My Bowel Disease
The doctors I saw dismissed my symptoms as a stomach bug, then a lingering stomach bug, then IBS and then, more shockingly, ‘just hormone related and common for women my age’. It wasn’t until I was unable to leave the house due to urgency and anxiety (and my Mum was firm with the hospital about the eight-week waiting list) that I was scheduled for a camera to look inside my bowel. The findings came in a letter that I opened alone in my bedroom. It read that the camera’s findings indicated I had Crohn’s disease.
What was Crohn’s disease?
Well, Crohn’s disease is a form of Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) that causes inflammation in the digestive system. It is a lifelong, chronic condition that is often managed with strong medication and surgery. Symptoms can include fatigue, weight loss, skin problems and changes in bowel habits from constipation to diarrhoea and bleeding.After receiving the letter I felt alone, scared, ashamed... I hadn’t heard of Crohn’s, so how could I explain it?After receiving the letter – and some frantic googling and searching for other people with the disease – I felt alone, scared, ashamed and reluctant to tell anybody about my condition. I didn’t understand what was happening to my body; I hadn’t heard of Crohn’s disease, so how could I explain it? Besides, it was a disease of the bowels, and people don’t talk about their bowels. It wasn’t polite, or ladylike, and popular toilet spray adverts would have me believe that if I could just have my partner believe I didn’t poo, it would ‘save my relationship’. So how could I talk about it?
To my surprise, here’s what happened when I did.
Firstly, talking openly about my bowel disease encouraged others to ask questions. First, my friends and family, and then strangers. I would be open in situations to help myself and avoid stress or awkwardness later on. I would tell people if I couldn’t commit to plans, or needed to go home because of the pain, and explain how my Crohn’s was affecting me.
It was hard to let go of the shame but the more I opened up, the more I saw that it raised awareness. I liked to think this would help the next person with IBD, who didn’t have to explain themselves because one more person would know and understand. Talking openly about my bowel disease ultimately educated others. I learned that once people knew about IBD, they were more understanding than the shame in my head would have had me believe. Surprisingly, talking openly about my bowel disease encouraged others to talk openly to me about their bowels, too. Although I didn’t originally sign up to be the ‘poo woman’, people who I hadn’t spoken to in years would come to ask things like ‘is this normal?’ and ‘I have to have a colonoscopy, what should I expect?’
Although I can’t – and don’t – give medical advice, talking openly encouraged people who were previously too embarrassed to get their symptoms checked over by a doctor. Bowel diseases are an increasingly common health problem in the UK, from irritable bowel syndrome to coeliac disease, inflammatory bowel disease and bowel cancer.
Early diagnosis in both IBD and cancer can aid successful treatment, and being too embarrassed to talk about it hinders this early diagnosis. Talking openly about my bowel disease helped to get rid of the taboo surrounding one of our major organs. The bowel taboo should not stand in the way of often life-saving diagnoses.
Talking openly about my bowel disease helped me to find my voice. It taught me how to use my voice to break taboos and break free from the unrealistic beauty standard of not having a digestive system. It taught me to use my voice to look after myself and get the help and treatment that I needed. It taught me to use my voice to stand up for what is important. Mostly, it taught me to use my voice to help others feel less alone.Acceptance of a life-long disease is not straight-forward, but talking openly about my symptoms and feelings helped me accept my body and to my lifeMost importantly, talking openly about my bowel disease also helped me to understand, and then accept, it. Once I no longer felt the need to hide it, I wanted to learn more about IBD. Knowledge is power, as they say, and learning about my disease helped me to feel more in control, more able to look after myself and make my own decisions. Acceptance of a life-long disease is not straight-forward, but talking openly about my symptoms and feelings helped me accept the changes to my body and to my life. When conversations about IBD became commonplace with my family, this normalised the disease and helped me to accept its part in our lives.
After accepting Crohn’s as a part of my life, talking openly about it led me to wonderful opportunities. Although I am aware that meeting other people with the same condition isn’t for everyone, talking openly about my IBD led me to a rewarding opportunity to work with, and support others going through tough times. It taught me to listen, without talking. It led me to meet some of the kindest people, who I now consider friends for life. In a strange twist of fate, through talking openly about my bowel disease, I learned that everybody is going through something – and to be kind, always.
Anna Gaunt is a freelance writer and activist. Follow her on Twitter at @anna_gaunt
Have a compelling personal story you want to tell? Find out what we’re looking for here, and pitch us on ukpersonal@huffpost.comMore from HuffPost UK Personal My PMDD Is So Much More Than 'Bad PMS' My Hysterectomy Was Meant To End My Pain. It Was For Nothing. I Had A Miscarriage And Learned That Everything I Thought I Knew About Them Was Wrong
Related Stories
Latest News
Top news around the world
Coronavirus Disease

Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) is an infectious disease caused by a newly discovered coronavirus.

Most people infected with the COVID-19 virus will experience mild to moderate respiratory illness and recover without requiring special treatment. Older people, and those with underlying medical problems like cardiovascular disease, diabetes, chronic respiratory disease, and cancer are more likely to develop serious illness.

Around the World

Celebrity News

> Latest News in Media

Watch It
'Perry Mason' Star Tatiana Maslany Talks Playing Sister Alice on the HBO Show
July 06, 2020
o0CoX0KQuBc
'Picard' Lead VFX Artist on Taking the 'Star Trek' Franchise Into the Future
July 07, 2020
rSLI5OJoXuM
'Succession' Composer Nicholas Britell on How He Crafted the Music of Season 2
July 03, 2020
xgJUmZgGHUI
Trump Wants Bubba Wallace to Apologize Over Noose 'Hoax,' Wallace Responds | TMZ
July 07, 2020
neBKyFgvvyQ
Kanye West & Elon Musk Are Like BFFs Now | TMZ
July 07, 2020
khdZryIPxzA
D.L. Hughley Asks Why White People Hold On to Statues of Bad People | TMZ
July 06, 2020
Pf0pHGmB2Ls
Kourtney Kardashian Feels "Free" After "Toxic" "KUWTK" Experience | E! News
July 07, 2020
9dDmtb5N8lk
Halle Berry Apologizes For Considering Transgender Role | Daily Pop | E! News
July 07, 2020
sv4cIO3BJO4
Demi Lovato Crying More During Coronavirus Quarantine | Daily Pop | E! News
July 07, 2020
URzNNRnvnyA
Why #RIPEllen is trending on Twitter: Ellen DeGeneres death hoax goes viral | Page Six News
July 07, 2020
GgNtWoDFSM8
‘Lenox Hill’ ER doctor says COVID episode was ‘surreal’ | Page Six Celebrity News
July 07, 2020
xwoaQfSYrGQ
Netflix’s 'Dating Around’ fan favorite Ben Samuel takes us inside his home | Page Six Celebrity News
July 07, 2020
uvnoQd2QhNY
TV Schedule
Late Night Show
Watch the latest shows of U.S. top comedians

Sports

Latest sport results, news, videos, interviews and comments
Latest Events
07
Jul
ITALY: Serie A
AC Milan - Juventus
07
Jul
SPAIN: La Liga
Celta Vigo - Atletico Madrid
07
Jul
ENGLAND: Premier League
Arsenal - Leicester City
07
Jul
ENGLAND: Premier League
Crystal Palace - Chelsea
07
Jul
ITALY: Serie A
Lecce - Lazio
07
Jul
ENGLAND: Premier League
Watford - Norwich City
07
Jul
SPAIN: La Liga
Valencia - Real Valladolid
06
Jul
ENGLAND: Premier League
Tottenham Hotspur - Everton
06
Jul
SPAIN: La Liga
Sevilla - Eibar
06
Jul
SPAIN: La Liga
Levante - Real Sociedad
05
Jul
ITALY: Serie A
Napoli - Roma
05
Jul
ENGLAND: Premier League
Southampton - Manchester City
05
Jul
SPAIN: La Liga
Villarreal - Barcelona
05
Jul
ENGLAND: Premier League
Liverpool - Aston Villa
05
Jul
ITALY: Serie A
Inter Milan - Bologna
05
Jul
SPAIN: La Liga
Athletic Bilbao - Real Madrid
04
Jul
ENGLAND: Premier League
Chelsea - Watford
04
Jul
ENGLAND: Premier League
Wolves - Arsenal
04
Jul
ITALY: Serie A
Lazio - AC Milan
04
Jul
ENGLAND: Premier League
Manchester United - Bournemouth
04
Jul
ITALY: Serie A
Juventus - Torino
03
Jul
SPAIN: La Liga
Atletico Madrid - Mallorca
02
Jul
ENGLAND: Premier League
Manchester City - Liverpool
02
Jul
ENGLAND: Premier League
Sheffield United - Tottenham Hotspur
02
Jul
ITALY: Serie A
Roma - Udinese
02
Jul
SPAIN: La Liga
Real Madrid - Getafe
02
Jul
ITALY: Serie A
Atalanta - Napoli
01
Jul
ITALY: Serie A
Spal - AC Milan
01
Jul
ENGLAND: Premier League
West Ham United - Chelsea
01
Jul
ENGLAND: Premier League
Arsenal - Norwich City
01
Jul
ITALY: Serie A
Inter Milan - Brescia
30
Jun
SPAIN: La Liga
Barcelona - Atletico Madrid
30
Jun
ENGLAND: Premier League
Brighton - Manchester United
30
Jun
ITALY: Serie A
Genoa - Juventus
28
Jun
SPAIN: La Liga
Espanyol - Real Madrid
Find us on Instagram
at @feedimo to stay up to date with the latest.
Featured Video You Might Like
0vmRhiLHE2U JFCZUoa6MYE UfN5PCF5EUo 2PV55f3-UAg W3y9zuI_F64 -7qCxIccihU pQ9gcOoH9R8 g5MRDEXRk4k tudKp5Vhs3k iwWHibhssSo kQr0XHPbICM 5NeCb7JxaRk
Copyright © 2020 Feedimo. All Rights Reserved.