Do IBD and PTSD overlap? The answer is no; usually they don’t. However, since post traumatic stress disorder can affect anyone who has either experienced or witnessed a life altering event, it is possible for someone with some type of inflammatory bowel disorder (such as crohns disease and ulcerative colitis) to develop this type of mental illness. PTSD is usually referred to as a something soldiers and veterans experience when they are in combat. That is why post traumatic stress disorder is usually thought of as a disease that only affects those of us who have been in war. But what about those people who have gone through their own war and their own trauma? What happens to them? How does going through traumatic events affect a person’s psyche? There is no right or wrong answer to these questions. The answers really are that it depends on the person. I hate that most things like the severity of a disease or how a medication affects you is based on the individual. I wish there was one set of rules and circumstances that applies to everyone. It would be so much easier to know for a definite fact that a certain medication will be beneficial. It would be a whole lot more comforting to know that a surgery affects someone by causing x,y,and z. However, since most things do depend on the person and the circumstances, everyone’s brains and bodies respond to trauma differently.

I had an unusually severe case of ulcerative colitis. I have heard a few comparable stories but I have never heard of anyone having IBD worse than I do/did. My whole situation was extremely complicated. I was diagnosed with UC initially, then it went to indeterminate colitis, then back to UC, then I developed massive amounts of fistulas which are indicative of crohns disease. For over 12 years, I have just been all over the map with issues and complications after every single surgery or procedure, in and out of the hospital..ugh. I can’t keep going with this anymore and I think you all get the gist. Because I have unfortunately had so many traumatic experiences, I am one of the few who did develop PTSD from IBD. I don’t know many others who have, or maybe they did develop it but weren’t properly diagnosed. I am not sure and for the purposes of this post, it doesn’t really matter.

My experience with PTSD has led me to feel things I never thought I would. I think one of the reasons I don’t sleep well is because I am afraid. Most nights when I do fall asleep, I am plagued by such painful memories. The majority of my nightmares take place somewhere in the hospital…usually the recovery room since that was always one of the worst parts of this whole experience for me. When I wake up from having an awful dream, it is extremely difficult (and sometimes impossible) to bring myself out of it. I try so hard to snap myself out of it and realize that whatever I was dreaming about was in the past and already happened but even knowing that, it is still so difficult and leaves me feeling extremely anxious and upset.

I have many things that trigger me and take me back into some of the worst scenarios of my life. New York City is a major trigger for me since that was where I was treated. I was always a huge greys anatomy and private practice fan but I had to stop watching any hospital or medical shows. I was over identifying with it. When I hear a story on the news about the difficult things veterans have to face when they come home from Iraq or Afghanistan, it makes me cry. I have cried for hours after hearing discussions about veterans and how difficult it is for them overseas and when they come home. I could give you numerous examples of things that trigger me and bring my mind back to those dark, dark days and places but I am going to stop here for now.

Even though IBD and PTSD don’t really overlap in the traditional sense, they often have a lot to do with each other. When a person has IBD that is pretty severe, they have to go through a hell of a lot to keep their symptoms at bay. Many need surgery. Sometimes and often, it is numerous surgeries. When a person’s body is constantly being cut open, you end up feeling like you have been butchered and violated. When a person has to spend so many nights in the hospital with their dignity and control stripped of them, it causes a tremendous amount of trauma. Crohns disease and ulcerative colitis are traumatic illnesses. Truly, truly devastatingly traumatic diseases. There is no shame in needing and asking for help. I have suffered for a long time and still do. Many of my friends have also suffered a tremendous amount and have to keep fighting each day to make it through. There is help available and I think it is so important for everyone to realize that.

When I hit my breaking point in September of 2011, I didn’t know what my options were. I just knew I needed help and once I admitted that, help was what I got. I am far from perfect. I am ways away from where I hope to be in life. I have come so far, yet know I still have a lot more progress to make. However, I want all of you to understand that trauma is real. Trauma hurts. Trauma shakes you to your very core and eats away at your soul. Trauma, post traumatic stress disorder and severe inflammatory bowel disorder are life altering. If you can’t do it alone (and most can’t), please reach out to a family member, a close friend, a health care professional. And if you can’t do any of those things and feel as though you have reached rock bottom, call 911. I did last year but more on that another time.

Just know, whatever you may be experiencing, you are not alone!

  • Jodi

    you continue to touch us all. I Know you are helping so many by sharing your story and experiences.If you ever stop and think why me?, that is why…you are a very strong voice and are doing great work.not just for yourself, but others…I am so proud of you.

  • http://risaroo86.wordpress.com rissy26

    Reblogged this on Keeping Things Inside is Bad for My Health and commented:

    Reblog from 10/26/12…Crohns disease and ulcerative colitis are TRAUMATIC illnesses!! The things that patients go through would shock people who are unfamiliar with IBD. Post traumatic stress disorder is real, trauma is real, and IBD is real. This topic came up in a chat last week so I wanted to reblog this post.

  • Sue

    Wonderfully done! PTSD is misunderstood and so is living with a chronic illness. We are also at risk of depression and anxiety. Get help we are worth it!

    • http://risaroo86.wordpress.com Marisa Lauren

      Couldn’t agree more! This disease does so much to us but we are strong :)

  • Katie

    Thank you so much for sharing your story. My ulcerative colitis isn’t nearly as bad as what you decribed, but I did go through a very traumatic experince when first getting diagnosed. The pain, fear, and humility are indescribable to those without IBD. Now when I have strong cramping or severe abdominal pain I tear up, not from the pain, but from the instant flash back to lying on the floor in the fetal position. I literaly thought I was going to die. I did not have health insurance when I first got sick so it took months of suffering before I was diagnosed and many more months before the disease was under control. My primary doctor first mentioned ptsd when I showed up in her office for abdominal pain and vomiting a few years after getting diagnosed. I cried when talking about being sick and I couldn’t understand why I was crying. She was the one who put it out there that even though that was unrelated to Ulcerative colitis, some of the pain and fear of the unknown triggered my anxiety and possibly ptsd. She was spot on. Now that I am aware of the correlation and trigger of UC, pain, and PTSD I can better cope with my illnesses.

    • http://risaroo86.wordpress.com Marisa Lauren

      Thinking of you Katie!! There’s no comparison with any of us. I’m glad you’re starting to recognize the connection between the two. It’s truly amazing how much IBD affects you in every single way humanly possible. :/ hope you’re able to get help too. Pls reach out if you need!

  • http://margaretfelice.com/blog margaretfelice

    Wise words. I just had an experience this weekend of being hit hard with some traumatic memories from this summer’s awful flare. Your words resonate!

    • http://risaroo86.wordpress.com Marisa Lauren

      So sorry you had a bad experience recently. It’s so hard with this disease cause there are so many things that can drudge things up. Thank you for commenting and letting me know I’m not alone either :) xoxo

  • Pingback: IBD and Chronic Pain()