Life With An Embarrassing Illness -- My Body Doesn't Seem To Know It's Christmas Time At All

This is for everyone who is feeling bad, even though it's The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year (tm). You're not alone.
Publish date:
December 16, 2013
illness, festive, Christmas, feeling unwell, crohns disease

It started a couple of weeks ago, after I missed two days of my acid-reducing medicine after a bungle at my doctor's. As per usual, it was impossible to speak to a doctor in time to plug the hole, and I had two days of waking up with no pills to pop, knowing I was doing myself damage.

I hate making a fuss at the doctors, though, as I'm always certain that there will be people in the waiting room with their legs hanging off, or coughing up a lung or something, and that my little prescription request will be eating into the time of someone with a grave and deadly illness. This is all completely ridiculous, as we all know that whoever shouts the loudest gets the results. Note to self: MAKE A FUSS.

I missed two days, thinking that wouldn't be too horrendous. I'd only a couple of days prior to this thought to myself that I'd been well for a long time now, and that I should be good for Christmas -- the big date looming in the distance, a date I love so much and always want to be well for, as everyone does. Well, the two days without the medicine fucked me right up. So let that be a lesson to you all! If you need your prescriptions, go and get them. NOW! Drop everything. Run. Go, go go.

A couple of days later, the niggling worm of pain started crawling inside my belly, every now and again until it became noticeable when I woke and wouldn't leave until mid-morning. Then, it would return when I ate, so I lost my appetite. A couple of days of that progressed into feeling faintly nauseous whenever strong cooking smells wafted past.

Then I got the thing that annoys me most, the "not being able to eat a lot even when I'm hungry" thing. I find this really frustrating -- feeling really ready for a meal, spending a long time preparing and cooking it, reveling in the smells, and then being unable to eat it and giving up after two bites before eating a bowl of popcorn for dinner instead. This past Friday, I decided to cook Chris and I a slow cooked pork casserole. Pork is my favourite meat, so I thought I'd DEFINITELY want to destroy a plate of it when it was ready. Nope. I just couldn't stomach it.

Foods I love turn into enemies in my mouth. Chewing becomes a chore. All I want is white bread and chicken, my safe foods, the foods I know I can manage and that don't cause me to be doubled over in pain later in the evening. After a few days of taking only small bites of foods before turning them away and heading for the bread bin instead, though, comes the exhaustion.

Walking into town on Saturday to do some Christmas shopping took it out of me in a way I'd forgotten could happen, that kind of fatigue that makes you want to cry because all you want to do is be spirited back into your bed and sleep for a hundred days.

My legs felt heavy and my brain was fuzzy and I was ANGRY, angry that the Christmas shoppers around me were buzzing about their business and feeling merry and bright, while I felt like I was drowning in my own tiredness. I was jealous, jealous of the people bumping into me with their shopping bags. I became grouchy and irritable, snapping at Chris, being a real bitch.

That night, my body gave up trying to spare me the full brunt. It gave up trying to be well, ignoring the Christmas tree lights and the gifts piled under the tree, the two advent calendars in the hall. I was up in the night over and over and woke yesterday knowing that I needed to just give in and be a bit ill for a while. Because that's the thing -- I don't let myself be ill until it gets so bad that I can't help it, can't actually go to work because I have no energy and have dropped 5 lbs in a week.

I think this is common of a lot of people with IBDs -- because we look well a lot of the time, can hide the symptoms and spare people the gory details, we fool ourselves. We keep on going to work, even when we're exhausted and nauseous and feeling like crap, because we need to -- if we are going to live with this forever, then we can't just shut down and stop.

Living with an illness that you know you're going to have forever, not just for a few weeks, or years, but forever, is sometimes so very smothering that you just learn to ignore it and pretend that everything's fine, because you don't want to be an Ill Person.

If I were to be an Ill Person, people would look at me differently. They'd give me the tilted-head look. I wouldn't get invited out. Maybe I wouldn't be able to do my job properly. I wouldn't want to be The Ill Girlfriend. This is why I adamantly refuse to be an Ill Person. Especially not at Christmas!

Because of course, the worst bit about my body's reluctance to play nicely at the moment is that it's my favourite time of the year -- CHRISTMAS!

I love everything about December, the piped songs in the supermarket that you've heard ten million times already, the way everyone bumps into one another with their trollies full of booze and meats and bags of nuts and satsumas. I love the ugly Christmas jumpers, the stupid festive flavours of crisps, I even love the adverts that get overplayed so much that you learn all the words.

I love tinsel and forced fun and family time and board games -- but I can still play Pictionary whilst tired. I can still sit with family and watch the Eastenders Christmas Special and chuck leftover wrapping paper at the dog to play with. I can still lick all the flavouring off a Sour Cream and Chive Pringle whilst wearing a onesie.

I might not be able to chug mulled wine or cider and smoke a packet of menthol Marlboro lights, swaying in a doorway whilst Last Christmas booms from inside the pub. But I suppose that's not the end of the world as we know it, really.

The pressure's on for my body to heal and for my eyes to stop leaking before the many Christmas parties roll round. But now that I've admitted to myself that it's OK to break down a little every now and then, I feel the process will be easier. Because I'm not an Ill Person, I'm just me, but a little bit festively broken.

I'm on Twitter: @Natalie_KateM