At ImproveCareNow’s Fall Learning Session, the Patient Scholars and parents had a special breakout session together. At the parents’ request, Jennie and I have co-authored a list of What We Wish Our Parents Knew navigating IBD through our teenage years:
1) Take a deep breath: Living with IBD as a teenager isn’t easy, but it doesn’t need to be figured out all in one day. There are going to be days that go according to plan, and those that really don’t – sometimes just getting through the day is the goal.
2) I’m moody; get used to it: Regardless of my IBD, I’m still a teenager, and I’m going to be moody sometimes (or okay, a lot of the time). It doesn’t mean I don’t love you, it doesn’t mean I don’t need you; it just means I’m growing up.
3) Let me cool off: Between the stresses of growing up and dealing with my disease, there will be times I just want to be by myself. Let me take some time to calm myself down. I will come to you when I want to talk.
4) I’ll know when I’m ready: The second best decision I made after my diagnosis was to join a teenage support community. The first best decision was to wait until I was ready to make the most of it.
5) Forgetting is not failing: If I forget my pills a few times or make some choices I’ll regret on the toilet tomorrow, don’t assume you need to charge in and take control. I know it’s hard for you to watch, but you’ll make more of a difference if you ask me how you can help me do better instead.
6) One of these kids is not like the others: Especially when I’m sick, try to go easy on and make time for my brothers and sisters, even if it means taking time away from me. Remember that we all don’t know how it feels to be each other.
7) Caring isn’t always sharing: I know you don’t like when I don’t tell you about the blood or mucus or pain until it’s been happening for a few days – but until there’s something we can do about it, I’ve always felt it’s better for just one of us to be scared. Trust me to know when I need to come to you and when I don’t.
8) It’s my body, and I’ll decide if I want to: I am going to be moving to adult care soon, and it’s important that I’m prepared to be my own medical advocate. Help involve me in my care, encourage me to call my nurse and refill prescriptions, listen carefully to my concerns and ideas, and help me make decisions with you and my medical team.
9) There’s nothing like a good IBDer: My IBD friends will just ‘get’ it, and it’s really important to have that social support – it helps me feel normal and social.
10) Hello, my name is IBD: If I ask you not to mention my disease in a public situation, it doesn’t mean I’m embarrassed. It may just mean I’d like to introduce myself before I introduce my disease.
11) At least it’s not ….. : Some of my friends with IBD or other chronic illnesses will be healthier or sicker than myself, but please don’t make comparisons. I know my worst may be someone else’s best, but that does not mean I don’t have a right to mourn my losses.
12) What hurts the most: When you say you’d take my colon from me and give me your healthy one if you could, I know it’s because you love me and hurt seeing me in pain, but I could never dump this on you. Some days, I wish you could see my perspective, but the thought of you feeling my pain makes me hurt more than anything.
13) Home is where your guts are: I don’t want to be defined by my disease, and part of that is going to school/work where I want. It’s possible to leave home and travel for school. With the right accommodations, I can do anything. I know my body and myself, and I can decide what I can handle.
14) Forever isn’t tomorrow: Sometimes, it’s okay to live in the moment, and make decisions for the next week or next month or next semester, without worrying about where we’ll end up. This is a forever disease, but we don’t have to make decisions for forever today.
15) A bumpier ride makes for a better story: Life is not going to be easy as pie living with IBD. Every year will be something different, but if we hold on and stick together, we’ll emerge one way or another.