Depression, anger, and denial: The emotional toll of my diagnosis
By Jana Rosenberger, Guest Contributor
When I first heard the words “You have Crohn’s disease,” some questions popped into my head: “What is this going to mean for my life? Will treatment work? What changes do I need to make?”
Now I see that all of these questions were about logistics. I was so swamped with the medical management — appointments, prescriptions, blood work, diagnostic testing, phone calls to my insurance company — it never occurred to me that I might face emotional challenges, too.
Navigating the grieving process
I tried to focus my energy on the clinical needs before me. But, soon enough, my brain and my body started fighting about what I needed to do and what I actually wanted to do with my time. I remember thinking repeatedly, “This isn’t the life I want to live. I didn’t ask for this. I don’t want it!”
I didn’t know it at first, but I was grieving the loss of my healthy life. I went through all the classic stages of the grieving process: denial, depression, anger, and eventually made my way to acceptance.
“I’ve learned that there’s a strong connection between my brain and my gut, and my feelings can fluctuate based on what’s going on in my body.”
In the beginning, I tried denying that I had IBD. I didn’t want to tell anyone because I felt like if I didn’t talk about it, that meant it wasn’t real.
Then I had a flare and had no choice but to face the facts. I was in constant pain, felt like I was practically living in the bathroom, and my body ached down to my bones. There were times I wanted to give up, and other times when I’d become angry.
For a generally positive, happy-go-lucky person, these feelings were foreign to me. I wasn’t used to carrying around so much emotional baggage and I didn’t like it. It wasn’t me. I knew I needed to take my life back from these issues.
Regaining control from my Crohn’s disease
In hopes of regaining control, I devoted my free time to researching Crohn’s disease. I’m not going to lie: It was sobering to learn about all the possible paths this disease could take.
However, in order to cope, I needed to know. I realized this was helping me build my mental fortitude, which put me on the path to accepting my new life.
I’m currently four years post-diagnosis. And while navigating life with Crohn’s disease is an ongoing process, I’ve developed new strategies for managing my emotional health.
I’ve also learned that there’s a strong connection between my brain and my gut, and my feelings can fluctuate based on what’s going on in my body. If I’m experiencing a lot of symptoms, I also experience a lot of emotions. I’m fine one minute, disappointed the next, relieved when the symptoms let up, then angry when they come back. For me, cycling through those emotions is part of my healing process and a normal human response to living with a chronic illness. So I try to be understanding and kind to myself and not let my emotions get the best of me, which helps me feel better both mentally and physically. And most importantly, it helps me feel like I’m back to being me.
You don’t have to manage alone
If you’re navigating the emotional toll of living with a chronic GI disease, you don’t have to manage alone. With Oshi Health, you have access to a dedicated team of GI providers—including Gastroenterologists, GI Behavioral Health Providers, GI Health Coaches, and more—who provide holistic GI care so you can take back your life from GI symptoms.