Once I was diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis, the following months were very surreal memories. Everything happened so fast. One moment I was in the hospital getting cameras shoved up my bum, then all of a sudden I was on a flight back to Australia to celebrate Christmas with my family.
At the time, I wasn’t very patient with my newfound relationship/disease. In my heart, I wanted nothing more than to prove that doctor wrong, but I was so preoccupied with everything else in my life that I took my medication and allowed it to Band-Aid the problem.
Maybe I was in denial? Maybe I didn’t want to believe that it was true? I’m not sure, but it was definitely an eye of the storm moment for me, because I was yet to realise that things were going to get a lot worse.
I kept taking the medication for at least another four months while of course, continuing with almost the same diet, almost the same lifestyle and almost the same outlook on my disease, which was that I would pretty much ‘be fine’, as long as I cut out gluten (an intolerance I’ve had since I was a baby).
It wasn’t until I relocated to New York in April 2018, that I finally kissed my fairy-tale, gluten-free world goodbye. Within weeks of leaving my family, my dog, my career and anything else that gave me a sense of purpose, my body was up shit creek (Shit creek is an Australian term for ‘circumstances became more extreme).
The flare-up started when I was out to lunch with my new boyfriend and one of his friends. I had a salad for lunch because I thought it was a safe option. I also had salmon too, thinking that fish was easy on the stomach. I finished eating and had to immediately rush to the bathroom. I was sitting on the toilet thinking, ‘Not again. This can’t be happening so soon.’ That evening I went home devastated for the worst. I woke up the next day and sure enough, there was blood in the toilet. I was gutted.
The next few chapters of my life were a combination of tears, anger, pain, confusion, and exhaustion. Surprisingly, I was yet to punch a hole through my computer, because of all the limited information out there to help people with my disease. For 6 whole months, I bled from the arsehole at least 3 times per day. I also spent hours of those days researching the internet to find a ‘magic pill’ that was going to solve my problems.
At the time, I was so ashamed of what I had. Primarily because it was embarrassing to admit that I had arse problems. I tried to mask the truth by telling people I wasn’t feeling well, or I would avoid any event that would take me too far away from a toilet. Sometimes I would find myself in situations where I didn’t eat and drank a lot of vodkas because it momentarily numbed my stomach’s state of mind.
I look back and think, ‘why was I so worried about what they’d say?’. The straw that finally broke the camel’s back was when people started to question whether I had an eating disorder that I realised that I needed to empower myself, and this illness by talking about it.
Little did I know, that it was these empowered conversations were the reason why I am so much healthier today.