Writer: Hattie Gladwell
I feel guilty for a range of reasons. I often have to cancel plans at the last minute, I’ve reached the point where I won’t make plans at all for fear of having to cancel. The thing I feel most guilty for is having to call in sick.
Luckily, I am in a position where I am able to work from home if I’m not okay to get into the office – but it doesn’t make the process any easier. I have ulcerative colitis, a form of inflammatory bowel disease. Because of the disease, I have had my large intestine removed. To allow me to go to the toilet ‘normally’ my small intestine was connected straight to my rectum. Ultimately, having this surgery has completely changed my toilet habits and the way my digestive system works.
I need to use the toilet up to eight times a day, and when I do, I don’t have ‘formed’ stools – I’ve been told I will have diarrhoea for the rest of my life.
This can be incredibly uncomfortable and hard to live with when not in the comfort of my own home, simply because of the urgency that comes with it. To try and deal with it, I have to take a lot of medication – but I have to be careful with it.
If I take too little, it won’t help me at all, if I take too much, I can end up blocked up, in a horrible amount of pain. Last week I was sitting in a bath in tears because the pain was so awful. Other times, with the pain, I’ve ended up in A&E with an intestinal blockage. Alongside the pain and the inconsistency of the toilet trips, I bleed a lot. With UC, you get a lot of blood and mucous when you go to the bathroom.
It can be very uncomfortable and very sore. I also have to be very careful with what I eat, especially if I plan to go somewhere the following day. If I’m out for long periods of time, I won’t eat at all, just to stay on the safe side. I’d rather do this than have to use the public toilets -the number of times I’ve been shouted at for both using a disabled toilet or taking too long in a public toilet is embarrassing.
But you know what’s most embarrassing for me? Having to call in sick to work so much. I hate it. I dread doing it. I’m constantly waiting to be told that actually, it’s not okay and actually, don’t bother coming back. (Picture: Liberty Antonia Sadler ) I’ve convinced myself that everything good comes to an end and eventually my poor health will ruin yet another opportunity, and it scares the hell out of me.
It scares me because I absolutely love my job, and my illness is completely out of my control. I can have a fantastic week one week, but be back to square one the next – which is why I can never do anything but smile when people say: ‘You seem to be much better now!’ I live in a constant state of worry, what will my health ruin next? It’s taken so much away from me since the day I was first diagnosed – my confidence, my security, my social life, my relationships.
I just don’t want it to take away my career, too – and that is something I’ll never stop fighting for. I don’t want people to think that I’m any less capable of doing my job or any less dedicated to it. I don’t want people to think I’m lazy or taking anything for granted. Just admitting that losing my job because of my health is a fear of mine is a huge step for me, and I know that having written about it, it’ll still be a huge worry of mine too.
What will people think of me now? Will they perceive me as being weak? Not strong enough to fight through it and get on with the day? (Picture: Liberty Sadler) I hope not – in fact, I hope people do realise how much I do fight just to get through the illness and to find myself back to a day where I feel healthy – because I live for those days. I will never, ever stop fighting to get to a position where I can wake up every day feeling in total control of my body.