Stress and Anxiety and IBD (Again)

Muir Woods.

Muir Woods.

Around the time of my last Entyvio infusion in late January, I started having some mild ulcerative colitis symptoms for the first time in over a year. At first I thought the symptoms were just because I was due for an infusion and didn’t worry too much. But the symptoms persisted, and a few weeks later I started seeing a little blood in my stool. Unsurprisingly, my anxiety skyrocketed.

I am used to this cycle – symptoms trigger anxiety, which in turn exacerbates my symptoms. (Or maybe stress is what triggered the symptoms in the first place?) I have my arsenal of tools to try to deal with both the anxiety and the symptoms: meditation, yoga, drinking lots of tea with turmeric and ginger. Sometimes those are enough, and sometimes not.

I eventually called my doctor’s office, and they put me back on Rowasa enemas, which I used on and off for a long time in the years after I was first diagnosed. They seem to be helping. But I still have a lot of questions lurking in the back of my mind: How long will I have to use them for? Does this mean the Entyvio is starting to not work as well? How long until it stops working? What happens then?

I recently read this article about how Olympic figure skater Adam Rippon deals with pressure, and while I am nowhere close to being an Olympic athlete, two things resonated with me: feeling grateful and keeping things in perspective. I love his strategy of talking to his coaches and asking them how their family is doing before a competition. “It reminds me that life is so much bigger than the arena I’m in,” he says.

I traveled to San Francisco to visit family about a week after restarting the enemas, which of course brought its own set of anxieties. But I felt pretty good on the trip, and it turned out to be a good distraction to spend time with family. It reminded me to be grateful for the progress I’ve made since my diagnosis and the things I am still able to do, and to keep these mild symptoms I’m having in perspective. I am much more than my disease, and life is much bigger than what I am going through.

It's not hard to have some perspective while standing next to 200 foot tall, 1,000 year old trees.

It's not hard to have some perspective while standing next to 200 foot tall, 1,000 year old trees.

The Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation recently posted a series of short videos on stress and anxiety by a psychologist specializing in gastrointestinal issues, as well as some stress reduction techniques. If you are thinking about seeing a therapist but have been hesitant to take that first step, these might be helpful to watch.

I know dealing with both my UC and the stress and anxiety it brings will be a lifelong journey, and I hope to keep my gratitude and perspective along the way.

How do you deal with the stress and anxiety of living with IBD?