Work colleagues assumptions when you’ve got Crohn’s – Crohns Blog – Everyday life

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3rd March 2015

Let’s be honest, holding down a job, a home life and a social life are all difficult for most of us. Throw a chronic illness into the mix and you find a whole new set of balls to juggle. So to speak…

Some of the main bug-bears and difficulties I have come across in my diseased history to date are in my dealings with work colleagues. They are people we see every day; usually more than our partners within the week, so it is wholly understandable that their comments and opinions will start to grate. Predominantly when they voice those particular opinions about our illness. My most common and infuriating issues have been compiled especially for you below!

Work colleagues assumptions…

It royally infuriates me when people still frequently assume IBD is as straightforward as perhaps IBS. It sends me into more of a Hulk-like rage than 3 months on steroids. It can be like battering your diseased head against a brick wall trying to ensure people understand, or are at least aware of how crippling IBD can truly be, and how much of a devastating impact it can have on every aspect of a patients’ life. Trying to convey that without becoming the office outcast can in itself be a decidedly trying task.

I don’t mean to depress, but I often feel borderline pathetic and childlike when I try to express the issues IBD can raise to my unwitting colleagues. I regularly want to scream with frustration when it’s as much as implied that Crohn’s is anywhere near IBS, so I have to keep a lid on those feelings for the sake of my own sanity. (And to avoid murder charges). If anyone is in any doubt about the complexities or even the basics, around chronic illnesses such as Crohn’s or UC, please, PLEASE ask someone who has it. We know what it entails as we live with it 24hrs a day, 7days a week. Please don’t add to that misery by insinuating its nothing to write home about.

Pity Parties…

In being a ‘professional’ sick person, you will encounter people’s pity on a regular basis. It will mainly be well meant of course; a head tilt and pitiful glance from a nurse caring for you, a fellow patient watching as you violently throw up your cold toast, or a doctor looking at your back end and shaking his head disdainfully. These particular looks may even come from those closest to you. It will feel very strange; especially if you happen to be someone who prides themselves on staying ‘normal’ in the face of a distinctly abnormal illness. It can feel as though you are being treated as a second class citizen. By at least 99% of these people, this is not the case. It’s important to remember that what can appear as pity, may just be consideration and hurt at having to watch you suffer. We could all use a bit of consideration from time to time, chiefly when you are feeling awful all day, every day. Inflammatory bowel disease and all chronic illnesses are hard work. Sometimes it’s important to choose your battles. Before you get irate at someone’s glance in what you perceive to be the wrong direction, take a moment to decide if there is anything more than genuine care behind it. You’ll usually find the people who ‘pity’ you want nothing more than for you to be well.


People in my particular workplace (and beyond I’m sure), have been known to ‘invent’ illnesses. They profess to have horrific and life threatening conditions in order to achieve some unknown goal. Why? To garner attention? Gain sympathy they feel they require? I’m not sure. Whatever the reason, it’s incredibly stupid and damaging to those of us who suffer from chronic and/or life threatening illnesses in ‘real life’.

I in particular have tried to take the higher ground when hearing these hypochondriacs imagined tales of woe. I’ve gently sympathised, albeit through gritted teeth, as who am I to know they aren’t genuinely unwell? I’d certainly never wish to be accused of jumping to conclusions on what may or may not be wrong with someone as it’s something I’ve experienced on my own rocky road to diagnosis, and it’s distressing and frustrating in equal measure to be on the end of someone’s suspicion.

For those lacking in love and affection in their own lives I suppose faking an illness could be considered a logical way to grasp some of that attention you crave. But where do you go with that? If you start lying it can be incredibly difficult to stop. And how elaborate do you make those lies? Just like heroin and Nutella addiction, lies can spiral out of control and wreak havoc on your life and everyone in it. So if you are reading this and happen to recognise these qualities in yourself, my advice would be: just stop. Aim higher. Try to have the best life possible because you are well enough to do so. Don’t wish illness on yourself because you will waste away through resentment and frustration. Focus on what’s good in your life and work on that. Like Nutella. Just in moderation.

Thanks to Kathleen Nicholls for this Crohns blog post. Kathleen is on Twitter (@kathfantastic), has her own blog on Facebook as well as at and has her very own website where you can find more about her, further inspiring blog posts and other great content.

To celebrate the forthcoming launch of Book forCrohns, we’ve launched Blog forCrohns, featuring blogs from some of the best Crohn’s bloggers on the web as well as volunteers from the forCrohns committee. We’d love you to contribute, find out more here.

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