I’m not particularly thrilled to mention this commonality, but most of us have probably been judged because of our IBD at some point. In an ideal world, this would never be a concern and everyone would be considerate towards IBD patients (and all those who deal with diseases and differences). Despite a supportive family and friend group, I was subjected to unfavorable judgment as well. In high school, I was bullied because of my Crohn’s disease.
I’d like to give you a little background:
Fifteen years ago, when I was in high school, many diseases and conditions were not discussed as much they are today. The public didn’t have such a highly developed Internet to spread awareness about them so quickly and visibly. They were virtually unknown by my peers. Students who had Crohn’s disease, such as a fellow IIF Board of Directors member and HS classmate and I, never discussed it. We didn’t even have the social spaces online that are available today to talk about it.
Who was I in high school? I was small, underweight, and frequently missing from classes. There was clearly something wrong with me, but I wasn’t very open about it with classmates apart from my close friends. My fellow students didn’t know what I was going through on a daily basis. So, there were rumors.
The worst, and I still can’t imagine (and don’t want to know) the stories that were created to come up with it, was that I suffered from AIDS. People thought I was dying. I was very clearly sick and because of it, I imagine my fellow students were scared to approach me. I recall a situation when a classmate was told by another not to sit next to me in class. They didn’t say why but when I worked up the courage to ask someone and they told me about the rumor, all I wanted to do was cry. This made me wonder how often instances like this happened around me and how often people treated me a certain way because it was easier to just make fun of me because of my condition.
Looking back at that time and comparing it to the world we live in today, I’m glad to see that students and people with diseases and conditions are treated vastly different by society. We’ve watched stories on the news that show an entire high school rallying behind a fellow student suffering from a disease. We saw an entire city gather around a sick child dressed as Batman who saved San Francisco from bad guys one day. Everything is not perfect, but I’ve seen the world grow to be more understanding and accepting, especially for someone who suffers from a disease. Below is a great example from ESPN about how students with diseases or conditions are now accepted much more.
Since starting the IIF, I’ve been happy to meet middle school and high school students who are able to talk about their disease openly to peers in their schools. They might not live a typical student life due to their IBD, but they can be a normal part of the student body without consistently being judged as I was in the past.
We have come a long way, even though it might be hard to see, and we still have work to do. That’s part of what we strive to do through our work at the IIF. We want to continue to help student (and non-student) patients feel more comfortable around peers. We want to help make the world a place where it is easy for patients to Never Stay Quiet about their Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis.
In retrospect, I wish I didn’t stay so quiet when I went to school which caused this rumor. The way I was treated may have been different if I had been more open or tried to raise awareness about Crohn’s. I’m glad that, with the IIF, we can provide support to student patients and, hopefully, inspire them to be courageous.
Never Stay Quiet!
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