Monday, October 20, 2008

Crohn's Tips - Part 1: Introduction

»Crohn's Tips Part 1: Introduction
Part 2: Physical
Part 3: Intellectual
Part 4: Emotional
Part 5: Spiritual
Appendix: Crohn's Tips: Food

I've been living with Crohn's for many years, but only recently received an official diagnosis. When that happened, the first thing I did was try and hunt down some books which would provide helpful advice for dealing with Crohn's disease. So far I've found several books with medical information including treatments, as well as a few recipe books. But I haven't found much information on dealing with the day-to-day living with Crohn's that so many of us are facing. So, I thought I would share some of the things I've learned so far, here on my blog.

Knowing Yourself

It seems to me, that the first step to helping yourself, is to know yourself. Really know. That means recognizing your positive attributes and your negative ones. It means seeing how you live your life- what's important to you, and what is maybe being neglected. From what I've seen in myself and other people, including what I've read... there tends to be 4 main categories under which our various activities can be grouped. These are the often mentioned: physical, intellectual, emotional and spiritual. I've noticed that each person gives more or less attention and focus to certian groups over others. The great thing is that this is what makes us all unique- none of these groups are better than the others.

For example, my brother is definitely physically focused. He's a personal trainer and the condition of his body is very important to him. He enjoys exercise, is very careful about what he puts in his body and he always dresses very well. He loves to learn about nutrition, fitness and health. He's very knowledgeable about these topics and his career as a personal trainer is perfect for him. This area is what makes him happy.

On the other hand, I definitely put my intellectual side first. I read a lot and love to learn. I'm drawn toward activities that are interesting or informative. I tend to fill my spare time with activities that are mentally stimulating or interesting: like reading, and various projects. My most neglected side is physical. While I'm thin... I consider myself to be a bit out of shape - no endurance at all. Every time I try to start a new workout plan, I lose interest.

I imagine people live their lives with their various focuses in a sort of diamond shape. At the top is your primary focus, at the bottom is the least one and the two others are somewhat even around the middle. Or maybe one is higher than the other. Mine looks kind of like this:

This diagram also gives some points that fall under each category to give you more of an idea of how I imagine the categories are split up. Your diamond might be a totally different shape- you might have two primary focuses. It doesn't even have to look like a diamond.

The point of all this... if you're still with me... is to make sure that you are giving all four areas of your life some attention. For example, I almost always neglect my physical side, and my emotional side sometimes gets short changed. For example when I get so caught up in my own projects and busyness that I haven't seen my friends in a while. What I'm trying to say is that while various areas of your life may be more important to you, and may receive most of your attention... you must take care of all these aspects of yourself to be happy and healthy. Crohn's disease, or any chronic illness can affect all these areas of our lives, and we can sometimes become so focused on our disease, that the areas of our lives that were already at the bottom of the totem pole are neglected even more.

While my recent battles with Crohn's have brought me closer to my friends and loved ones, giving my emotional side a new increase in attention, my physical side is still left out in the cold. Which is why I'm starting a very light new work out routine consisting mainly of stretches and very light exercise just to get me moving again. I'm also planning on checking in with my family doctor to get some blood work to check my nutrient levels, and to also see a dietitian soon.

At the same time, I've been very focused on my slowly healing surgical wound, and my various Prednisone induced side effects... so physical problems have really been occupying my mind. With a chronic illness, we need to be very careful to find a balance between taking care of ourselves physically, and not becoming overly obsessed or depressed about our physical troubles or difficulties. When you're in pain or running to the washroom a dozen times a day, it can be frighteningly hard to think about anything else- but the key is to do it in small steps.

My future posts in this series will contain some tips grouped under each of the 4 categories I've discussed. Thanks for reading, and in the meantime... take a moment to think about the areas of your life diamond- write it down. What's important to you? What gets neglected? What do you enjoy and what do you avoid? Where do you know you want to improve? The answers to these questions are different for each person. My next posts will have tips related to Crohn's in each category, to help you manage this disease- so that you can get past having your life on pause due to Crohn's and you can instead give at least some of your attention to the rest of your life- and finding the right balance.

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  1. Great blog! I wanted to let you know about a contest I'm running over on my blog to raise funds for the Crohn's and Colitis Foundation:

    I'm running a half-marathon for the CCFA, and this is part of my fundraising efforts. Here's my fundraising page:

    I'd love it if you'd stop by and check those out.

  2. Good post! I just found your blog, and while I don't have Chrons I do have a couple of chronic illnesses and I know I neglect some of the areas of my life sometimes.