As over 6 million people travel to be with loved ones this week according to the news this morning; I started thinking about the difficulties of celebrating Thanksgiving with Crohn’s Disease – a disease that by definition makes it hard or impossible to eat at time because Crohn’s Disease causes inflammation and pain potentially anywhere and everywhere in the digestive tract (esophagus, stomach, small intestine, large intestine/colon).
I am a survivor of multiple surgeries thanks to Crohn’s Disease and I give thanks to God and to my family that I am still here and alive to celebrate this week.
Here are some general guidelines to help me through Thanksgiving with Crohn’s Disease
Be thankful you are not in the hospital or having a surgery
Be thankful that you are surrounded by family that loves you
Eat Thanksgiving food according to how I feel, if I cannot eat at the dinner table, then enjoy the company of those around me, and do not eat or have an Ensure.
Rest activity with balance. If I need to go take a nap and rest more than others – there is good reason, I am sick with Crohn’s Disease and take a chemotherapy drug for Crohn’s and a biological infusion and this combines to feeling bad, being in pain, being exhausted, and being disabled
Thanksgiving meal is just another meal – The people, saying thanks, and the celebration is what matters
I am learning to listen to my body. Stress is something all human beings and other animals experience, it turns out it is a physical response also known as the stress response or fight or flight. Basically, our bodies go into survival mode and that leads to a worsening of pain and even your emotional state. When I find I am stressed and restless I actually go turn on music I enjoy, close my eyes and get into bed to rest. After listening to music for a bit I find myself feeling more positive and often I fall asleep. Studies have shown that self-selected music (music you enjoy) and classical music fight the stress response. It really does work! So I am working on bringing music back into my life! There is something about listening to an old fashioned album or CD that I find relaxing versus the radio (no commercials). I am not into the new tech of digital or online music because I find I enjoy listening to an album the way the musician wrote – to each their own!
2) Positive thinking fights stress:
In light of successfully making it out of the hospital once again I told myself “good job Isaac”. In fact I do tend to review my experiences and try to find a meaning and growth point from going through suffering. Being that I am still recovering and unsure what the future holds with Crohn’s my best response is to keep my review to a minimum and to try to live mostly in the present moment. So instead of reviewing all the what scenarios (what happened and what will happen) here in my blog post I will discuss how I am currently managing my stress with positive thinking.
I have found that it is helpful to not allow myself to invest much energy into the pity party. “Oh, why me”, “I can’t handle this”, or “this isn’t fair”, or my favorite go to “I wish I never had Crohn’s Disease”. These thoughts are natural but not helpful.
Instead I tell myself “glad that is over”, “good job”, “I will be okay”, and “now that is another type of pain I can handle” – this builds confidence in my ability to handle my chronic illness. This change in thoughts to being more positive is well researched and call “cognitive reframing”. Essentially, I think of our thought process as an investment. Am I going to invest my limited resources in negativity, pain, and anger; or will I choose to invest in positive affirmation and giving myself credit for making it through another hospital stay. I have tried both investments of course and still do and I imagine you can guess which one actually helps! Try and be positive and be kind to yourself and say “good job”, that is what I strive to do 🙂 – Isaac Levinsky
Yesterday I reached out to old friends and also family letting them know I was starting my blog. Many people I have not seen in years and it has been absolutely inspiring with the positive response I have received. I want to thank each and everyone of you for agreeing to either be my Facebook friend, or to follow my page on WordPress and especially I appreciate it if you took the time to read a blog entry.
For so many years – since one year from graduating from High School I have been afraid and scared to share about my Crohn’s Disease as though it were a weakness and defect – that is what the fear told me. I was afraid I would be judged, I was afraid I would have less opportunities, and I was afraid for anyone to know something so personal – that I suffer daily with pain and fatigue.
Well it turns out that the world is full of good people who care about others. In fact, my fear became a self-fulfilling prophecy to suffer alone, to have the illness isolate me from the world. Well no longer! I see now that by sharing about what it is like to have Crohn’s Disease I will be able to connect to others and to actually be back in the world I have been fearful of entering.
So thank you all and this proves that the world truly is filled with caring and support and not simply hate or judgment.
Thanks for joining me! I look forward to all who take this journey with me and learn more about Crohn’s Disease, chronic illness, hope and inspiration, and my story!
Good company in a journey makes the way seem shorter. — Izaak Walton
My thought for today: Crohn’s Disease is not very well known. When I have told people I have a chronic illness that means something. Almost everyone has someone close to them who has suffered the difficulties and suffering associated with a chronic illness.
Typically people think well he must have diabetes or back pain or maybe arthritis. When I follow-up with saying, “I have Crohn’s Disease” that often does not mean anything because the general public often does not have any idea what the symptoms of the disease are and what it is like to live with them. Generally, I explain Crohn’s Disease like this: I have an auto-immune disorder, where my body’s own immune system is attacking myself, in my case my digestive system. This leads to pain, inflammation, surgeries in my case, the need for powerful and dangerous medications, and generally I feel like I have a bad case of the flu everyday in terms of symptoms.
When people want to know more about Crohn’s Disease or how I feel, they will ask or body language will indicate genuine care and concern. It is not up to every person who has a chronic condition to explain it to everyone they meet. Save your explanation when you feel like doing it. So when asked about it I will try and understand is this person interested or not? If a person is interested I find this to be a great opportunity to provide education and personal insight into my health condition and usually this leads to a conversation about a health problem that the other person or family member is going through!
It turns out that the human condition often leads to suffering of some kind and therefore; I have found support and reduced the isolation that chronic illness causes by starting to share my story. It has not been easy for me as I tend to be stoic and keep my health problems to myself, but I find there is a great benefit to others and myself in sharing when appropriate!
I look forward to all who take this journey with me and learn more about Crohn’s Disease, chronic illness, hope and inspiration, and my story!
I made this website because I have Crohn’s Disease and I want to help others with Crohn’s Disease or Colitis. My Crohn’s Disease started when I was 19 years old and has persisted in a moderate to severe classification meaning I am sick every day. I chose this photo of the ocean and the coastline because in life with Crohn’s there is always waves crashing on your shore. Be it a new medication, are up, pain, fatigue, or worse.
There are also calm moments when hopefully you can have a break from the illness and just be YOU. Do not overdo when you feel good, balance activities with rest is what I have learned!
I also have my doctorate in Clinical Psychology with over 10 years in healthcare experience working with individuals with chronic illnesses. My goal is to write about my journey with Crohn’s Disease in a book based on my own illness experiences and also what I have learned both personally and professionally.
As you follow these blog posts you will see that this site is a work in progress. The plan is to have more content added to improve the site give readers an understanding they are not alone.
I am currently in a flare up of symptoms meaning that I am having increased pain, illness, fatigue, inflammation due to Crohns Disease.
My thoughts, you have not suffered or been in pain for no reason, your life has a purpose, you will overcome, and be nice to yourself because remember….having any disease is not your fault!
Do you feel tired? Are you in pain? When you have Crohn’s Disease like I do these two symptoms are difficult to manage and ever present. Today was worse than other days, I felt so tired it was difficult to do anything today.
It turns out that Crohn’s Disease and Colitis cause unearned and unpredictable fatigue.
What this means is that you can be tired for no reason at all, completely unrelated to your amount of sleep or level of physical exercise you have engaged
in. Second, the fatigue is impossible to predict when it will knock you down.
I view the best friend of fatigue to be pain as it turns out they are very closely related. As one worsens so does the other.
I am currently working on a self-help book called: Help for Fatigue and Pain: A program designed to treat Chronic Ilness related pain, fatigue, and depression.
There are moments when I hurt so much in my abdomen and sitting down due to inflammation that it is hard to focus onanything at all but the physical pain. This can be an isolating condition. I imagine whomever built that castle/estate in the photo above decided they wanted to be isolated on all sides! Well it turns out that isolation or resting does not improve pain. In fact today when I felt the least amount of pain was when I was the busiest.
If you experience chronic pain and fatigue I want you to try something out for one week. Simply write down from 1-10 with 10 being the worst and one being the least, how much pain and how much fatigue you had each day. Then I want
you to write down what you were doing when you felt your best and worst!
My final thought for the evening: Being in pain from Crohn’s or Colits builds character. Next time your mind tells you can not accomplish a goal such as making a meal or going to a store or work, remember: “I have been in this situation before and I am still here, I am okay, and I can handle it.” So go about your business and remind yourself you
can keep on going.