by Jamie Horrigan
by Jamie Horrigan
My life might not be like the movies, but I’m happier than I ever predicted.
I’ve had stomach problems for as long as I can remember. Though I wasn’t diagnosed with Crohn’s disease until I was 21, I distinctly remember being 13 years old and wondering how I would ever go on “normal” dates or have a relationship when I would always get sick after going out to dinner.
At a restaurant, I would put their heavily processed food into my body, and then make multiple urgent stops on the way home, praying I could make it to a bathroom in time. Even making the 1-mile trip back from our favorite local restaurant was a close call so many times.
In the movies, dates always seemed to start with dinner and ended with a romantic evening back at the man’s apartment. As a young teen, I was obviously not looking for a serious relationship, but I did worry about my future self.
Now, at 27 years old, I am engaged and planning a wedding after being in a wonderful relationship for the past 5 years. This is what I would love to tell my younger self.
You’re so strong. You have endured these stomach troubles for so long with grace. You will eventually be diagnosed with Crohn’s disease. You will find a medication and follow a new diet to keep you feeling well.
You will go on to graduate from college and medical school, and then you’ll begin a residency on your journey to become a gastroenterologist.
Your experience with Crohn’s disease will fuel your passion to help others with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) live their happiest, healthiest lives.
At age 22, you will meet the man you will eventually marry. He is actually your good friend’s cousin who knew about you for years before he even met you.
All these years, you were nervous about when to disclose your disease with a new partner, but he already knew about yours. He’s not scared off by your disease, but rather he’s curious and eager to learn more. He’s kind and patient, allowing you to choose the restaurant so you can find foods that will settle well in your gut.
He reads about your modified Paleo diet and adapts recipes when he cooks so you can enjoy them as well. When you’re not feeling well, he holds you tight, and he’s flexible when you need to modify plans.
He loves that you’re so passionate about nutrition, gastroenterology, and IBD in general. No matter how many long hours you work, he remains fully supportive of you and your career.
Thirteen-year-old you had nothing to worry about. You’re deserving of love, understanding, and patience. What you saw in the movies was not realistic by anyone’s standards; now you know that movies rarely depict real life. Sure, there are men who will be scared off by your disease. But those are men who are just not the right fit.
Through your struggles, you will find yourself. You will learn to cope well with your disease and become open and honest about it with others. If they’re not accepting of you or your disease, you will find others who love and accept you for who you are.
You will find your special someone. That someone will stand by your side in sickness and in health. He will be there to celebrate your successes and support you when you’re down. If you are not feeling well after eating out, he will rush you to the nearest bathroom.
You’re so much stronger than you know and braver than you feel. There will be peaks and valleys on this journey, but in the end, it will all work out. You will have both the career and the family of your dreams, including two fur babies of your own.
Your older self
Fact checked on June 09, 2022
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About the author
Jamie Horrigan, MD, is a passionate Crohn’s disease advocate who truly believes in the power of nutrition and lifestyle. When she isn’t taking care of patients at the hospital, you can find her in the kitchen. For some awesome, gluten-free, paleo, AIP, and SCD recipes, lifestyle tips, and to keep up with her journey, be sure to follow along on her blog, Instagram, Pinterest, and Facebook.