This story starts the first day of junior year of high school and may be a bit graphic, so I apologize in advance.
The first day of junior year of high school I started at a new school in a new state and getting off the bus on the ride home, I fell down the bus stairs and landed hard on the asphalt of the street. That night my tailbone was really sore and I experienced some rectal bleeding and mucus discharge. At first my mom, a trained nurse, just thought it was a weird side effect of my fall. When it hadn’t cleared up after a couple days, and actually got worse, we made an appointment to see a doctor. The doctor did a rectal exam and ordered stool samples to be tested in addition to a full blood panel to try and figure out what was going on with my body. The results came back that I had IBS or irritable bowel syndrome and she recommended I have a colonoscopy to rule out anything else that could be going on. Y’all, the results of my colonoscopy were awful! I have a multitude of ulcers all along my intestines and bowel that are triggered by high stress and irritated by certain foods. My first GI doctor told me my intestines looked like they belonged to a seventy year old, not a sixteen year old. I was put on maintenance medication and given medication for when flareups happened, and set to a schedule of a colonoscopy every two years to monitor my ulcerative colitis.
In college I had to go inactive for a semester in my sorority because of my ulcerative colitis. Sophomore year fall, a girl accused me of having an eating disorder because of my frequent bathroom trips and weird weight fluctuations. I had to defend myself to our advisory board with a doctors note. It was ridiculous. That winter break, the pipes in the house froze and burst, so no one could live in during spring semester, so the girls were all going to share bunk beds in the basement of Kappa. My doctor told me absolutely not, this arrangement will affect your sleep and stress levels and we need to manage your health. So when the doctor wrote a letter to our advisory board their options were to drop or go inactive for the semester because there was a rule about needing to live in. As stupid as it was, I agreed to go inactive over dropping out.
After college and upon entrance to the real world, my first job was in a call center. This is not the job for you if you have GI issues. We were only allowed 30 minutes off the phones for our breaks & lunch, and when your bowels are as unpredictable as mine, that was not an ideal work situation. I had a sweet manager who understood and made exceptions for me, but I would still get warned about it because my time off the phones reflected on our team performance. Thankfully that February, I accepted a job when I could use the restroom whenever I needed no questions asked. You have no idea what an immense freedom that felt like!
Now, my ulcerative colitis is mostly under control. My doctors moved me to needing colonoscopys every five years instead of every other year, and I’ve found if I manage my diet, I don’t need to take my medication that really just would make me feel worse.
It’s interesting to try and manage my diet though because sometimes unpredictable foods can cause triggers. I try to limit my dairy and drink lactose free milk. I try to limit my gluten intake, but have found when I’m in Europe I can eat it fine, so I think my body has issues with some chemical used in our wheat processing in the states. I try to limit the acidity of th foods I eat and limit the fiberous foods. I can handle everything in moderation, but when in overindulge, my body lets me know immediately. I bloat. I get awful gas. I neee immediate access to a toilet. It can be difficult to travel or hike or be out running errands if I don’t know where a close bathroom is, because even when I do everything right, I could still be hit hard with a UC issue.
I don’t write this for pity or for attention, but to share a bit of my story and why sometimes I really wish I had a job that allowed me to work from home.