Hello! My name is Mahalakshmi (Maha for short!), and I am 18 years old. I have Crohn's disease, which was diagnosed two and a half years ago, but I've definitely had it way longer than that. I am attending college in California in the fall as a biology major and I'm excited for what the future holds! My hobbies include singing, acting, spending time with friends and family, and playing board games. One interesting thing about me is that I love languages. I've been bilingual since I was a child and started learning another language in high school that I hope to stick with in the future!

One of the greatest struggles that comes with living with IBD is finding balance in your life. Before being diagnosed with Crohn's, I was a very anxious, Type-A person, and it would stress me out when things didn't go according to "plan.” Living with Crohn's showed me how to prioritize and balance my life; doing the things I want to while also remembering to listen to and respect my body.

Another struggle that comes with IBD is dealing with the mental/emotional aspects. People with chronic illnesses are more prone to anxiety and depression, which I have experienced before and after diagnosis, and it can be really tough to overcome. Mundane things like eating and going out with friends became major sources of anxiety as I worried about the pain, nausea, fatigue, etc. that can come out of nowhere.

Through the various physical and mental challenges, having a strong support system helped me stay strong and positive. My family and friends have helped me through some very dark times. I would not be where I am if not for them. I am also incredibly grateful for resources like the Crohn's & Colitis Foundation, ImproveCareNow, the Patient Advisory Council, and other support groups for helping me better understand my body and connecting me to a community of people who truly understand what it is like living with IBD. There really is strength in numbers.

Going forward I want to continue to advocate for not only myself but for others living with IBD. The PAC has been a wonderful resource and organization to facilitate conversation and real change, and I'm excited to continue working with them to improve the lives of IBD warriors!

The most important thing my IBD has taught me is that you are stronger than you think, and this only makes you stronger than you used to be.


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