Voices of IBD (12) - Shawn's Story

Welcome to PART 12 of the Inflammatory Bowel Disease series, where we talk to people from all walks of life with this condition; to give everyone a platform to share their story, and help to raise awareness.

This week we talk to Shawn about her battle with Ulcerative Colitis.

What is your name and age?

My name is Shawntel Bethea, I prefer Shawn. I’m 25 years old.

What is your occupation?

I work full time in healthcare, I help with insurance and prescription drugs plans. I also have my own business for my advocacy and blog called Chronically Strong.

What form of IBD have you got?

Ulcerative Colitis

How old were you when you were diagnosed?

I was between 16 and 17 years old

About the disease...
What were your main symptoms that led to your diagnosis?

Extreme fatigue, frequent bathroom usage and blood in the stool

How did you feel when you got diagnosed?

Initially, after being diagnosed, I was confused. I didn’t understand my condition but my physician at the time led me to believe my condition could be managed by simply taking steroids, so I was pretty hopeful. Unfortunately, that wasn’t true and my health took a turn for the worst soon after I stopped seeing that physician.

What support did you get during and after your diagnosis?

I mostly hid my condition for years after being diagnosed so I didn’t have much support. My family knew about my diagnosis but we didn’t talk about it much. I was very embarrassed and confused, I think they may have been afraid to offend me.

Do you take medication, if so, what?

Currently, I’m on antibiotics for Pouchitis (inflammation in my J-pouch). I also take occasional medications for nausea and vomiting.

What are your experiences with hospitals? Have you had many stays in hospital or colonoscopies? Do you have an IBD nurse?

I’m not exactly sure how many times I’ve stayed in a hospital -  if I had to guess I’d probably say maybe 100 since being diagnosed. I’ve probably had around 30+ scopes total, whether it was for my colon or pouch.

What seems to affect your IBD the most? What triggers it?

I had an Ostomy nurse during my six months with an Ostomy, but I’ve never had an actual healthcare provider that specializes in IBD.

Do you currently, or have in the past, struggled with mental health? If so, what?
My IBD is pretty random. No one thing specifically bothers it. Different things at different times, I really never know.

Was this because of you IBD, or influenced by your IBD or vice versa?

I’ve struggled with Anxiety and Depression because of my IBD, the surgeries, the stress, etc.

Do you get support for your mental health? Do you feel like you get the right support?

I’ve seen a few different therapists but my family and friends don’t acknowledge mental health much. I try to bring it up but it’s uncomfortable for many people

How do you cope?
What is your go-to routine for when you are flaring?

When I’m having an anxiety attack I try to talk myself down, deep breathing is my first step. If deep breathing and different ways I’ve discussed with my therapist don’t work, I move back to consulting my physician to possibly talk about my (occasional) anxiety medication. Depression is much different, but my process is somewhat the same. If it gets out of hand I try to consult a professional but until that point I try distracting my mind, breathing, hanging with friends, I’ve even done yoga before.

What do you do to give yourself a break or relax?

To relax I really enjoy venting, whether it’s to a close friend or on my blog and YouTube channel - I’ve found that expressing myself is one of the most effective ways to calm my mind.

What lifestyle/diet/changes have you made to cope with your IBD?

Now that I have a Jpouch my diet is less strict than when I had a colon. I currently don’t eat meat, I don’t smoke, rarely drink. I try not to put a lot of stress on my Jpouch.

What advice would you give to someone who may think they are experiencing early signs?

Don’t wait. Early treatment can make such a difference. You know your body; if you think something is wrong -consult with a professional as soon as possible.

What advice would you give to the friends and family of those with IBD?

You can learn so much by doing research. Even as a friend or caregiver, the more you know about the condition, the more you can help and the better support you can give.

If there is one thing that keeps you motivated and focused through it all, what would that be?

Other IBD advocates, they always show me how important our work is and how much more I can do in our community. Also, the people who reach out to me, it’s shown me how much there is a need for the patient voice and just lets me know the work I do isn’t in vain.

What is your favourite quote?

Don’t let today’s disappointments cast a shadow on tomorrow’s dreams.

Thank you Shawn for sharing your story here on BecxBlogs. If you are affected by Crohn's or Colitis; please go to the Crohn's & Colitis UK website for further support and information.

You can find Shawn on her social media here:

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