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.
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?