In 2012 I wrote It’s OK to say it sucks! I was rereading that post and thinking that even though I’m older, I’m not necessarily any wiser. Here’s what I mean.

I’ve pretty much always been an optimist when it comes to my Crohn’s disease. I joke that my pain scale only goes up to five because even if the pain is a 10 - it’s manageable. I’m always fine not terrible because I don’t like to make others worry. And let me be frank, my optimism doesn’t mean that my experiences with Crohn’s disease have been easy. I know how tempting it is to ditch the “glass half-full” perspective when things aren’t going well.

I can remember camping trips where I barely could get out of my tent because of my back fractures. Or the cold, rainy backpacking trip in Red River Gorge, where I was so skinny and got so cold my dad had to help me change into new clothes and get into my sleeping bag. There were years I couldn’t go on vacations without stressing out because each one resulted in a hospitalization. One vacation it was in Yellowstone and another time I was puking along the streets of Amsterdam. But, I kept my brave face on and did my best to act like everything was okay.  

Which is why that moment when I was stuck in an IBD-symptom-nightmare and I finally broke down and my school nurse told me “You’re allowed to say it sucks;” it really stuck with me.

I had been carrying on for a while, handling everything with my customary sense of optimism and a brave face. But that day I realized I couldn’t keep it up. Somehow I knew that being strong all the time isn’t always the way to go; we can’t all be the hulk all the time. I mean who wants to be green and huge forever anyway? But seriously letting down the facade every once in a while is necessary for maximum health.

For me, when the facade breaks down, it can get ugly. I usually cry for a long time, until I wonder whether Olaf experienced summer at my feet. But it’s okay; this is human. I’m not afraid to let my emotions out when I truly need it. Just because I’ve reached an extreme low point, doesn’t mean my optimism is lost forever. I simply know that to maintain optimism and sanity in this life with Crohn’s, when enough is enough and things really suck, I’m free to express that however I like (e.g., crying, Netflix, ice cream).  I think allowing myself to be truly vulnerable is what makes me able to stay optimistic.

So, yeah, even though I wrote that ‘It’s OK to say it sucks!’ over four years ago – it’s still just as true today as it was then.

How and when do you let your guard down? Does it help?

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