It is coming up on the year mark on when I started to embrace that I have Crohn’s Disease and with it comes depression. Depression is a big part of the disease and not something that is regularly talked about. I never had a doctor tell me that this would be one of the side effects of Crohn’s. It was something I have had to find out for myself and learn to deal with on my own.
Everyone diagnosed with either Crohn’s Disease or Colitis will go through some sort of depression at least once in their life time. Anyone with the disease will probably back me up on this and can easily recall their first time experiencing it. For most of us, it is when the doctor comes into the room and informs us of his diagnosis. If anyone is like me, our first reaction is …”What? What the H*LL is Crohn’s Disease (or Ulcerative Colitis)”. After we are given the breakdown of what it is and find out it is incurable, that is when that sad feeling usually will hit. Then we are told how we will be on meds all our lives and if it goes like when I got diagnosed, you will be told that you will have at least one surgery within our lifetime due to the disease. That rumbling cloud that was closing in, is now over your head and pouring. Depression will now sink in.
Now I am not saying that you will experience a curl up into a ball, never talk to anyone again, I just want to die depression. It could just be a “Why me?” experience that last a couple of minutes. But, it is there and truthfully, it will never really go away.
I was never one to open up to anyone with my feelings. I have always kept them inside and dealt with things as they came. As a kid with CD, I went to a shrink per my doctors orders and I still couldn’t open up. I felt, no one feels the way I do, so why bitch about it. Certainly a shrink won’t understand what I am going through..so no way will I open up to him. I was 15 at the time and didn’t know better.
When I was in college, my first real bout of depression set in. I went to school in Upstate New York in the Adirondack mountains. I remember sitting in my suite, looking out the window at the snow capped mountains in the distance. It was such a beautiful sight and I felt so alone. I felt like there was this gloom hanging over me. Here I was in the prime of my life, having fun and I felt so depressed. Eventually it would pass and I didn’t dwell on it. I did take notice on how I felt and vowed that if it came on again I would get help. Of course I would ignore myself.
Over the years, depression would come and go. Last year I would experience not one but two bouts of it and it would change my life. A day after my birthday in May 2011, my father in law, who had Colitis passed away. He had been having problems (from what I was told) brought on from his ostomy bag. I would learn later on after his death that it was from his internal pouch that caused his problems. My father in law was a strong person and never let his condition get to him. I saw him battle with IBD for years and it gave me some sort of inner strength. We never discussed IBD which I now regret.
His death hit me hard, but I had to be strong for my wife and mother in law. I couldn’t let myself break down so I never really got to grieve. For the rest of the year I would think about him and my own struggle with CD. Then in December I got sick. I was taking antibiotics and Metformin (for my blood sugar). I was in bad shape from the two. By January I was getting worse. I would be going to the bathroom 30 times a day and in pain. Depression again sank in. I was at the point that I didn’t know what to do. Med were not helping me at all. No one knew what to do. I was convinced my guts had finally gave up and that they were going to have to come out. My father in law kept coming to my mind and his struggle and I fell so deep into depression. I am 38 and have my whole life still ahead of me. I didn’t want to end it with more problems.
Finally, a switch clicked in my head. It finally hit me that I have CD. For 23 years I never really accepted it or dealt with it. I didn’t even know what a truly had. So I went onto the internet. I did a lot of research. I looked at pictures of what an ostomy bag was (first time I ever did that). In my research, I stumbled upon some great strong women on Youtube that gave me strength. I found a number of social websites where I found I wasn’t alone. I finally realized just what my purpose is and what I had to do. I was going to advocate and educate. I wanted to help the millions of people out there with IBD.
So, here it is May 2012. The one year anniversary of my father in laws death in upon me. And this time, I won’t get a deep depression. I will get strength from it. I know he would be proud of me for what I am doing.
I now know that depression is normal with IBD. We all feel it. The trick to it, is to not let it run our lives. We must acknowledge it and get strength from it. Sometimes, we need to seek some professional help and that is ok. I now know that. Sometimes, we need to take meds for the depression, and again that is ok. It just means you are aware that you have it, and you can grow from it.
Do let depression run your life. If you get it, acknowledge it and seek out help. It can be professional help. It can be the help from a friend. It can be from online…but get help. It is normal to feel it. Just remember you are not alone.