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My Chronic Illness Buddy Helps Me Cope

Editor's Note: May 13th-18th is Women's Health Week! Join us as we highlight women’s health issues (including endo!), and share messages from strong women across the world.

A few years ago I met a woman who has ulcerative colitis, a condition where the lining of the digestive tract becomes inflamed. The colon can get sores and scar tissue that make eating and expelling food uncomfortable or even life-threatening. There are treatments that can help control symptoms or put the disease in remission, but it has no known cure.

Sound familiar?

Different disease, same frustrations

I didn't really know much about UC before we met. But because people with endometriosis often suffer from gastrointestinal disturbances, she and I share a lot of the same symptoms: gas, bloating, needing to know where the nearest bathroom is most of the time. We openly discussed our digestive woes and our bowel habits almost on a daily basis. Being able to talk about my problems without having to explain how they felt was comforting on a level I didn't know I needed.

While our pain is a little different — I have worse menstrual cramps and she has more intestinal cramping — we both have to deal with the complications that come with a chronic illness: fatigue, uncertainty about flare-ups, the fact that everyone wants us to go ahead and get better.

Even though I don't have UC and she's never experienced endo, we bonded over the complete crappiness of having a chronic illness. We also brainstormed about ways we could tackle our issues going forward, even though our individual plans would be different. Since I found success treating my condition holistically — with food, meditation, and exercise — she told me I helped her understand that she has more control over her body than she'd previously thought. And hope can be a powerful healer.

A common connector

We have cemented our friendship with talks about our fickle digestive system and even shared a bottle of expensive supplements (which led me to the discovery that peppermint gives me reflux). She doesn’t need me to explain why I’m so particular with food or why I get tired a lot. She comprehends this suffering on a visceral level. And we’re eager to discuss new doctors and current treatments, which makes the process seem less lonely and daunting. While my friends and family listen when I tell them about my myriad of issues, she actually makes my symptoms feel more valid. And when I don't feel good, sometimes just feeling understood helps me feel better.

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This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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