At the age of 17 I was diagnosed with a condition called Crohn’s disease which completely altered my life. When you have a long-term condition, you find yourself needing to find a new normal. Without getting into too many details, Crohn’s is an inflammatory bowel condition which means all kinds of nasty things happen to your body. Suddenly something as basic as going to the toilet was a big deal. And as a 17 year old, this naturally affected my self-esteem in dating.
Life looks different
Crohn’s and various other inflammatory bowel conditions are sadly on the rise among young adults – particularly young men. I didn’t have to look far to find others that suffer from similar conditions. I asked my friend Phillip, who suffers from Ulcerative colitis (a condition similar to Crohn’s disease) how his condition affects his romantic life. “It’s difficult to socialise when you’re constantly worried you might need to dash to the toilet,” he admitted. “I avoid any situation where I may not be able to get to a toilet in time, which means I avoid anywhere with a queue – nightclubs, pubs and bars are often too risky.” What does this mean for dating? The usual places to meet people are off-limits.
Communicating with a new partner
Phillip and I discussed how to broach the subject of our conditions with new partners. We both admitted that the condition dents your self-confidence, and you can begin to feel unattractive and undateable. Even if you can get past your own hang ups and accept your condition, you still have to bring it up, which is uncomfortable – especially on a first date. I’ve found though that as I honestly communicate, prospective partners are understanding and supportive.
It’s redefined my normal, but not who I am
Crohn’s has redefined my normal. I now research where I’m going to find out what facilities are available. I eat a specific diet, and listen carefully to my body for signs that I am starting to feel unwell. But Crohn’s has not redefined who I am. I am still the same guy, still attractive in all the ways I was always attractive. The truth is, we all have stuff we’re dealing with. But my condition doesn’t define me. Going through something similar? It doesn’t define you, either.