Monday, March 9, 2009

Crohn's Tips - Part 5: The Spiritual Side of Crohn's

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

I'm betting there are a number of readers who are either wondering what this section will say, or doubting that it will be relevant to them. Especially those who are not religious such as Atheists might think they can skip this section completely. Instead, I ask you to give this a read, because religion and faith are only a small part of what this section will discuss. The spiritual side of your life also includes an examination of your values, your morals, and your overall philosophy of what's important and meaningful to you and what you want for yourself, your family and your future.

What does this have to do with Crohn's Disease specifically? Being diagnosed with a chronic illness can throw our outlook and priorities for a loop. We might feel like what used to be important no longer is, or the looming threat of a flare up or complication might be giving us a sense of urgency regarding finding a direction for our lives and living it to the fullest. Some of us might even be feeling scared and lost, no longer knowing what to hold on to or where our lives are headed. A chronic illness is a reminder of our mortality which can be a frightening, or an enlightening messenger. Here are some tips and things to consider.
  • Know what's important. Examine your life and yourself and figure out what is most important to you. What do you value and what do you enjoy? What gives your life meaning? Make sure you are living a life that is in line with these things. Whether you are a businesswoman who wants to start a family, or an accountant who'd rather work with his hands there are many people who's lives are not in line with their values and this can cause stress, depression, and anxiety. If you are coping with Crohn's Disease, wouldn't it be better to do so within a life that brings you happiness?
  • Understand Crohn's Disease's role in your life. You have Crohn's Disease, nothing can change that. However, the role that it has in your life is totally up to you. It can be a tragedy that brings you down, or a challenge that you face and overcome. You can be a victim or a survivor. You can merely cope, or you can shine. While the varying degree to which your particular case affects your life via pain, complications, surgeries and more is something you have very little control over, your own reactions and outlook regarding your situation is 100% up to you. It's not easy, but maintaining a positive frame of mind, focusing on your blessings, and living the best life you can are things you can find deep within yourself.
  • Don't neglect your faith. Whether or not you attend church or practise at home, whether you believe in God or are unsure what's "out there", if religious faith is a part of your life it can be an enormous source of strength for you and your family. Now is the time to turn to a faith-community for support and guidance. Even if you don't believe in these things at all, the faith and beliefs of a friend or family member can be a source of comfort and encouragement. Even just learning about another faith can help you determine what you personally believe.
  • Create a positive environment. Make sure that the people and environment you are surrounding yourself with is one that is positive and helpful. We have all experienced the toxic attitudes of miserable people, or a crushing work or home environment. Learn to say no to people who are a physical or emotional drain on you and don't feel guilty for refusing to visit places or situations that make you uncomfortable or upset. These things can physically and emotionally aggravate an already sensitive Crohn's flare up.
  • Observe yourself. When we are suffering intense pain and fear it can easily be reflected in our own behaviour and interactions with others. Keep an eye on yourself and make sure you aren't taking out your troubles on those around you. Asking for help and turning to friends and family for a shoulder to cry on or an ear to vent to is not the same as being critical or snippy to those around us. Acting with compassion and kindness can also relieve your own tension and can show appreciation to helpful loved ones. Even the nurses in the hospital will appreciate a kind word and sincere thanks.
  • Get Involved. Volunteering and charity work can be rewarding by itself. Add to that, the fact that you now have at least one cause that affects you directly. The CCFC and CCFA are frequently organizing bike-a-thons, walk-a-thons, pasta dinners, fundraising drives and other activities to raise money for Crohn's and Colitis research. I personally find it kind of fun to donate in the name of trying to help cure myself! In addition there are many other organizations that could use the help, and getting involved will help keep your mind off of your chronic illness concerns, and help you feel less powerless.

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  1. BrightSide,

    Wonderful post; thank you. It's nice not to always focus on the clinical side of a disease. Just reading this post was peaceful.

    I'm participating in the CCFA walk in Philadelphia this May, and I find fundraising for the cure cathartic and empowering.


  2. Hello Brightside!
    Hey, look who I find here, my own daughter! I watched Oprah today, and her guest was Montel Williams--who has multiple sclerosis--and Dr. Oz. Montel wrote a book about his own illness (forgot the title) with the hope of helping people live with the diagnosis of their own chronic, debilitating disease. He explains how he is coping, and many of his insights are similar to yours. Evidently, with MS, you have considerable, constant nerve pain, and he writes about how he handles that, and the thought that there is no cure--no surgery to make everything better. It was a poignant program. Hope you're having a good day today, Brightside, and a happy St. Patrick's Day to 'ya. Kathryn's mom

  3. Okay, here's the link re. my previous comment. I hope this works.

    Kathryn's mom.

  4. Thanks for the info about Dr. Montel. That looks like a touching story. I know someone with MS, it's scary.

    Thanks for visiting!