“Looking after myself was always a difficult thing to do. I wanted the big career, the big house and all the stuff that you think you need in life. To do this, you forget about ‘current you’ and focus on ‘future you’.
This was all going well back in 2006. I got a great job immediately after finishing university. My foot was on the first rung of the ladder. Nothing could stop me… Then I was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease.
It happened months after starting my first proper job, and I took it hard
I felt my health was jeopardising my goals as the sick days started to pile up. I was drowning in fear and anxiety; it literally felt like my bowel was trying to escape my body, but I had to soldier on, didn’t I? I had to prove I was the right man for the job.
Lying in a hospital bed, concerned about how work was coping without me, with my future wife sat at my bedside, I realised I needed help. I was vulnerable, no matter how hard I pretended not to be. She was so concerned about me and my safety. She didn’t care about houses, cars, holidays, she just wanted me to be well. This is when I started looking after me.
It began with accepting support from my family and friends. Text messages, phone calls and visits. They were there for me, listening and caring. The IBD team were doing their best to put me back on the straight and narrow on the chronic illness front, and my family and friends were trying to give me support where they could. I also learned my limitations and my work/life balance needed rejigging to be more focused on the ‘life’ part.
The 9-5 is not as important as I was made to think it was
I love my job and it helps to pay the bills, but it’s not my only purpose in life. Relaxing is not a crime I found it essential to maintaining balance within the body.
A couple of years into my Crohn’s disease journey I began to reach out for more help and I found it in the form of Crohn’s & Colitis UK. In the beginning, I found the face-to-face meetings a great form of support. Meeting other people on the same journey, but at different stages, really helped make me feel less alone. It was great to be around other people with fascinating insights into life with a chronic illness.
After spending some time around the local network of Crohn’s & Colitis UK volunteers I realised I wanted to give back. I now felt confident in my own disease and ready to help others, so I became a volunteer with my local Crohn’s & Colitis UK network. No longer was my spare time littered with thoughts of work, it was awash with ways in which to help. This gave me a much stronger sense of purpose than anything I was doing in my career. Looking after others became my way of looking after myself!
In a matter of years, I learnt how to look after myself and this took many forms. It began with focusing on me. You shouldn’t feel like a failure for asking for help, seek it out. Family and friends care about you, they want to be there for you. Find a group of other people in a similar situation, learn, and grow from their stories, develop your knowledge. Before you know it, you will be the expert in your condition and your life. Then, if you can, give back. Help those at the beginning of their journey, be their strength, be their inspiration.
This is how I look after myself, even now, 15 years on from my diagnosis - a bad Crohn’s week will see me focusing on my own health, seeking support and help from my wife, the IBD team and Crohn’s & Colitis UK. On a good week, I volunteer, doing my best to help others.
Throughout my journey, Crohn’s & Colitis UK has been my rock
They have supported me, educated me, and given me a purpose. If you need support or help with your Crohn’s Disease or Ulcerative Colitis please make one of your first stops the wellbeing section of our website: www.crohnsandcolitis.org.uk/support/wellbeing-support
We also have regular virtual social events where you get to talk to others affected by IBD in a safe and fun space via video call. More information: www.crohnsandcolitis.org.uk/su...
If you feel you’re at the point in your journey where you want to give back, then please consider joining us as a volunteer or maybe get involved in one of our many fundraising activities like ‘Walk It!’: www.crohnsandcolitis.org.uk/get-involved” Ben Rutter, Crohn’s & Colitis UK
Help those at the beginning of their journey, be their strength, be their inspiration