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15 Things to Remember if You Love a Person with Crohn’s Disease

15 Things to Remember if You Love a Person with Crohn’s Disease

Many otherwise intelligent individuals have the rather insensitive view that Crohn’s Disease is simply a nice medical term for an illness that people have because they lack self-control. To them, everyone has bowel troubles, some more than others, and that all it takes is watching what one eats and drinks in order to have normal intestinal operation. They also become frustrated with Crohn’s sufferers, thinking that they exaggerate their symptoms and just need to take a few antacids or anti-diarrhoea pills.

Crohn’s is classified as an autoimmune disease, in which the body is actually producing antibodies that act against itself, much like the more commonly known Lupus. Just getting the fact out that it really is a serious disease and not just a “condition” is truly important, because misinformation makes it hard to develop empathy for a friend or partner with this disease. That said, here are 15 things that Crohn’s sufferers will endure that require understanding, patience, and support.

1. They can’t participate in a lot of sports and other social activities as young people

Imagine you are a 16-year old girl who would love to go out with her friends for the evening. Maybe they want to drive around, stop at a few other friends’ homes, and stop at a fast-food place for burgers and fries. For the teen with Crohn’s, this means not eating all day in order to avoid embarrassing diarrhoea accidents, and certainly not participating in the fast-food stop. Suppose you are a teen boy wearing an excretion bag – how do you shower with your classmates after PE class? Parents and other adults need to be happy to make comforting accommodations for these teens, and that includes the PE teacher-jock who may not have a tendency for a lot of empathy. Wise parents have meetings with school personnel and make certain that all reasonable accommodations have been made, including a quick exit from class without permission.

2. They know it’s better not to consume alcohol

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    So, when everyone is having a grand time at happy hour and putting pressure for the Crohn’s sufferer to have a beer, they wonder why they won’t drink. Are they anti-social; are they a recovering alcoholic? A sufferer with a pretty solid self-image may be able to explain the disease a bit. Good friends and partners understand and make an extra effort to make the sufferer feel comfortable, even in an environment of drinking.

    3. They get depressed easily, because the disease seems to control so much of their daily lives

    As Bethany Townsend, famous model and make-up artist claims, she left her career for years because of her “bag” and only recently was able to put on a bikini and post it on Facebook with the support and encouragement of her husband. Because of the overwhelming support she then received from Facebook fans she is back modeling and over her depression. Most Crohn’s sufferers do not give up public and promising careers, but they do have periods of depression. Making an effort to really understand how the simple things you take for granted can be big hurdles for your loved one will go a long way.

    4. They may skip meals in order to avoid having to go to the bathroom

    Weight is a rather sensitive topic for people with Chrohn’s. Oftentimes it’s easier for them to say they’ve been sticking to some brand new diet plan for weight loss than admitting they don’t want to have lunch with you because they might afterwards get stuck in the bathroom for hours. Skipping meals is one big concern for medical professionals dealing with Crohn’s patients because the potential for severe weight loss and even anemia are always present. A current study involving 3700 patients from over 40 countries is underway to research the efficacy of some new medications that will reduce the levels of the culprit antibodies and thus onset of acute and severe diarrhea is currently underway and does show some promise.

    5. They can suffer embarrassingly severe diarrhea, especially in public places

    They have to look for the nearest restroom when they are out, and this can be irritating to social acquaintances and partners who just don’t have the empathy they should. Being seated in a restaurant for the Crohn’s sufferer is a “huge” consideration, and others need to be supportive and kind about it, even if it means a bit longer wait for a table.

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    6. Being overly tired is a symptom of the disease, not an “avoidance” tactic as some have decided to believe

    Normal daily activities of school and work can be exhausting, and this is a real physical symptom. Friends, family members and partners need to cease complaining or showing irritation when the individual needs a nap or simply does not have the energy to engage in physically-demanding activities after a long day. Plan those activities on weekends when there are no other physical and mental demands on the sufferer.

    7. They may not be able to have the social lives that others do

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      Teens avoid sleepovers, swim parties, and overnight trips with friends; adults may avoid such things as camping trips or picnics and barbecues, or adventurous trips to far away lands where restrooms might not be immediately available.

      8. They may carry extra toilet paper, wear “Depends,” and always have an extra set of clothing with them (for serious cases)

      Again, that’s something they are really embarrassed to admit. Understanding these behaviors is critical for friends and partners who truly want to make life as comfortable as possible for a Crohn’s sufferer. Instead of showing irritation because a road trip may involve more than the average number of restroom stops along the way, the empathetic fellow traveler will take it all in stride, be cheerful and accommodating. Should an accident occur, it is important to know whether the “victim” wants help or wants to deal with the problem on his/her own.

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      9. They are self-conscious about the clothing they wear so that bags don’t show

      If you love this person, make extra efforts to compliment their dress and appearance.

      10. They can’t always sleep well

      There is discomfort a lot of the time, and this is not an exaggeration. Think of times when you have a bad bout of stomach gas with cramps and diarrhea. People with Crohn’s have to deal with this most of the time, even in the middle of the night. Stop complaining about being awakened, and give them a reassuring hug instead. Here are more tips about getting a better sleep if you have Crohn’s.

      11. They may prefer not to go out to eat

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        This can be a “bummer” when friends who are couples invite you to go out to dinner. If your loved one’s symptoms are acute, this is not going to be an option. If they are not acute, and the outing is planned, be certain that the restaurant chosen has mild foods that your loved can tolerate more easily. Several studies currently being conducted by the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation are attempting to develop means by which normal microbe activity can be stimulated in the gastrointestinal tract that may ultimately allow those with the disease eat more normally. This would be a huge breakthrough!

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        12. They plan when they will eat certain foods, because they know how they will be affected and will need to be physically in a “safe” place

        Don’t try to “force” your loved one to eat anything or anywhere if they are not truly comfortable with the food and/or the environment. You certainly don’t have to change your eating habits because of their disease, but neither should they ever have to change theirs to please yours. Certainly there a lot of great foods both for you and your loved one to digest normally.

        13. Airline bookings may seem like a minor deal to you, but to the Crohn’s sufferer, maybe not

        Be mindful that seating has to be close to the bathroom, and, if there is an accident because the bathroom is occupied at a moment of crisis, be reassuring and comforting. They are embarrassed enough without your expression of embarrassment too.

        14. They understand that there is no cure and that researchers are looking at multiple causes

        Those include but not limited to genetics, previous infections, immune system failures, and environmental factors such as junk food and too many antibiotics earlier in life. Understand that they are keeping apprised of any research that is ongoing and any new promising treatments, and that they will certainly take it up with their doctor. Instead of resenting, the time spent on reading up on these potential treatments and the conversation that they may want to have about them, be a good listener, be encouraging and be positive.

        15. They have fears that they may seem abnormal to you

        Just walking the dog can cause anxiety, if the walk will be pretty long; they fear that they may embarrass themselves or you. Imagine the anxiety of going to your boss’s home for dinner or a barbecue; imagine the anxiety of going to a child’s soccer or basketball game, sitting up in the stands and not being able to get down through the crowd to reach a restroom in time. You have to validate these fears and be willing to compromise. You can’t truly understand the fears because you don’t have the disease, but you must be willing to validate them with both words and behaviors.

        Featured photo credit: Single woman alone swinging on the beach and looking the other seat missing a boyfriend via shutterstock.com

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        Elena Prokopets

        Freelance Writer

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        How to Control Your Thoughts and Become the Master of Your Mind

        How to Control Your Thoughts and Become the Master of Your Mind

        Your mind is the most powerful tool you have for the creation of good in your life, but if not used correctly, can also be the most destructive force in your life.

        Your mind, more specifically, your thoughts, affect your perception and therefore, your interpretation of reality.

        I have heard that the average person thinks around 70,000 thoughts a day. That’s a lot, especially if they are unproductive, self-abusive and just a general waste of energy.

        You can let your thoughts run amok, but why would you? It is your mind, your thoughts; isn’t it time to take your power back? Isn’t it time to take control?

        Choose to be the person who is actively, consciously thinking your thoughts. Become the master of your mind.

        When you change your thoughts, you will change your feelings as well, and you will also eliminate the triggers that set off those feelings. Both of these outcomes provide you with a greater level of peace in your mind.

        I currently have few thoughts that are not of my own choosing or a response from my reprogramming. I am the master of my mind, so now my mind is quite peaceful. Yours can be too!

        Who Is Thinking My Thoughts?

        Before you can become the master of your mind, you must recognize that you are currently at the mercy of several unwanted “squatters” living in your mind, and they are in charge of your thoughts. If you want to be the boss of them, you must know who they are and what their motivation is, and then you can take charge and evict them.

        Here are four of the “squatters” in your head that create the most unhealthy and unproductive thoughts:

        1. The Inner Critic

        This is your constant abuser. He is often a conglomeration of:

        • Other people’s words; many times your parents.
        • Thoughts you have created based on your own or other peoples expectations.
        • Comparing yourself to other people, including those in the media.
        • The things you told yourself as a result of painful experiences such as betrayal and rejection. Your interpretation creates your self-doubt and self-blame, which are most likely undeserved in cases of rejection and betrayal.

        He is motivated by pain, low self-esteem, lack of self-acceptance and lack of self-love.

        Why else would he abuse you? And since “he” is actually you– why else would you abuse yourself? Why would you let anyone treat you this badly?

        2. The Worrier

        This person lives in the future; in the world of “what ifs.”

        He is motivated by fear which is often irrational and with no basis for it.

        Occasionally, he is motivated by fear that what happened in the past will happen again.

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        3. The Reactor or Trouble-Maker

        He is the one that triggers anger, frustration and pain. These triggers stem from unhealed wounds of the past. Any experience that is even closely related to a past wound will set him off.

        He can be set off by words or feelings. He can even be set off by sounds and smells.

        He has no real motivation; he has poor impulse control and is run by past programming that no longer serves you, if it ever did.

        4. The Sleep Depriver

        This can be a combination of any number of different squatters including the inner planner, the rehasher, and the ruminator, along with the inner critic and the worrier.

        His motivation can be:

        • As a reaction to silence, which he fights against
        • Taking care of the business you neglected during the day
        • Self-doubt, low self-esteem, insecurity and generalized anxiety
        • As listed above for the inner critic and worrier

        How can you control these squatters?

        How to Master Your Mind

        You are the thinker and the observer of your thoughts. You must pay attention to your thoughts so you can identify “who” is running the show; this will determine which technique you will want to use.

        Begin each day with the intention of paying attention to your thoughts and catching yourself when you are thinking undesirable thoughts.

        There are two ways to control your thoughts:

        • Technique A – Interrupt and replace them
        • Technique B – Eliminate them altogether

        This second option is what is known as peace of mind!

        The technique of interrupting and replacing is a means of reprogramming your subconscious mind. Eventually, the replacement thoughts will become the “go to” thoughts in the applicable situations.

        Use Technique A with the Inner Critic and Worrier and Technique B with the Reactor and Sleep Depriver.

        For the Inner Critic

        When you catch yourself thinking something negative about yourself (calling yourself names, disrespecting yourself, or berating yourself), interrupt it.

        You can yell (in your mind), “Stop! No!” or, “Enough! I’m in control now.” Then, whatever your negative thought was about yourself, replace it with an opposite or counter thought or an affirmation that begins with “I am.”

        For example, if your thought is, “I’m such a loser,” you can replace it with, “I am a Divine Creation of the Universal Spirit. I am a perfect spiritual being learning to master the human experience. I am a being of energy, light, and matter. I am magnificent, brilliant, and beautiful. I love and approve of myself just as I am.”

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        You can also have a dialogue with yourself with the intention of discrediting the ‘voice’ that created the thought, if you know whose voice it is:

        “Just because so-and-so said I was a loser doesn’t make it true. It was his or her opinion, not a statement of fact. Or maybe they were joking and I took it seriously because I’m insecure.”

        If you recognize that you have recurring self-critical thoughts, you can write out or pre-plan your counter thoughts or affirmation so you can be ready. This is the first squatter you should evict, forcefully, if necessary:

        • He riles up the Worrier.
        • The names you call yourself become triggers when called those names by others, so he also maintains the presence of the Reactor.
        • He is often present when you try to fall asleep so he perpetuates the Sleep Depriver.
        • He is a bully and is verbally and emotionally abusive.
        • He is the destroyer of self-esteem. He convinces you that you’re not worthy. He’s a liar! In the interest of your self-worth, get him out!

        Eliminate your worst critic and you will also diminish the presence of the other three squatters.

        Replace him with your new best friend who supports, encourages, and enhances your life. This is a presence you want in your mind.

        For the Worrier

        Prolonged anxiety is mentally, emotionally and physically unhealthy. It can have long-term health implications.

        Fear initiates the fight or flight response, creates worry in the mind and creates anxiety in the body.

        You should be able to recognize a “worry thought” immediately by how you feel. The physiological signs that the fight or flight response of fear has kicked in are:

        • Increased heart rate, blood pressure, or surge of adrenaline
        • Shallow breathing or breathlessness
        • Muscles tense

        Use the above stated method to interrupt any thought of worry and then replace it. But this time you will replace your thoughts of worry with thoughts of gratitude for the outcome you wish for.

        If you believe in a higher power, this is the time to engage with it. Here is an example:

        Instead of worrying about my loved ones traveling in bad weather, I say the following (I call it a prayer):

        “Thank you great spirit for watching over _______. Thank you for watching over his/her car and keeping it safe, road-worthy, and free of maintenance issues without warning. Thank you for surrounding him/her with only safe, conscientious, and alert drivers. And thank you for keeping him/her safe, conscientious, and alert.”

        Smile when you think about it or say it aloud, and phrase it in the present tense; both of these will help you feel it and possibly even start to believe it.

        If you can visualize what you are praying for, the visualization will enhance the feeling so you will increase the impact in your vibrational field.

        Now take a calming breath, slowly in through your nose, and slowly out through the mouth. Take as many as you like!

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        Replacing fearful thoughts with gratitude will decrease reactionary behavior, taking the steam out of the Reactor.

        For example:

        If your child gets lost in the mall, the typical parental reaction that follows the fearful thoughts when finding them is to yell at them.

        “I told you never to leave my sight.” This reaction just adds to the child’s fear level from being lost in the first place. Plus, it also teaches them that mom and/or dad will get mad when he or she makes a mistake, which may make them lie to you or not tell you things in the future.

        Change those fearful thoughts when they happen:

        “Thank You (your choice of Higher Power) for watching over my child and keeping him safe. Thank you for helping me find him soon.”

        Then, when you see your child after this thought process, your only reaction will be gratitude, and that seems like a better alternative for all people involved.

        For the Trouble-Maker, Reactor or Over-Reactor

        Permanently eliminating this squatter will take a bit more attention and reflection after the fact to identify and heal the causes of the triggers; but until then, you can prevent the Reactor from getting out of control by initiating conscious breathing as soon as you recognize his presence.

        The Reactor’s thoughts or feelings activate the fight or flight response just like with the Worrier. The physiological signs of his presence will be the same. With a little attention, you should be able to tell the difference between anxiety, anger, frustration, or pain:

        • Increased heart rate and blood pressure; surge of adrenaline
        • Shallow breathing or breathlessness
        • Muscles tension

        I’m sure you’ve heard the suggestion to count to ten when you get angry—well, you can make those ten seconds much more productive if you are breathing consciously during that time.

        Conscious breathing is as simple as it sounds; just be conscious of your breathing. Pay attention to the air going in and coming out.

        Breathe in through your nose:

        • Feel the air entering your nostrils.
        • Feel your lungs filling and expanding.
        • Focus on your belly rising.

        Breathe out through your nose:

        • Feel your lungs emptying.
        • Focus on your belly falling.
        • Feel the air exiting your nostrils.

        Do this for as long as you like. Leave the situation if you want. This gives the adrenaline time to normalize.

        Now you can address the situation with a calmer, more rational perspective and avoid damaging behavior.

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        One of the troubles this squatter causes is that it adds to the sleep depriver’s issues. By evicting, or at least controlling the Reactor, you will decrease reactionary behavior, which will decrease the need for the rehashing and ruminating that may keep you from falling asleep.

        Master your mind and stop the Reactor from bringing stress to you and your relationships!

        For the Sleep Depriver

        (He’s made up of the Inner Planner, the Rehasher and the Ruminator, along with the Inner Critic and the Worrier.)

        I was plagued with a very common problem: not being able to turn off my mind at bedtime. This inability prevented me from falling asleep and thus, getting a restful and restorative night’s sleep.

        Here’s how I mastered my mind and evicted the Sleep Depriver and all his cronies.

        1. I started by focusing on my breathing—paying attention to the rise and fall of my belly—but that didn’t keep the thoughts out for long. (Actually, I now start with checking my at-rest mouth position to keep me from clenching.)
        2. Then I came up with replacement strategy that eliminated uncontrolled thinking—imagining the word in while breathing in and thinking the word out when breathing out. I would (and do) elongate the word to match the length of my breath.

        When I catch myself thinking, I shift back to in, out. With this technique, I am still thinking, sort of, but the wheels are no longer spinning out of control. I am in control of my mind and I choose quiet.

        From the first time I tried this method I started to yawn after only a few cycles and am usually asleep within ten minutes.

        For really difficult nights, I add an increase of attention by holding my eyes in a looking-up position (Closed, of course!). Sometimes I try to look toward my third eye but that really hurts my eyes.

        If you have trouble falling asleep because you can’t shut off your mind, I strongly recommend you try this technique. I still use it every night. You can start sleeping better tonight!

        You can also use this technique any time you want to:

        • Fall back to sleep if you wake up too soon.
        • Shut down your thinking.
        • Calm your feelings.
        • Simply focus on the present moment. 

        Becoming the Master of Your Mind

        Your mind is a tool, and like any other tool, it can be used for constructive purposes or for destructive purposes.

        You can allow your mind to be occupied by unwanted, undesirable and destructive tenants, or you can choose desirable tenants like peace, gratitude, compassion, love, and joy.

        Your mind can become your best friend, your biggest supporter, and someone you can count on to be there and encourage you. The choice is yours!

        Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

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