How To Combat The "Why Me's"

If you have a chronic illness or suffer from chronic pain, you have no doubt asked yourself “why me?” at least once…or more likely, a hundred times. I know I have. This question usually comes when you are not feeling well, when things aren’t going as you planned, or when you are in pain. It is something that is hard to move past. It can be frustrating and all-consuming at times. It can be depressing and can provoke anxiety. Here are a few tips that I hope will help.

1. Learn to accept that you may never get an answer. For the majority of us, there is no answer to “why me?”. Unfortunately sometimes things just happen. Acceptance doesn’t necessarily mean “it’s okay”. I’m not asking you to say that it is okay that you have an illness or pain. When I talk about acceptance, I mean being able to make necessary adjustments in your life, learning your new normal, and learning that despite your chronic illness or pain you can still be happy. Learning to accept that you may never get an answer to why this happened to you will be a process. It is not something that will happen overnight. You may want to resist it and that’s alright. It is not fair that this happened to you but with some hard work, dedication and a little reorganization of priorities, it is possible to be happy and to accept not having an answer to “why me?”

2. Find meaning. Ask yourself what good could come out of your situation. I guarantee that if you are open to that question, if you take the time to think about it, and if you are honest with yourself, you will likely come up with at least one positive thing that has come out of all the bad. For me, the meaning in my situation is that I am able to counsel others with chronic illness and chronic pain. It is what I love to do and I have been able to take my own experiences and knowledge and help others. For you it doesn’t have to be something as big as a career decision. It may be something as simple as the fact that you now have more compassion for others, you don’t judge people as quickly as you used to, or that your illness or pain has taught you to appreciate the small things in life.

3. Find a passion for something. Try to focus your attention on something other than “why me?”. Find a hobby or a passion that will make you happy and take your mind off of “why me?”. It is okay if the question comes into your mind once in a while. When it is constant or interrupts your quality of life, your focus, or your happiness, that is a problem. Finding something that brings you joy will help you to cope.

4. Find support. You are not alone. As I stated above, the majority of us with a chronic illness or chronic pain have asked ourselves “why me?”. If you find that you are having difficulty with this question, find support, either with friends, family, a support group, or a therapist. Talking about what you are thinking and feeling can help greatly.

My Invisible Illness is Real

Most people who have an invisible illness (a chronic medical condition that shows no outward signs) have experienced these words at one point and time: "But you don't look sick." These words can be extremely frustrating. I often ask my clients, "What is the most difficult thing for you about having (Crohn's Disease, ulcerative colitis, IBS…)?" I can't tell you how many times I have heard the answers "It's hard to talk to people about what I'm going through because they tell me I don't look sick", or "My family doesn't always believe how bad I feel because I don't look sick", or "I've been told it's all in my head". I could go on. This is one of the difficulties those of us with chronic illnesses need to learn to overcome. The idea that people don't believe us because they cannot see our illness like they can see someone in a wheelchair or a like they can hear a chronic cough can feel isolating and depressing. Sometimes it can make us feel like maybe it really is in our heads. Maybe we aren't really as sick as we think. Instead of giving in to this, we need to fight back! Understand that these people aren't saying these things to be insensitive. They just don't get it. So educate them! Explaining to them what you are going through and why you don't look sick will not only educate them on something they are unfamiliar with, it can be empowering for you too. Also, trust yourself. You know how you feel. You know your illness. You know that it is not in your head. It is real.

Irritable Bowel Syndrome and Inflammatory Bowel Disease: What's the Difference and Which One Do I Have?

Many people get confused between the terms Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) and Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD), and understandably so. Many of the symptoms of these diseases are similar and, in fact, may people who have IBD are first diagnosed with IBS before receiving the correct diagnosis. So, what are the differences?

Main Differences between IBS and IBD

The biggest difference between IBS and IBD is that IBS is a syndrome, not a disease. IBS does not lead to colon cancer and it does not cause bleeding. IBD, on the other hand, is a disease, can lead to colon cancer and bleeding is one of the main symptoms.

IBD includes a group of diseases in the gastrointestinal tract. The two main diseases are Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis. Crohn's disease can affect the entire gastrointestinal tract, from the mouth all the way down to the anus. Ulcerative colitis is limited to the rectum and large intestine (colon).

Symptom Differences between IBS and IBD

General symptoms of IBS include:

•Abdominal pain
•Bloating
•Cramping
•Diarrhea or constipation

For people with IBD, all of the above symptoms apply in addition to:

•Rectal bleeding
•Fever
•Weight loss
•Inflammation/ulcers of the gastrointestinal tract seen during colonoscopy and/or endoscopy

Treatment Differences

The difference in the treatment of IBS and IBD is that with IBS, the focus of the treatment is on the symptoms. Anti-diarrhea medication is given if diarrhea is the main symptom. Diet change may be necessary if offending foods are causing the problem. Changes in stressful activities may be required if stress is a culprit.

When the diagnosis is IBD, treatment focuses on controlling the inflammation that is causing the symptoms. Anti-inflammatory medications or immunosuppressant medications are often used. In severe cases, surgery may be needed.

Which One Do I Have?

To confirm your diagnosis, it is extremely important to visit your doctor. Your doctor will take note of your symptoms and perform certain tests and/or procedures in order to make the correct diagnosis. Keep a journal of your symptoms and bring it to your doctor to make sure you aren't leaving anything out. If you think certain foods are causing a problem, keep a food journal of the offending food and the symptoms created by eating that food and bring that along as well.