Coping with Ulcerative Colitis - My Tips!

Living with a chronic inflammatory disease can be really debilitating and hard to deal with. I was diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis back in August 2016 and since then I’ve had a lot of time to reflect and learn how to cope with it. This condition can affect people in so many different ways, but I thought perhaps sharing my own ways of dealing with it might help a handful of people. If it does then it’s a job well done in my book, so if you think any of these things could help you, then please do give it a try!

1) Take it seriously.

Now I don’t mean this in a condescending way, it’s just based off of my own personal experience. I know when I was first diagnosed I thought it was going to be a few weeks of medication and I’d be right as rain again. Until I realised it was lifelong, with treatment my whole life and that I needed to make lifestyle changes to suit it. It’s so important that you take your medication no matter how unpleasant it may be (I even take medication up my bottom). I have to admit there was a time where I just didn’t bother with my medication because I didn’t feel like my illness was that bad until my health quickly went downhill. As much as I hate it, I know it makes me feel better. Equally, if I need to rest one day, I take the day to do whatever I need to do to feel myself again. It’s important to stick to all of your regular hospital appointments too. It can sometimes feel like a “job” because of all the time it takes up, but it’s necessary for your health.

2) Be 100% honest with your GI Doctor.

When I say 100%, I actually mean 110%. Tell them absolutely everything and get right down to the nitty-gritty. You might not think it’s something they need to know but it could turn out really useful. Talking about poo, blood, and accidents are nothing to be embarrassed or ashamed about, and it’s something they hear regularly since they’re specialists in the field. Tell them exactly how you feel about your symptoms too, because you might also benefit from therapy and other kinds of support. It all helps them decide on the right treatment plan for you, to improve your health and day to day life. I even started taking in photographs of inside the toilet so my GI could see exactly how much blood I was talking about, since amounts can be hard to judge, and that led to my medication being bumped up. It could be helpful for you too.

3) Plan and prepare.

This is something I do every single day and I feel like this is the most useful one for me. I prepare myself for the worst-case scenario so I’m still able to go out and enjoy myself. I always carry baby wipes (you never know if you’ll be caught short with no toilet roll!), a change of underwear, my radar key, "can’t wait" toilet card and extra medication. When I’m going somewhere I always look into where the nearest toilets are. Most places, like shopping centres, have maps with all the toilets on it, and I familiarise myself with it. The same as if I’m going for a meal with friends, the first thing I eye up is where the nearest toilet is, just so I’m ready to go if I need it. I don’t like to let this illness stop me from living my day to day life, and this really helps me feel like I can still do normal things during the day.

4) Involve your friends, family and colleagues.

I can’t stress enough how much this helped me. I’m a very open person already, so I guess it might have been a bit easier for me, but I tell everyone, well… everything. I tell my family and friends exactly what it feels like, what happens, what my worst days are like and what could happen in the future – including things like hospitalisation and surgery, just so they are aware of how serious it can be. I feel like this just helps with understanding what I have to live with, and if I need to cancel our meetup, then they know it’s not just for the sake of it. It also means when I ask for help, they have a bit of a better idea of what to do and what I’m going through.

5) Don’t let it ruin your life.

Probably the most important point, don’t let it stop you from doing what you want to do. I personally cope a lot with humour and I make light of the darkness in my life. I’m generally a jokey person anyway so I don’t mind joking about pooing myself or how often I’m at the toilet, it sometimes makes me feel a bit more human. I like to enjoy my good health days and try to be productive on them. But even if I don’t feel productive, or if I’m having a poor health day – I make sure I look after myself. In my eyes, a rest day, even if you’re just watching TV all day, is never a wasted day when it’s for the good of your health, mental or physical. If I need the time to recuperate, I take it. If I need to cancel a meal, I cancel it. If I want to watch The Office US in bed all day and eat chocolate, I do just that. I also started making career changes and went back to college because my old job was a bit too difficult to deal with, with my health condition on top of it. Instead of quitting and doing nothing, going back to college to study and do different things with my life means I’m moving forward and not letting this illness get the better of me.

I hope this post helps at least one person. I just want to reiterate that I understand everyone is different, and we all cope differently. These are all just ways that I cope with my own situation, that other people might find useful. Since I was diagnosed I’ve made so many life changing decisions that have led me to where I am today… I went to back to college, changed my career, it got me into blogging and YouTube, and found me new, wonderful friends. While this illness can be difficult and draining at times, it’s brought me so many other things that I’m grateful for. My illness doesn’t define me, it just took me down a new path in my life. 

Let's Be Kind - 20 Acts of Kindness

Why do people need a reason to be kind, or do something good? Nowadays it’s like everyone needs a reward to justify doing the right thing, or to just simply act kind towards someone. I’ve seen it a lot over the last few years and it really does make me sad, I want to make sure I’m being as kind as possible, for the right reasons and not because I need some gratification for my own gain. So I've compiled a small list of things I want to make sure I’m doing regularly for others.

Here’s a list of acts of kindness anyone can do… it’ll make a difference in someone’s life.

1) Donate or give time to charity.
Charity is important to me, and to so many others. There’s probably a large chunk of people around you affected by charities too, so helping them can really make a difference for SO many people. If you can’t afford to donate money, offer a small amount of your time by perhaps getting involved with events, or even sharing posts on social media.

2) Buy a homeless person lunch.
It might be the first meal they’ve had in days. It could tide their hunger until the next meal they manage to come across. It can really make a difference to their day, week or even month.

3) Ask someone if they’re OK.
Often, people don’t open up when something is wrong until they’re asked, so this could really show someone that you care, and if they need it, you are there for them to talk to.

4) Strike up a conversation with someone.
You might be sitting next to an elderly man on a train who hasn’t had any social interaction for weeks, having a little chat with him can really make a difference to his day. Many people live lonely lives through no fault of their own, so having a little conversation when you can, can really help ease their loneliness.

5) Be a shoulder to cry on or a listening ear.
I think this is so important. Be there for someone in need. If someone needs a cry, just be there. If they need to talk, just listen. It costs us nothing, and sometimes just having that person who listens to your problems or holds you when you cry can help you feel like your world isn’t imploding and that you’re not alone.

6) Sign petitions for important causes.
You might not realise it, but a single signature on a petition could make a huge difference on whether that cause goes to parliament for review. Sometimes these petitions are on a shop counter or shared online. Take a couple of minutes to sign it. A good example of a petition circulating at the moment is the ban on animal testing for cosmetics. 

7)  Offer to help a friend or colleague with a task.
There are lots of people who don’t ask for help because they hate to put pressure on others. Sometimes offering help first really relieves them of something they’re struggling with, and helps with stress and anxiety.

8) Recognise and praise someone’s hard work.
Praising someone for something might be the only praise they’ve had for a long time. It’s true that positive reinforcement works. Supporting someone’s hard work encourages them to do it more. Something as little as “well done” or “good job” means a lot to people.

9) Compliment someone.
Some people never receive compliments. It’s sad but true. Offering small compliments can really make a person’s day. “Your hair looks nice”, “you have a lovely smile” or even “you’re such a kind person” can be so uplifting. For some people, it could be the first nice thing someone has said for weeks. 

10) Donate old blankets, towels and duvets to an animal shelter. 
Shelters always struggle, especially during the cold weather. Instead of throwing away any old, ripped or unused towels, bedding and blankets; a shelter would put great use to them for pet beds and keep pets warm in the colder months. 

Donate used books to a library.
You see more and more libraries closing down these days due to the lack of funding they have. They're often run by volunteers and have very little money to keep up the book stock. When you’ve finished reading a book, donating it to a library means a lot of other people can enjoy it too. 

 Pick up some rubbish or litter you see and place it in the bin.
If you’re sitting in the park enjoying your lunch and you notice a crisp packet on the floor. Pick it up and place it in the next bin you pass. It makes a real difference to your local area and the environment.

 Thank someone.
Sometimes being thankful is underrated. Thanking someone is one of the easiest acts of kindness and when practised regularly can become just a slip of the tongue. Some people are never thanked for their hard work or effort, and a simple thank you can be amazing for them.

 Wheel in your neighbour’s bin.
Perhaps your neighbour has been unwell for a couple days or is elderly. Wheeling their bin in or out when you do your own is a great way of helping the people around you. It’s extremely helpful for some people who might have trouble getting out themselves.

 Tell someone you’re proud of them.
I’ve said this in a different point, but there are some people out there who don’t have supportive people around them and never have praise. Telling a friend or family member you’re proud of them can really boost their morale and happiness. 

 Take your old clothes and items to a charity shop.
Instead of throwing away old clothes or items that might not fit anymore, donate them to a charity shop. Charity shops raise much-needed funds by selling unwanted clothes and items and put it to great use. It’s a great way of helping out. 

17) Drop an old friend a message who you haven’t spoken to for a while.
There might be a reason an old friend lost touch, and sometimes dropping a message to let them know you’re thinking of them can show someone that they still have people who are there for them.

 Hold the door open for someone.
Another easy one to do, holding the door open is not just polite and good manners, but sometimes the person behind you might not be as mobile as you are so it can be a quick helpful thing to do.

Give someone a care package when they’re sick or unwell.
If a friend, family member or colleague is unwell, sending a simple care package with some snacks, medicine, a film or activity is a great way to really uplift their mood. It might not seem like much, but it shows you care.

 Smile at the next person you walk past. 
And lastly, let’s finish this off with something easy. Smiling at someone you walk past is brilliant. Like striking up a conversation, a simple smile might be the first bit of interaction a person has had in days. They might feel like someone has noticed them, and they’re not alone. Smiling is contagious and could make someone’s day.

I hope this blog has been useful in some way and that maybe you might try to do more of the little things to help others. I really do think kindness makes a difference in the world, one little step at a time.