By Nicola Ranson: For Complete Post, click here…
One thing my poor battered bowel never gets is my gratitude. As someone who has had ulcerative colitis (UC) since I was 10 years old (56 years), I sometimes feel that well-meaning people who try to put a positive spin on UC aren’t helpful at all. (I can definitely relate it to the term “toxic positivity.”) However, as a therapist, I know that there are psychological studies that reveal gratitude can help us feel better. Here’s what I found when it comes to UC and gratitude:
1. LEARNING TO BE TENDER WITH MYSELF
I used to rage at my bowel and all the pain and unfairness. Then I realized that wasn’t helping; the compassion I longed for had to start with me, even if I wanted it from others (including the medical system). Learning to be tender with myself is an ongoing practice, but I have become much better at lying on the couch and taking an Epsom salt bath instead of pushing myself when my body is screaming, “STOP!”
It’s tough to have an invisible illness when it feels like no one really knows what you are going through. (Although living with someone and sharing a bathroom can give them a rough idea.) But anonymity can be handy when you’re on a job interview or first date. I’m grateful that the invisibility of UC allows me to “appear” healthy a lot of the time. It’s my choice whom I want to tell.
3. EMBRACING MY APPEARANCE
When I’m in a flare, my worries about weight are all health-related. I don’t much care how I look to others when I’m so thin that I’m afraid of falling down the toilet! On the other end, I have had the “steroid balloon look.” When I’m in those situations, all I want is to feel better. I swear to myself that if I can recover, I will never again worry about my appearance for sheer vanity. That usually doesn’t last long, but when I catch myself thinking vain thoughts again, I take it as a sign of health, and I am grateful for that luxury.
4. OWNING MY STRESS AND LEARNING TO RELAX
UC can be so depressing at times; there’s so much to worry about that it can feel like a full-time job to not give in and give up. I really am grateful that UC has motivated me to learn whatever I can in order to feel calmer and happier. I love it when I can recognize tension in my body and reduce it with meditation, yoga or whatever else that brings me back into balance. There is so much that we can’t control with UC, but I’m grateful I’ve discovered how I can manage my own stress. Learning to cope with UC led me to become a therapist, so I’ve been able to use my own lessons to support my clients too.