The Work – Life balance… with Crohns

I’m back at work after being away for 3 months. It’s been a good 3 days so far… easing back into all the work. As a teacher, being away feels really hard because your job is about investing yourself in others – I must say that the first few weeks that I was away sick in hospital, I was finding it hard to let go of work as I kept thinking that no-one can do what I do while I am away. Not trying to sound up myself or anything, it’s just a major attachment to your work and feeling like you understand your kids and know how to cater to them so that they learn. I am sure in other jobs that people invest a lot of time and energy into that it would feel similar, and that putting your trust into someone else to fulfill your duties and work to your standard is challenging.
But this feeling of “I need to go back to work – think of the children!’ really dissipated after about 3 weeks. Now that’s a BLOODY long time to let go! I kept wishing myself to get better quickly so that I could get back to work. And I soon realised that me wanting to rush this process of healing was really not a smart move. Luckily for me, the Vice-Principal was insistent that I take as much time off as possible – she told me not to think emotionally but to be rational – healing takes time. And even though my family and friends were telling me to “just take the time off!” “do it! you need to get better”, it was really hard. I KNEW that I needed the time, I knew I had surgeries to do, treatments to trial and doctors to see, but in those first 3 weeks I was fighting being sick. I didn’t want it, so I was pushing the reality away (in DENIAL AGAIN!!! See how much I hang out here?!) and was trying to convince myself that I was feeling better and stronger than I actually was.

Unless you are sick, no-one quite understands what it feels like. To feel like you can’t quite function like everyone else in the world is a horrible feeling. It’s a feeling of hopelessness and that vulnerability you feel makes you push yourself. And sometimes this is a good thing because it makes you proactive to get better, to deal with what needs to be dealt with… but sometimes it’s a bad thing because you push yourself before you are ready. Taking the time to heal is SO important, yet it is the hardest thing to admit to yourself.

For me, not being able to go to work, that is, do a job which people do on a daily basis, was just the extra confirmation that I didn’t want that I was sick. If I couldn’t function like everyone else, then I failed at life. I remember even crying in the car with my mum on the way from one doctor to go see another doctor and telling her that I felt like a failure. And she cried too and told me that I wasn’t, but I felt that way because all of a sudden being sick again meant that I couldn’t work, I couldn’t physically drive to my appointments because of the pain, and this dependence on everyone around me (“why can’t I depend on MYSELF??!?! How could I DO THIS to myself?!”) made me feel out of control. And that scared the shit out of me. Because I wasn’t “normal”.

There was clearly something wrong with me, because a month prior I was feeling fine, and now I was dealing with the Crohn’s again. It’s like this separate part of me that just gets in the way of me from time to time. And I think this separation of it from my being doesn’t help me deal with it. So I’ve had to start thinking about my Crohn’s (it’s now MY Crohn’s instead of THE Crohn’s) like a virus… it’s always in my body but it sometimes rears its ugly head… like herpes! It’s always there, and it’s a management issue. But this revelation of dealing with it as a part of me has only come recently, and it wouldn’t surprise me that as I ease back into remission, that I may revert to my old ways of dealing with it as a separate part of me… time will tell, and now that I have this blog, I have written it down to remind me where I cannot go back!

But anyway, back to work – after those first 3 weeks and letting go that I wasn’t going back to work, and dealing with that emotional situation, it was my acupuncturist who helped put things into perspective. As I was lying there, getting treatment, and started to cry that I felt like my sense of purpose (contributing to society by working as a teacher) was rattled, she told me that if I can’t work as a teacher, I will still find something that makes me feel like I am contributing to society. She reminded me that I am the type of person who won’t just sit back and do nothing, that if I cannot physically teach 5 days a week, I’ll find something else to do that’ll give me that same sense of purpose, and that I just have to forgive myself that it isn’t what I initially thought it would be… WOW! Did that give me strength! And then my best friend suggesting I write a blog… it all came together.

The universe delivered to me something that I could do, while away from my job, that would also give me a sense of purpose. And yes, I will not be making money off this blog, but it sure helped in the interim while I felt like a ‘failure’ because I couldn’t function like everyone else. And all of a sudden, taking time off work didn’t seem that scary or confronting anymore. I embraced it and got excited about healing myself. I had good sleeps whenever I felt tired, I had salt baths when I needed to heal the area, I could lie around in bed and deal with pain better, I could visit doctors without the anxiety of leaving work or returning back to work on time, I could get a massage when I felt better, do a yoga class when my strength returned, I could cook new foods while starting my new diet of eliminating everything I used to eat, I could write this blog… and then before I knew it, I was sooooo much better and healthier… and happier! I had allowed myself the time to get better… I wasn’t in a rush to get better, to force myself to pull it together before my body was REALLY ready to go back to life pre-relapse.

So if you are going through a relapse, I understand the emotions you feel. You do feel ashamed because you can’t control what’s happening in your body. You feel guilt because you feel like a burden on the people around you. You feel embarrassed because a month before you were bragging to everyone how well you felt. You feel anger that it’s out of your control. You feel fear because you don’t know if you will feel better soon. You feel depressed that you can’t participate in things happening around you (I missed a good friend’s 30th while I was in hospital and I felt so sad about it… and spending a weekend in hospital is a horrible feeling. Thank god I had wonderful friends and family visit me – get your support network around to your hospital! Call them and tell them you need them! It makes a world of difference).
These are the emotions that I definitely experience when I am sick. They’re horrible, and very foreign to me, as I consider myself a very optimistic person. It’s amazing that in an instant EVERYTHING about who I am can change! But it doesn’t last forever. These horrible emotions will pass, but you have to accept them first, be patient with them (go get acupuncture and energetic healing to help the process too!) and then those emotions will actually be your SAVING grace, because they will propel you to start being proactive and start the healing process. They are both a blessing and a curse.

So if you’re dealing with Crohn’s or any other auto-immune illness, you need to find a lot of TRUST. Trust yourself that your body knows how to get better again, and that it will. Trust that the people around you DO NOT feel like you are burdening them! Trust that the universe will deliver some other purpose or some other job that you can do that can best suit your life and lifestyle, if you cannot return to your ‘normal’ work. Trust that other people will be able to do the work for you while you take the time off that you need to get better. And trust that you’re going to get through it. You always do. It’s a cycle of relapse and remission. And I sure as hell love this remission bit!