Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Guest Post: Taylor's Story #3

I quite literally have lost count of the amount of times that I have sat down to write this last blog.

What I have determined that it is simple to write about ones experiences in hindsight, because as I began to write about my life currently I started to become vulnerable – and I, like a lot of people, spook at the thought of vulnerability. Nobody likes to be exposed.

So this is me, stripped down telling you about my life, right now - sans ostomy, living with my J-Pouch.

When I walked into my lectures in September I fit in. My clothes covered the scars scattered over my abdomen, my makeup put colour back into my cheeks, and my Percocet’s masked any post-surgical pain I was feeling. I conversed casually with my fellow classmates about our summers, and we discussed the upcoming semester. But mostly I fit in because my high anxiety and constant need to be close to a bathroom hadn’t returned which left me with a sense of relief and freedom.

I liked that I fit in, that I was in the driver’s seat again. I started the semester ecstatic with this new found control that I had over my body, until I had one day I had a pain - a bad pain I wasn’t used too. I tried not to panic. I didn’t tell my parents, I gentility broke it to my roommates that I was feeling ill, and I tried to hide it from my professors. This was very ‘2009 Taylor’. On the outside I was composed, but on the inside I was screaming. Screaming at myself for getting too comfortable being healthy - screaming at my body for a break.

This was it, this was the ball dropping.

As I laid in the fetal position in my bed with my roommates by my side I remember thinking it was all too familiar. I had been here before, unsure of what was happening to my body, hunched over in agony expecting the worst but hoping for the best. As the pain continued to get worse, I contacted my surgeon and my GI and let them know what was happening. After, A LOT of emailing back and forth, and a handful of phone conversations, uncertainty was still lingering. Uncertainty hung in the air for a while – and to make a very long story short it was determined that I had a partial bowel obstruction that thankfully ended up passing on its own. Since then I have only had one obstruction and we are hoping that I don’t continue to suffer from an adhesion problem!

This triggered something inside me, something that made me feel like I didn’t ‘fit in’ anymore. I had missed too many lectures, I had been seen keeled over in pain, and talking to professors to hand them doctor’s notes. This wasn’t something that I could cover with clothing or makeup or pain meds. I felt uncomfortable and exposed as people slowly started to unpack my complex health background that I had kept secret for so long. The longer this went on the more defensive I became when my peers asked why I wasn’t in class, or why I needed modified accommodations.

In the midst of furiously building up my barriers, a friend said something to me that make me reconsider the wall I was constructing. They noticed my constant tug at the bottom of my shirt and asked why I was so self-conscious – it’s not like they didn’t know what I had been through! I told them that I just wasn’t comfortable with the scars that speckled my stomach because they weren’t faded yet. As quick as the words spurted from my lips, my friend responded with something that changed my way of thinking. He stood back, looked at me and said, “Stop. When I see those scars, yes I am reminded of the battles that you have had to endure, but mostly I am reminded about the strength, courage and poise that you have shown throughout. I think your scars are beautiful and I would never want you to be ashamed of them – in fact I think that you should embrace them”.

So this is me embracing my battle field of an abdomen – realizing that it is silly to cover up the scars that tell the story of you, in order to ‘fit in’. What I am learning right now is that the hardest decision and the right decision are often the same thing. It might be hard to tell somebody that you have Crohn’s or Ulcerative Colitis because it isn’t very ‘glamorous’, but the more barriers we build up around ourselves the longer IBD will be stuck in the closet.

So pull your shirt up, flash the world a glimpse of that beautiful disaster of a tummy and say, “Yes I have IBD – and I am not ashamed!”


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