Crohn’s Disease and Me

I’ve realised this blog is “Travel, Food and Me” and I’ve not written a single one about me! So this is my life with my lovely Crohn’s Disease…

First and foremost everyone’s disease is different! I have it relatively easy, but it doesn’t stop it being any harder – especially when someone knows someone else who has it so much worse and mine is nothing compared to theirs.

For those who don’t know Crohn’s Disease is a form of Inflammatory Bowel Disease (gross right!). It can affect any part of the gastro system from your mouth to your anus (again, ewww!). It’s an auto-immune disease – in layman’s terms my body attacks itself, all fun and games. Turns out I’ve been suffering from it since I was 16 but not diagnosed until I was in my 20s. And here I am nearly 10 years later…

A lot of people will ask “oh no is it your Crohn’s” when you feel slightly unwell. It’s hard to get annoyed as they mean it in such a caring way but trying to explain that it’s not always that, sometime like them I just get ill. It’s is exhausting. Most people think Crohn’s is a pain in my side that makes me go to the loo a lot. They really don’t know the half of it.

I have a lot of problems thanks to Crohn’s. Some days I can’t stay awake. Fatigue takes over and all I want to do is sleep. I’ll get home from work, cook dinner and sit on the sofa not doing anything and I find myself wanting to go to bed at 7.30pm! I’m 26 years old and the thought of going to bed that early makes me feel ancient. Sometimes when I am in the middle of a flare up I have to sit down in the shower because my body is just too tired. To get across to people how the pain in my side is nothing compared to the exhaustion I can feel.

My joints – wow who knew your joints could feel on fire. When it gets bad I fidget endlessly trying to find that comfortable spot, I’ve been known to be in the oddest positions with limbs everywhere as for that minute it might just stop it. Last Sunday was the first time my Crohn’s has really affected my life (note – I’ve been in hospital, missed my last semester of uni and cancelled so many events) but this was the first time I’ve been out and couldn’t do anything about it. The Boy and I went to see Bear’s Den, and I could hardly stand. I moved around so much, felt so unwell that we had to leave 30 min before then end. I felt ill and upset. My disease ruined someone else’s night and I feel so guilty about it.

My weight goes up and down like a yo-yo! But I made things worse; I put on a bit more weight than I should have so I’ve been working hard to get it off. I’ve managed it WHOOP! I’ve lost a stone since the beginning of the year. The downside – I instantly get asked if I’ve been ill, if my Crohn’s has been causing problem. I don’t get that praise normal people get. I’ve also been told it’s not because I’ve been working hard but because “I’m lucky and my disease helps me loss weight”. But that’s life, sometimes you have to be strong and tell people they are wrong. It can be hard as it makes you second guess yourself.

My diet has changed a lot over the years, not because I was unhealthy before but I have to deal with the consequences of my eating habits. I used to love pasta, I think when I was at uni I had it 5 days a week. Now, I have it once, maybe twice at a push. I used to have a lot of cereal with skimmed milk. Now I don’t even have milk in my coffee. It’s odd, lots of this was just natural progression, some of it I made a conscience decision. I can’t have a lot of dairy as it’s hard to digest so I cut milk so I could have cheese. Sounds crazy but for me it works. And that’s it, for me it works. It makes me happy – I tried to cut dairy and gluten and it made me depressed. I am a foodie and I couldn’t live with a life where I couldn’t eat things. So I go for the little of everything method.

But here I am, I work 40hrs a week, gym 4-5 times a week and have a social life. My life isn’t bad, in fact my life is pretty damn good. I just happen to have this disease but it will not define what I can do. It will never stop me living the life I want, I’m too stubborn for that.

If you’ve just been diagnosed stay strong, half the battle is mental. If you’re suffering, it will be okay, your more than just your disease. 🙂

 

 

 

Travel – is it ticking boxes or experiencing cultures? Asking and attempting to answer the question

This is a hard one to write. Are we travelling to tick boxes, to say we’ve been somewhere, to get that perfect Instagram picture or to learn about other cultures, to admire the natural world, to explore the untouched? Just because our experiences are different does it mean that theirs was wrong, or even ours was wrong?

I went off for 6 months with The Boy and went to South East Asia, Australia and New Zealand. The stick I got for picking those locations was ridiculous, upsetting and judging!

“Why do you want to go there? It’s so touristy? Everyone does that?”

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Yes I knew people that had been, in fact my stepbrother had done it years before me and the stories he came back with made me want to go. I wanted to see a different culture, eat different foods and see a new world, something I had never seen before. Yes, I did touristy things, but are things touristy just because a lot of people do them? Would you say Angkor Wat is touristy? No. So why is going to S.E.A classed as a touristy thing to do? Once you start digging (or lightly scrapping the surface) you can see why – drunk westerners in Bangkok, the Full Moon Parties and the Island Hoping. This isn’t the South East Asia I saw, this was “Lads on Tour”, “I want to lay on a beach”, “I need a tan to show I’ve been away”. Why have these people travelled so far to do something they could do in the South of France for a fraction of the cost? Have they come just to say they have been, and got that perfect Instagram picture?

“If it’s not on Social Media did it really happen?”

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Is this what we’ve become? Or are they trying something that doesn’t interest me? Am I wrong for judging people’s travels or holidays because I think they could have just done that at home, because it doesn’t seem “cultural” enough? I think that if you go somewhere, you respect their culture, just like I feel when people come to the UK. Respect is key. So as long as they are respectful why does it bother me that they are just partying and drinking? In my view we should want to travel to explore what makes our planet so beautiful, so diverse, and so original. I personally don’t think you get that at the bottom of a bottle. Some cultures have a lot of drinking in them, look at Ireland, and imagine visiting and not having a pint of Guinness. But Ireland isn’t just about the black stuff, it’s about its history, Vikings, scenery, religion and so so so much more. A beach is just a beach unless you explore the area around it. A city just a city if you don’t go into the buildings. A country is just another ticked box if you don’t find out what that country is about. In my view, don’t go to a country just to do what you would do at home…

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I also know some people pick their location based on the land mass they can scratch off on their map. When I first heard this is how they were picking their next trip it was hard not to laugh. It sounded so ridiculous to spend all that money to go somewhere just because it’s a big land mass to show off on your map. Why not read about different places and pick from that? But then I started to thinking about it more. If you know you want to see the world and you can’t decide where to start why not start by picking large countries? Then do your research on that country? Can you really go wrong, you’re still going to see the culture of somewhere new? I suddenly felt bad about the fact I had been that judgy person. If you want to see the world does it matter how you choose your location? I mean, I made a promise to myself that I would visit one new country every year but why a new one, why not go back to something I loved? Because I want to experience somewhere new, or because I want to have another country ticked off. And if I am honest, it’s both. When I’m old and grey I want to look back at all the places I’ve been to, to have got as close to seeing all 196 countries (and yes I’m including Taiwan as its own country) as I possibly could. But not just to say I have been there, to have seen as many cultures as I can, to try new things, to eat and learn to cook new foods.

Yes travel, pick your location however you want, but don’t go somewhere because you feel you have to, go because YOU want to. Explore what that country has to offer, do those touristy things, and learn something new.