Given my experiences with ulcerative colitis, there are many things I stay away from on television or in books. I believe I have mentioned before how I was a huge greys anatomy and private practice fan up until a year or so ago. I used to look forward to those shows, would watch re-runs all of the time and genuinely got a tremendous amount of enjoyment from those television shows. It wasn’t until I got home from the hospital one day, laid down on the couch to watch my shows with my parents and became really afraid of what I was seeing. I used to be able to turn away from anything that was triggering to me and just enjoy the drama part of the shows.
I vividly remember watching one night, my heart started pounding and when I turned my head, something was different. I could no longer listen to the sounds of the show because so much of it was familiar. I remember covering my eyes and ears with my hands for a few moments and then just bursting into tears. I felt badly since I was the one who got my parents into the show, and it was growing on them, so I didn’t want to make them turn it off just because of me. However, I couldn’t take it being on while I was in the room and that was the last time I ever went to turn that show on. Even months later, my mom would tell me she was looking forward to the new episode coming up and I had to say that it was no longer something I could watch. Had it been anyone else, I would have felt guilty and terrible for restricting my family but thankfully, they understood.
Same was true for Desperate Housewives, oddly enough. That was another show I looked forward to every week and even took out DVDs of the series from the library so I could watch it over and over when I was sick. I was four episodes away from the series finale when one of the characters died very unexpectedly and tragically. That was it for me. When I went to turn on the next episode and saw the emotional fallout from that fictional characters death, I couldn’t take it. My mind wandered and I became nervous about unpredictable things like that happening in my life. I started identifying with it and as soon as I can feel the characters emotions, I have to turn it off.
My dad told me that I needed to learn to desensitize myself to certain things and while I understand that I do need to live in reality, I also don’t need to do anything that I believe is negative to my emotional well being. If I am unsure about something, I will always try it if it makes sense; But to voluntarily watch something or be in a situation that could take me back to a terrible experience in my life, or cause me to be triggered unnecessarily is nothing I (or anyone else) need to be doing.
Ulcerative colitis and Crohns disease patients go through a tremendous amount. Obviously there are varying degrees of these diseases but many people experience multiple hospitalizations, surgeries, and a loss of control. The unpredictability that comes with this disease is enough to completely alter your life and everything you knew about the world.
So, given all we have been through, why do we HAVE to subject ourselves to things that are upsetting to us? I’ve refused to see a movie or read a book because based on the plotline, something in it wasn’t sitting well with me. And you know what, that is okay to do. It is okay to protect yourself…not just physically but emotionally as well.
I am a firm believer that our psyche evolves naturally. I avoided New York City like the plague and a few months ago, I was able to go in by myself. I still make sure I am nowhere near Mt. Sinai Hospital, don’t go the route I normally would take to the hospital but I am able to be there and not be anxious about it for the first time in years. That wouldn’t have happened if I was forced to go into the city every day or even a couple days a month. I wouldn’t have felt comfortable being there if it was something I was told I had to do because I always need to do things on my time frame. I know myself very well and I know what I can and cannot handle. I also understand that there are some things I do need to be able to deal with and factor that in too.
There is no shame in needing to avoid certain things because they are too emotionally overwhelming for you. I know a lot of people view it was weakness and while I used to also, I realize that there is a time to push yourself and a time to listen to yourself.