Anyone who has a chronic illness will tell you it’s exhausting; every day your biggest wish is that it would just end, and after a while you don’t particularly care about the method.
I’ve faced mental health struggles since I can remember. From being bullied for being a weird kid in primary school, never wanting to leave my room in high school, and then battling with exhaustion and fitting in as an adult with UC – it seems that I’ve always had down spells and anxiety off and on. Depression itself never stuck with me though, I would fall down into a pit of exhaustion, overwhelming sadness and dark thoughts but I’d be able to ride the wave and pop back out later down the track. The last year however has been different, as I’ve fought my UC and depression together. It’s hard to put these feelings into words, even harder to formulate words that actually have someone leave feeling like they’ve gained anything, but I’ll give it a red hot crack.
You ever have those days were nothing goes right? Wake up at 3am and have to run to the toilet, it’s not good obviously, then kick your toe getting back into bed. Now there’s the overwhelming smell of blood and the 50 different chemicals you’re taking in your medication wafting through the room, your toe feels like it’s at a 90º angle, and everyone within a 5km radius of your house has woken up as you scream FUCK OFF at the top of your lungs. It’s only 3am, there’s a lot more time in the day… You lie in bed awake til 4 with a throbbing toe when the exhaustion of your body not being able to take in nutrients gives up and lets you fall back to sleep, for 2 hours, before you need the toilet again – a quieter fuck off is released as you trudge to the bathroom toe sprawled up in the air as to not hit it on the cold tiles. You sit on the toilet for half an hour and you’re still not convinced you’re safe to leave but your elbows have left your thighs looking like the surface of mars all red and ‘cratery’. The dog sits patiently waiting for you to feed it, unsure if it’s in trouble with all your swearing and marching about the bedroom. You’re out of biscuits, “sorry champ I didn’t make it to the shops yesterday because I was stuffed after work – don’t give me that look I don’t have any food for myself either”. The dog ends up eating a tin of sardines and you have that shit cereal you hate that’s been sitting in the back of the pantry for 9 months – without milk.
It’s 12º outside, that won’t make anyone happy but it’s even worse for you after you’ve lost 15kg in 2 months and your clothes are so baggy that the wind forms an igloo for eskimos between them and your skin. You head off for work, forgetting to start your playlist before you drive off so you’re stuck with the radio. Flick through 1-6 and yes, every single one of them has some dickhead talking about their useless kids or football or some other shit no one cares about. Surely, who cares about talk radio!? Thanks Lisa your 4 year old not knowing the alphabet is a national disaster but please just fuck off for 20 minutes until I get to work. 15 minutes in and you feel the urge to go to the toilet, but this is a car and there is no toilet between where you are and your office bathroom. Anxiety attack as you turn red holding it in shuffling through the carpark into the office.
It’s 8:30 and you’re exhausted already, you’ve been sleeping okay but it doesn’t seem to matter – your brain just needs to be turned off for a while and given a break – along with your bowel. I’ll spare you the work details but it sucks as you’d expect, you aren’t going to get along with anyone and nothing will go right. You go to the toilet 7 times during your shift which isn’t appreciated by anyone because no one really gets what you’re going through, despite Gary assuring you he “gets you bro” cause last night he had a “hell dirty kebab” while getting drunk and has been making your toilet experience even worse since he rocked up at 10.
It’s over. You drive home via the grocer and get some food for the week, going through the checkout of the cute cashier you’ve wanted to ask on a date for 2 years but you can’t because you don’t want her to find out you’re sick. You feel as though not trying and accepting you’re going to be alone forever is easier than giving it a go and realising there are good people out there who will look past your issues. She’s probably taken already anyway. Idiot. You’re greeted by the dog at the door, the one good part of your day. It’s eaten a couch cushion, super. You take it for a walk around the block where every step leaves you feeling like Samuel L Jackson after getting kneecapped in Django Unchained, thanks prednisolone for taking every mL of fluid out of my joints. Dinner is plain chicken with plain rice and plain water, the same as you’ve had 5 nights of the week for the last 6 months.
Your friends are going out tonight. You want to join them but last time you had one drink and set yourself back 3 weeks so you play it safe and stay in. You’re fed, dog is fed, you’re warm and comfortable despite the probable broken toe and the bowel that’s set to go off at any minute. Everything is definitively okay, not great but the basics are covered. So why do you still feel rubbish? It’s not over. This whole situation is never going to be over, you know you’ll be on better drugs soon that’ll work but for how long? And then what? You just want things to go back to the days before you even knew what colitis was but that’s not possible.
I know this all seems a bit, depressing? And I guess that’s the point. This is how I feel with colitis – the overwhelming sense of exhaustion and disdain for everything around me. But that’s okay! I think I’ve got through these periods with my mindset of it being normal. Depression is such a common thing that so many people go through and the stigma of it is almost gone. I accept that this isn’t me, I have an illness that I have to deal with and it’s going to give me trouble with my mental health. That’s fine, I need to talk to people and let it out and accept that it’ll go as it came eventually. This doesn’t work for everyone, if you struggle with depression or anxiety with your condition don’t be afraid to get professional help. I’m not sure what the details are but I’d have a guess that most people with a chronic illness have suffered or currently do suffer with mental health issues, and it’s important to look after your mental health just as much as your condition. Acknowledge it and work on it.
If you need urgent help contact beyond blue here (Australia). If you’d just like someone to chat to about IBD, mental health or anything else I’ve talked about here then feel free to contact me as usual.