I promise you can still have fun when you’re out and about and have Crohn’s Disease. You don’t have to hide away and shun yourself from socializing because you have an autoimmune disease. Going out while managing Crohn’s can make things difficult, down to toilet location/accessibility and menu choices, but there are definitely ways to get around these challenges. Here are some of my experiences:
Yesterday was my best friend’s 30th birthday party, and it was a great day! The birthday girl, being aware that there are a few of us in our circle of friends that have food intolerances, was very thoughtful in her selection of options for the banquet style lunch we experienced, which was so great, especially when struggling with a digestive disorder. If you get invited to go somewhere that you haven’t eaten before, you can always check out the menu online (thank god for the internet!) or even give the restaurant a call before the event and see what they serve or whether they provide alternative options to support your dietary needs. I mean, even recently I went to a Japanese restaurant with a girlfriend and brought my own tamari, which is gluten-free soy sauce. She didn’t care that I whipped it out of my handbag (she even asked to have some!), the restaurant didn’t seem to bat an eyelid about it, and I certainly wasn’t going to give a shit if people stared at me. Funnily enough, even though I told the waitress that I couldn’t eat gluten, I was still served a battered salmon dish, even though I asked for a grilled fish. I sent it back to the kitchen to get it rectified, and then it was fine. Don’t feel bullied to eat what they serve you if it’s not right! You feeling sick and in pain is not a good trade off for having a moment of being a little annoying to restaurant staff! Thank god (but sadly) we live in a time where food intolerances are abundant, so restaurants are used to being asked to change things on their menus. Just tell the wait staff before you order and they’ll make a note of it to pass on to the kitchen. So if you are invited out, you can choose to either decline the invitation (which is sad, because hanging out with people makes you feel good!) or you can suggest another dining venue that you know works with your needs (most people will understand this) or you can just choose to eat prior to meeting everyone, and then just order a small “Crohn’s friendly” snack to eat while socialising with people. Obviously if you are going through a bad relapse, or you’re in hospital, don’t force yourself to go out! Listen to your body and see what you really need.
Back to my day yesterday, the only thing I should’ve probably stayed away from at lunch was the caramelized pear served for dessert – I only took a spoonful of it because I knew the sugar in it would probably make my guts unhappy, but what was even more pleasantly surprising was that after I have been avoiding processed sugar, that one spoonful tasted SOOOO sweet, it was a bit too much anyway! This was a nice reminder that even though I am making dietary “sacrifices”, my body is happy with these choices. Anyway, for whatever reason (hopefully it wasn’t that pear spoonful! Because then I am REALLY sensitive to fruit), later on as the night progressed while celebrating, I had the “liquoops” – this is a term I have coined to describe liquid poops. It’s not quite as messy as diarrhea, in the sense that you can hold it in time to make it to the loo, but its not a formed poo and you still have to go a couple of times. I stupidly wore a body suit – let me tell you, that shit is difficult to manoeuvre off your body when you are trying to sit down on the toilet! If you have IBD and own a body suit, jumpsuit, overalls or any other type of clothing that requires time to remove it, DO NOT WEAR IT! My body suit was a bloody nuisance. Didn’t make any accidents luckily, but it does add to the anxiety! Because you never know what the toilet queue is going to be like (and women take so much time in the toilet! Super annoying). Speaking of accidents, it doesn’t hurt to keep a spare pair of pants in your car…I’ve learnt from experience!
Another thing that I did to help with my Crohn’s while I was out was I drank water the whole day. I can’t drink alcohol at the moment (or maybe for a long while…) because alcohol will really hurt my guts. It can be too acidic, it can also be too sugary, is too toxic for my liver while it’s processing other treatments, and plus, it doesn’t mix so well with medication. And I’m not talking about the fun and easy type of “drunk” you used to get as a teenager when you were on antibiotics and still decided to drink… as you get older, drinking while on antibiotics really hurts – cramping, nausea, bloating… it’s not worth it. I have no problem being the sober person at a party, mainly because my friends are awesome in every state, so I can have fun no matter what. If anything, I just get jealous or bored that I am not on their level of drunkeness, and then I secretly start craving a drink…but then I realize, it’s not worth it – no matter the celebration. Recently I have been at weddings and other 30ths and have not had a problem with not drinking. If people who don’t know me ask me why I’m not drinking, I just say I’m on antibiotics – it’s not a lie, as I AM on antibiotics, but it avoids sharing the whole back story to my Crohn’s life! Even yesterday at the bar, when I was with the birthday girl ordering her a mojito and asking for a glass of water for myself, the bartender even asked me why I wasn’t drinking! I just said I was the designated driver.
People will ask you at social gatherings why you aren’t drinking, but that’s cool, you’ve got very acceptable answers to give them such as “designated driver” or “being on antibiotics” without having to explain your situation. So don’t worry about being the odd one out! The people that matter don’t mind, and the people that mind don’t matter (cheers Dr. Seuss).
So go out and celebrate your life – enjoy the times when you are really well. Just be careful and mindful of what you put INTO your body (food and drink) and what you put ONTO your body (clothing), and stay close to the loo if needed!