Thanksgiving is a time of year that can be difficult for many people who suffer from Crohns disease or ulcerative colitis. We are surrounded by family and friends all while being expected to enjoy all the traditional Thanksgiving food. The holidays are hard in and of itself but layering on inflammatory bowel disease can wreck havoc on a person’s psyche.
Aside from the obvious food part of the holiday, there is the fear that many patients have of seeing loved ones for the first time in a while. Inflammatory bowel disease can make a person look and feel differently about their body from day to day. Surgeries, medications that cause weight gain and other unpleasant cosmetic side effects, flare ups, feeling well and overindulging, and getting sick again is a rollercoaster ride that many of us go through. It is hard to look in the mirror when you always seem to be different in some way. But it is even more difficult to field questions and comments about how you look and its relationship to how you feel.
Just because someone gains fifty pounds from being on steroids, doesn’t mean they are feeling well or even better. Same goes for makeup. Crohns disease and ulcerative colitis can make a person be especially sensitive about the way they look. Dealing with comments from family and friends, who usually have the best intentions, is something most of us don’t look forward to. It adds a whole new dimension to an already difficult holiday.
Traveling is another thing that makes people nervous about the holiday coming up on Thursday. Being away from home, not knowing what the bathroom or food situation is going to be like, and having to possibly stay with relatives that aren’t familiar with your medical situation can cause a lot of anxiety.
I definitely feel like a veteran now when it comes to managing my disease and the challenges that surround this holiday. It is pretty much the only holiday my family celebrates so we always either had Thanksgiving at my house or at a family friends where I have always been comfortable. This year it is the latter so I will be heading to NJ (about an hour away from me) this holiday season.
I have had years where I didn’t eat anything. And I have had times when I had the mentality of “I know I’ll pay for this later but… whatever.”
I enjoy being part of the festivities but there really isn’t much I can eat on this holiday. Being a vegetarian takes away the turkey. And since veggies will either cause my ostomy to leak because of my inability to digest it or an obstruction, I stay away from that now as well. Stuffing has always been my ‘go to food’ on Thanksgiving. Lots and lots of stuffing. Then I feel awful and have to deal with the fallout the entire next day.
So I am not sure what I am going to do in terms of eating.
I am very fortunate to have people in my life who understand how difficult this situation is for me. I don’t feel any pressure and because we usually have it buffet style while everyone talks and watches football, it is less noticeable if I decide not to eat anything.
I know many of you reading this don’t have years of dealing with these types of situations under your belt. It makes it more nerve wracking because the odds are that you aren’t fully comfortable with who you are with this disease yet, don’t have as much understanding of how food affects you (we all know trial and error is the way to go) and the people in your life haven’t had the time to really understand what you’re going through or how you process things. They also probably are less inclined to let you be since the absence of understanding and education means food is usually pushed on you. People think feeding you will make you happy or “better” when the opposite is true for many people with Crohns disease or ulcerative colitis.
I absolutely love my friend Christina’s take on this subject and I highly recommend you read her post here She has a different angle and hits the nail right on the head when she says she doesn’t understand how there isn’t more research being done about the relationship between IBD and eating disorders.
And let’s not forget what this holiday is really about… giving thanks for the good people and things you have in your life. The rest doesn’t matter anywhere near as much.