Jennie’s Shield

Warrior Statue Silhouette and Orange Sky[Editor’s Note:  IBD is definitely not always guts AND glory…sometimes it’s just guts…and as Jennie puts it – disobedient guts.  Staying positive and empowering others to do the same is important to Jennie, but she recognizes that it’s also important to stay real.  And it is a very real challenge to live with a chronic illness each and every day – physically and psychologically.  Read Jennie’s musings about her most recent Gutsy Generation post, titled “The Shield”.]

My blog posts usually focus on living well and living large with IBD – my goal is to always portray a 21-year-old finding her way in life with disobedient guts. Someone once told me that they admired my ability to be vulnerable, which at the time I was mortified by this comment. Vulnerable? What an insult! I thought. But now I think it is one of the nicest compliments I have ever received.

Why the change in attitude? Being vulnerable and exposing your scars – literally or metaphorically – shows that no one is perfect, everyone struggles, life is hard and it’s about getting through and getting up. Every individual at one time or another will face anxious moments, sad moments, frustrating moments, and the like – it’s normal and in so many ways it’s what it means to be human. This is all the more important in pediatric chronic illness, when children with healthy psychology are confronted with incredible physical and emotional trauma. It’s like buying a map to get to a different city but having the car break down on the way – it’s critical to support mental health alongside physical health in flares and remission.

It’s not that it’s ‘all in your head’ by any stretch of the imagination, it’s that it’s impossible to tease apart psychological health from physical health – anyone who is nervous feels butterflies in their belly. The psychosocial issues of IBD warrant discussion and reflection and not just from the ‘outside in’ (i.e., doctors and researchers), but from the inside out, where patients can stand up and say – without shame or embarrassment – that they’re struggling and need help. This is a way we can truly improve care now.

4 thoughts on “Jennie’s Shield

  1. Jennie – I have such tremendous respect for you and enjoy so much the opportunity I have had to collaborate with you. You’re a bold and talented writer, a passionate patient and (whether you know it or not) a charismatic leader. Whenever you share a post you lay another stone in the foundation for a better future for everyone navigating life and the health care system with a chronic illness. It pays to step back and remember that we will not improve care in one fell swoop, but piece-by-piece and one step at a time. Thank you for being a part of it!

  2. Well stated Jennie. Your post made me think of this quote from Brene Brown’s recent book: “Vulnerability sounds like truth and feels like courage. Truth and courage aren’t always comfortable, but they’re never weakness.”

  3. This is so much food for thought Jennie. There is a lesson in this for everone (with or without a chronic condition) to learn. Most of all, I cannot wait to share this with my 10 year old daughter. I see her shield and I want her to understand what it means. So thank you for making me think!

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