I guess I should start with a bit about myself. I’ve been blogging (on and off) since early 2015. Late last year, I fell ill and was diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis (UC), an Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD). Almost straight away I started to include my medical experiences in my otherwise quite impersonal blog. Since then I have written for the Mighty, joined a voluntary group, and started fundraising- as a result I’ve connected with people all around the world to share experiences and feelings.
When John asked me to write a post aiming to raise awareness of the broad spectrum of disabilities, I thought about writing about the ways I could promote charities trying to make a difference, or share the warning signs of the early stages of an IBD, maybe even just talk about myself for 500 words.
Then I thought maybe that was a bit serious- how else am I going to convince you I’m equal parts interesting and hilarious if I talk medical at you?
Instead, I’m going to give a crash course on maintaining and developing relationships! Here goes:
- Communicate. I mean that in two ways- tell your friends and SOs about your condition. Chances are, they won’t understand until you tell them. I also mean be honest and keep people in the loop about how you feel. If you’re having a bad day, don’t snap (though sometimes it happens, and then remember to apologise and explain) or ‘ghost’ your peoples!
- Be honest. It might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but I refuse to sugar coat my condition. If I am having a bad day, and my friends ask me what my problem is, I’m sure as hell going to tell them I’ve been to the toilet 4 times since I woke up and the smell of porridge is making me want to throw up.
- Reach out. I’m desperate to make ‘spoonie’ friends- especially young people with IBDs. If I hadn’t reached out, I wouldn’t be in my voluntary group made up of people with experience of Crohn’s and Colitis. If my IBD bestie didn’t send me a message on Instagram, who else could I talk to about that weird taste in my mouth when the anti-inflammatory starts to dissolve?
- Fight your esteem. Since I fell ill, my weight has fluctuated, I have had periods of awful skin, my hair thinned, I get bloated and feel gross. I don’t exactly feel like a catch, or like socialising. Your friends are with you for you, not what you look like- remember that.
- Learn to love your own company. I don’t mean “get used to being alone, ha, loser!” I mean, some days you won’t want to leave the house, some days you won’t want to explain how you feel to people, and then you’re going to have to deal with being alone. Find hobbies- for me it’s this, writing- and use your time to do the things you love.
- Don’t be afraid to speak up. If anyone is making things more difficult for you, you can’t keep that around. Chronic illnesses are exhausting enough without friends you’ve out-grown adding to the complications.
I’m by no means an expert- I’m single and have approximately four friends. However, they’re four friendships in which I am incredibly open, and I have the support I need to get through those bad days. When I talk about raising awareness, I always want to make it easier for those with conditions, and those who know people with conditions and I really hope this helps!
If you have any more tips or advice, send them to me @izzyakennedy on Twitter or Instagram, and feel free to roam my own blog izzysstory.com