Learning to Work With Your Personality

This past year has been one of enormous growth for me. It has been hugely positive in every way. I have finally embraced the amazing IBD/ostomy community and no longer feel the need to spend every waking moment ashamed of who I am. I needed to get to this point very badly in my life and am so thankful for all of the people who have played a hand in helping me get to where I am today.

I have learned a lot about myself this past year and writing this blog for six months has also really helped me to sort through a lot. One of the things that I have been struggling with but have recently come to look at as just another opportunity for growth and to learn is the fact that I need to adjust my life to work with my current personality.

Let me explain.

My mom has told me the story of my first grade teacher as an example of this a lot. Mrs. McGowan retired a few years after she taught my class following probably a 40 year career. She gave the same assignment every single week. Monday was spelling, Tuesday was reading, Wednesday was math, etc. She was probably teaching like that since she first entered the field. Every day in her class was exactly the same. Parents complained. Kids were going bonkers. When my brother got her as a teacher, my mom immediately knew she wasn’t right for him because Jeremy’s personality is just different. Different strokes for different folks, as they say. But I thrived in that environment.

As I have stated many times, I do well in a structured, routine oriented environment. So being in a classroom where I knew exactly what was expected of me each week, with ample time to prepare and plan, took all of the guessing out of it for me. I knew exactly what to expect when I stepped foot into that classroom every day. There was no mystery and very little unknown.  Therefore, I exceled in this class with this teacher. Jeremy, as I mentioned, would have failed miserably most likely because he would have been bored out of his mind.

I am trying to come to terms with the person that I am today. I know I always had a tendency to seek comfort in these controlled settings but I also know that my illness has magnified everything by a million. This is all part of accepting who I am. It isn’t just about accepting what I have been through or that I have an ileostomy. There is so much more to it. I am trying to come to terms with who I am as a complete person in terms of where I belong, what I need and where I might do well in the world. These are all things that have been really difficult for me because there is just so much to deal with.

I wish I didn’t have to be so regimented. I wish I could let things play out easier and be okay with that. I wish I didn’t need to plan out so many things. I wish I could be more go with the flow.

“I wish, I wish, I wish…”

I have recently come to realize that fighting this part of me and wishing that I could be different in this respect is only hurting me. I am who I am. This is my personality. I am someone who has always found comfort in routine and while yes, IBD has exacerbated my need for control and order to the nth degree, this is who I am and I am not changing this part of me anytime soon.

There is a difference between things about yourself you would like to work on and key personality traits. When a person tries to change or fight a key personality trait of theirs or someone else’s, it is a recipe for disaster. It is like fighting the essence of who you are. Sure you can change for a day or two. Possibly longer but it will take its toll in some shape or form because it isn’t who you really and truly are.

This is something that I think is important for everyone to remember. You can’t change the core of who you are so stop fighting it.

  • valerie Starshak


    There is nothing wrong with liking to be in a structered environment. Many people work and live their lives feeling much more secure and productive when things are this way. Of, course, there will always be surprises along the way, but those are usually out of anyone’s control. I myself like structure. I have a routine that is the same everyday when I get to work. Sometimes I think it has a lot to do with which side of your brain is dominant and it is different for everyone.

    You are right when you say “you are who you are” and that is what makes you you.

    Great Post.

  • Jodi

    structured is obviously who you’ve been since first grade. Your illness didn’t change that in you, it just challenged that in you as everyday was a crapshoot. I completely get wanting structure. It’s just how some of us are wired, myself included. I love who you are and who you have become. You have definitely come a long way in a very unstructured hand you have been given.Some people collapse when faced with such a challenge. You have risen above and are able to acknowledge and accept who you are.

  • http://aguywithcrohns.com A Guy With Crohn’s

    I just want to say from what I have seen, I think you are great and I like the person you are today. You have become an amazing woman. I didn’t know you before you were diagnosed but I have to say the after person is truly one great person.

    I know we all look back and wish we could be that little kid again. I used to always look back and wish I could be different. Once I stopped, looked forward and decided to become whoever I was suppose to be, my life became so much better. I think everyone has to do it in their own time, but eventually we have to just embrace who we currently on and enjoy the ride called life.

    Thank you for being you.

  • Jen

    Hi Marisa,

    I found this a fascinating post, partly because I am so different! I have never been one to embrace routine or regiment, and in fact deliberately chose a life (including career) that facilitated endless and exciting (for me) change, before this hit home.

    But IBD (and a very nasty arthritis – double whammo!) doesn’t really allow that, so I’m learning how to follow a routine (kind of). I’m still not sure exactly how to enjoy it…….. It’s actually the hardest thing for me psychologically.

    I know it sounds like an odd request, but if you could blog your thoughts and feelings that make you feel comfortable and happy when you are doing those routine things, I’d like to try to piggyback on them :) . It’s somethig I’m not naturally good at, so any help would be great.

    For example, I worked in a very, very remote part of Australia for a while, and one of my most amazing moments was watching a sunrise out in the middle of nowhere and realising that I was probably the only person ever to see that – similar examples of how your routine feels might help me to understand how / what to do.

    Today, I saw my husband and 3 yo daughter rock hop at the beach, and it was so special just to be there, even if the arthritis is such that I couldn’t rock hop – but that’s still a non-routine event.

    So if you can break down into simple terms how you get comfort and solace in routine, I would love to hear, as I might be able to adopt some of those behaviours.

    And, really well written and great blog – your efforts are so appreciated!