I’ve lived with Crohn’s disease, a chronic inflammatory bowel disease, for over 10 years now, and I’m still learning how to cope with it, connect with others in the community, and try new methods of treatment. But being in a relationship while…
I’ve lived with Crohn’s disease, a chronic inflammatory bowel disease, for over 10 years now, and I’m still learning how to cope with it, connect with others in the community, and try new methods of treatment. But being in a relationship while chronically ill has been both a challenging and rewarding journey.
The challenges? Well, when I first started dating my now-husband Ryan when I was 25, he told me, “I love that you eat everything.” He loved that we could enjoy a steak or cheese and charcuterie board together, and that we could indulge in fluffy breads, pastas, and rich desserts. He meant that because I wasn’t picky (perhaps like some of his exes were), our at-home dinner dates were lush and enjoyable.
At this time, Crohn’s disease wasn’t at the forefront of my mind. When I was diagnosed at 17, my doctor said I had it “mildly.” I had some ulcerations and some symptoms (nausea, upset stomach, abdominal pain), but I figured that wasn’t much to worry about. I stopped taking Pentasa, the steroid I was prescribed, and told my family that I “felt better,” even though I was still experiencing some symptoms. Because the word “mild” sounded like “not a big deal” to me, I pretty much ignored my diagnosis for the next decade.
But as time went on, and my symptoms reared their ugly heads, I had to tell Ryan what was happening. A few months after we started dating, we were walking through my neighborhood, scoping out the pretty houses we imagined we could afford at the time. Nervously, I blurted it out: “I have Crohn’s disease,” I said. I rambled on about how I had downplayed the severity of my diagnosis partially because I didn’t believe I had it that bad myself, and partially because I wanted Ryan to still view me as “normal” — not someone “damaged” who needed special treatment. He just listened.