Being a housemate with Crohns / Colitis – the joys of shared houses


One of the hardest parts of living in shared house when you suffer from Crohn’s/Colitis is knowing how much you should tell the people you live with. Over the years I have lived with everything from absolute strangers, to weirdos, geeks, to best friends, and sometimes the people I have confided in the most have been those who I met for the first time on the first day I moved in.

It just seems that over the years I have found it easier to live with strangers than with friends. I’ve found that if you start off best friends after a couple of months living together any friendship, no matter how strong, will start to fray at the seams. Any bad habit, any good habit, in fact any little tiny speck of dust, will grate on you and become the most annoying thing in the world. People who you admired or loved for their confidence or their organisational skills, or amazing social life, will soon become too obsessed with cleaning, too bossy or too bloody loud and sociable to live with. Even that quirky laugh you loved when you first met can sound as bad as living with Janice from Friends after a couple of months of living in a tiny house together.

I have had some amazing times in my years living in shared accommodation. From moving into my shoe-boxed sized room in student halls of residence, The Lawns, in Hull, to now eventually moving in with my boyfriend. I have lived with family members, university friends, best friends who became couples (a big surprise to us all as one turned gay while we were living together – I do like to hope they’re still together though) and total strangers who became life-long friends.

Having IBD has presented many problems while living with other people. Some people I have managed to live with for years without them ever noticing…which is shocking, as they must have thought I was snorting lines of cocaine around the toilet bowel every other second or had permanent food poisoning. I have sneaky suspicion that they noticed I was visiting the loo every 5 minutes. Surely they must have laid in bed listening to the muffled shouts of pain as I screamed into my hand during the most painful craps of my life, timed my toilet sessions which could last up to 20 minutes at a time on bad days, and even needed a wee every 10 minutes from hearing the sound of the toilet flushing so often they may as well have been living next to a fast flowing river. I just guess they were either too sensitive to my feelings or, more likely, far too embarrassed to talk about poop and toilet behaviour to ask why their housemate seemed to have turned the toilet into a second home.

Mostly, as I always raced to the loo straight after meals, many of them believed that I was bulimic. Some have even said it to my face, and despite trying to explain Crohn’s to them have continued to believe it for years and years….that hurts…that hurts a lot.

I’ve had many mornings were I’ve rushed up the stairs almost falling down as I sprinted to reach the loo just as my housemate shut the door and proceeded to sing in the shower. I can remember sitting on the stairs next to the door rocking backwards and forwards in agonising pain, listening to him singing away for what seemed like a life time (it was in fact around ten minutes). I think there were times I passed out while waiting it just hurt too much.

Anyway as I was saying how much do you tell people about your illness? When you’re living with them they would have to be blind not to notice, or incredibly ignorant and self-absorbed, that you are suffering. In the past I didn’t say anything about my IBD, I just hoped that it wouldn’t make a difference, or that they would never notice…but that was always the wrong thing to do…when the flare began I would begin to live a life of stealth, waiting to use the bathroom when people were out, turning up my music really loud to hide the musical farts and all sorts of other ridiculous things. I guess I wanted to be treated like I wasn’t the ill one, but when the questions started coming about the toilet roll being used up so quickly and the banging on the door began mid passing out with pain, I would always be forced to confide in my fellow cell mates about my chronic condition.

Most of the time people just accepted it, they have just said ‘hey you’re my mate and you are living with this, what can I do to make your life easier?’ – some have asked questions, then just continued to treat me like before, but always been there through the hard times, helping me through and visiting me in hospital – I always think of these as my best friends. But some have, mostly through concern, become obsessed with my illness, watching my every move, checking on me constantly, always saying ‘should you be drinking, eating, doing that with your illness. Although I love them for their concern, this has always been hard for me to handle as my friendship dissolves into a mother-daughter relationship, or worse still a nurse/patient relationship from then on…at times this has got so severe that I’ve wondered whether I would wake up with a stool chart at the end of my bed and my housemates stood around me poking my stomach and asking me how many times I went to the toilet in the night and whether my stools were formed?

Now I always talk about it. Sometimes you can’t shut me up, and that has to get boring for people. Having Crohn’s doesn’t make me less normal, or less fun. I shouldn’t hide it, but there again I shouldn’t have to go shouting it from the rooftops if I don’t feel like it. But telling people helps to stop the horrific realisation that there is only one toilet and someone has decided to have a bath and dye their hair and the bathroom will be occupied for an hour…meaning you have an accident while sitting on the stairs waiting for them.

I am now best friends with one of the girls I used to live with. She was a crazy stranger to me when we first met, and we went on to become best friends. We haven’t always seen eye to eye, and we weren’t a perfect match as housemates, but that’s part of why I love her so much and why our friendship works. She was one of the most amazing people when it came to handling my illness. Why? Because she just treated me like a human being. I felt I could tell her anything, and some of the things I told her about living with IBD I have never told anyone before and will, most probably never tell anyone again. She would always just listen. She never said ‘should you be doing, eating, drinking that?’, she never pushed me into doing anything, and she didn’t let me feel down and upset about my condition. To me she just treated me like a friend, dragging me on night’s out when I was feeling down so we could dance the night away, sitting in the house chatting, and going shopping together. She was, and still is, always there when I need her, visiting me in hospital with supplies of crisps and soya milk in the hope that I won’t almost starve to death again, and always bringing me my favourite and most expensive body wash to try to make myself feel human in hospital.

To my housemate I was more than an illness…in fact scrap that…to my housemate my illness was just something that was part of me, it didn’t define me. It was something that was always in the background bubbling away, but most of the time I was just Rachel. And that she didn’t define me by it meant and still means the world to me.

So now after this long winded rambling I’m going to close up for the day it’s been a hard week of moving my boyfriend’s stuff into the flat. Both of us are exhausted but extremely happy and looking forward to living together in my little city flat. Time will tell how we handle it now I have my ostomy bag…but that’s my life now and I’m sure we’ll find our ways to deal with it – I mean I’ve handled much worse!

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Me & Winnie disagree with vino & bounce along close to Jessie J and our brave Dad…


So I’m exhausted today 😦 let’s just say that I had far too much fun this weekend, which if you have IBD

(which includes Crohns and Ulcerative Colitis) is a recipe for disaster. Even before I had Winnie attached to my poor tummy I always found that my crazy Crohns or Colitis liked to pop up at the most inconvenient of times. Let’s put it this way….I would be feeling just slightly like a normal human being for a few days and would have just tried to live a little, go out, let my (very short) hair down and act like a normal 20 something-year-old when BOOM my illness would rear its ugly head in a kind of Peek-a-Boo “Here’s Johnny” way.

So yesterday was Father’s Day and I wanted to do a short V Blog to tell you about how amazing my Dad, and my family are and how important they have been in my journey through this illness. I love you DAD!!

So this weekend my poor, and extremely understanding boyfriend (I suppose you could call him my “better” half) decided to host a BBQ at his stunning house in the Cheshire countryside. His house is what we in the Ghetto call “something else” or “Mega Dope” (I’m sooo down with the kids). It is far too big, with massive gardens, and when you stay over you wake up to the sounds of cows mooing and birdies singing….it is paradise just miles from the city 🙂 I love it there!!! But Friday was the first time I have stayed there since my operation, and as a lady I had to take just about everything but the kitchen sink with me so that I could survive just two days! Well it is hard looking this good all the time #bigheaded

Anyway, anyway, anyway. On Friday night I made us both a healthy tea of pasta and veggie sausages and goat’s cheese. Which was YUM! Then we watched The Following, which, if you haven’t seen it is AWESOME, but terrifying, and being a proper wuss I spent half the time hiding behind a cushion and smudging my freshly painted nails by gripping my boyfriend’s hands so tight.

THE DRESS - I would never have worn this b4 Winnie - she is so much more cool than me

THE DRESS – I would never have worn this b4 Winnie – she is so much more cool than me

Then on Saturday the real fun began. We woke up to typical British horror weather, as you always do in England when you have an event planned that requires spending any time outdoors! I got dressed up in festival style clothes (no rain was going to stop me and Winnie wearing our new extra colourful maxi dress) and made massive amounts of healthy pasta salad to counteract the enormous amount of fatty meat he had purchased for the grill. Then I basically let him get on with it!

Anyway the BBQ was going well, my boy was enjoying being the MAN of the house, you know being in charge of burning the meat 🙂 – me man, me fire, me meat, me burn – and I basically carried things backwards and forwards and played being the hostess. We had a bit of rain which came after most people had arrived and the skies finally opened after the CLOUD OF DOOM finally shed its load after threatening to do so all day. It meant that around 10 adults decided to cram themselves into a very small Wendy house – amazing to say the least 🙂

So, after not drinking for around three months, I shunned alcohol all day despite people asking me again, and again, if I wanted a drink. I was even fairly careful with the fizzy pop, being aware that one sip too much would mean a whole day of Winnie flying into a paddy and blowing up with hot air in a fit of rage. But in the evening I decided to have my first sip of wine, and, guess what, I DIDN’T LIKE IT!!! For the people reading this that know me (which is probably all of you out of kindness to me) you will know that I love a good glass of Sauvignon Blanc – or two, or three (obviously I’m not an alcoholic but I may have a bottle or litre or two hidden under the sink #joke). So me not liking any wine is, quite frankly, extremely weird. I must have managed to have a drink at around 10pm, and only had about a medium glass…..I was WASTED 😦 which I suppose is great if you want a really cheap night out, but I just wanted to chill out and now I felt like I was going to fall asleep dribbling in a heap on the floor!!!

That was all I had…well, ok, that’s a lie…I may of had one tinie little gin, which I regretted the moment I put it to my lips and decided i didn’t want it (it was the gin that done her in…how true, how true). So I set about tidying up while the others played Pictionary in the living room and headed to bed having eaten only around half a sausage and a handful of pasta twirls. Everyone else was pretty drunk – I mean when I woke up the next day the house had been drunk so dry even a cactus would have died after weeks in the desert – which made it even more infuriating that I woke up feeling like I had been hit by a bus and everyone else was fine. I mean how unfair #wtf!!!

The morning after - trying to finish this really dreadful book (comment comment comment)

The morning after – trying to finish this really dreadful book (comment comment comment)

I probably felt as bad as I did the time at University that the Cheerleaders (yes queue laughter, me, Rachel, who can’t sing or put one leg in front of the other was a cheerleader) and American Footballers all put money together for me to drink a dirty pint made up of around 20, or it could even have been 30 (yes I was that popular) shots of black sambuca. Think banging headache, red-eye, hair all over the place, stomach cramps, nausea and dry mouth – it must have been a real special moment to wakeup next to me that day – mmm sexy!!!

Also I suddenly remembered that I had to finish Stephen Fry’s autobiography by the end of the day or I would break the “Read a Book a Week” part of my 101 challenges and have to start all over again. Which, I must stress, was not going to happen. So, with a gang of bleary eyed and far too enthusiastic guys in the house, I attempted to race through the remaining 200 pages of the book, which by now had become boring and tedious like all self-imposed chores (like ironing and hovering) eventually do when you are forced to do them…..

OH I FORGOT THE MOST EMBARRASSING MOMENT OF THE WHOLE WEEKEND!!! During the BBQ I had to empty Winnie a few times, and to do this I have a special (well a clothes line) peg to well peg up my dress so that I don’t make any mess. So I had done that, and around 2 hours later I needed to empty her again (which is almost a record amount of time for Winnie). I think you may have guessed it…I got to the loo and couldn’t find the peg so decided to just hold my dress out of the way…that’s when I discovered I had been sat chatting to all mine, and my bf’s friends for the past two hours with a pink peg clipped to the side of my dress!!!! Humiliating!!!

£5 bag of sweets – and they didn’t help

Later in the day, after I went back to bed for a few hours to try to sleep it off, which, well you’ll see from the pictures,  didn’t work. Me, Andy and Winnie went to Chester – errrr – Rocks!!! (I say err cause there is not much that Rocks about it I’m afraid – it is more of a pop thing, which I can’t say I mind, being a little teenie bopper – this does NOT mean that I hit Teens over the head with a mallet – at heart I love pop music)…. We saw Charlie Brown (?), some girl off the X Factor called Amelia and Lawson (some boy band I said I had never heard of but secretly love them)!!! I bought a bag of sweets to try to thicken up Winnie’s output as she had massively disagreed with the sip of alcohol and was stropping around like a moody teenager filling up with hot air and yucky poop – and it was the most expensive medicine I ever had costing me £5 for a bag of sweets. THANKS CHESTER RACECOURSE FOR NOT LETTING US TAKE OUR OWN FOOD AND DRINK!!!! ARGH!!!

I’m going to let you all into a secret now – I LOVE Jessie J!!! I don ‘t know why so many people don’t, I mean when I said I wanted to see her to some of my mates they were like “oh no…why?”, but she is fantastic. I love that she is unique and she doesn’t take any shit…I mean she doesn’t care what people think at all, does she 🙂 I got all excited when she got on stage and I started dancing like a freak!!! I even saw some parents looking at me with horror and even (you’ll laugh at this) move their children slowly away from me thinking I was a drugged-up Nutter!!! I think the people with me, Andy included, were totally humilated….there was never a better time to think “move away…we’re not with her…we don’t even know her”!!

Jessie J – “Its ok not to be Ok” good for you!!

I mean she was incredible, and all round entertainer who even said some truly from the heart things to the teenagers in the audience that I thought were just inspirational. She said it was ok to be who you wanted to be and to not worry what people thought or what people wanted you to be – that it was ok, not to be ok, and to cry and to feel like crap and to want to not do things people want you to do. I guess that struck home with me and what I am going through at the moment….I know I come across as happy-go-lucky, but behind my smile I can be seriously messed-up at times, this illness can seriously mess you up – I mean it’s draining emotionally as well as physically – but without all this pain I would never have become the person I am today for better or for worse!! Sometimes with Crohns, with a Winnie, I think it has to be ok not to be ok….I think It’s ok for us to breakdown, to feel and look like shit, to just want to curl up in a ball and cry, to hurt, to feel pain – just as long as at the end of it you pull yourself together and realise I WILL BE OK!!! I will not let this illness, this stroppy Winnie and this crap get me down…I AM STRONG, I RULE THIS ILLNESS IT DOES NOT RULE ME…

So with all that gibber jabber going round in my head Jessie (that’s how close we are….perhaps I should call her J) started singing my favourite song Who You Are. And, I am not ashamed to say actual tears started pouring down my face as she sang “tears don’t mean you’re loosing, everybodys brusing, just be true to who you are”. I think I just couldn’t believe that after all the pain, blood, poop, near death, stress and well years of not being ok with this horrible thing, with this crappy crappy illness, I was stood in a field with amazing friends, and an amazing man, and listening to a live music concert of a mega superstar telling me that ‘it’s ok not to be ok”…..when Andy asked me why I was crying I said “I am just so happy”…and that guys is the truth!

We finally got home after almost getting crushed by heaving crowds trying to get out of the tiniest exit in the world…God knows why they didn’t open the gates. I eventually was allowed through the gates by saying I was being bashed to death in the crush and had had surgery…the security guard didn’t look like he was having any of it and I almost had to show him Winnie and Oscar, but believed me when he saw how bent double I was -PHEW!

Anyway, this has been really long….so enjoy watching a really silly video of me dancing to Lawson at Chester Racecourse….the shame!!! (I looked like a freak, back away from the crazy woman kids). I call it the IBD Freedom dance!!!

 

#No.90 I drink my first cup of tea in 25 years – I’m not kidding!!


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My first cup of tea in 25-years!! I am terrified at the thought of having to drink a whole cup let alone a whole bloody teapot – even if it is so cute I could eat it!!

So after 25-years of avoiding the coffee and tea round at work and being the predictable “none for me thanks” every time anyone asked if I wanted a brew or a cuppa in the office I decided it was time I drank my first full cup of tea.

Ok, before you ask, yes I am English, yes I live in England, and yes I was born in Burnley not far from Manchester where famously Coronation Street stylie everyone says “I’ll put the kettle on then” or “how’s about a nice cuppa chuck” every time there is anything from a massacre to a lottery win – but I have never, I SWEAR HAVE NEVER drunk an entire cup of tea.

*when I say tea I mean real tea – builder’s tea, Earl grey that sort of thing not girly flavoured tea …

I actually think the nearest I have got is a thimble full of canteen style tea, which I am sorry fellow journos one of you made for me in our oh so special and sacred newsroom kitchen – I am afraid it tasted to me like a cross between gone off fruit and curdled milk and…well nothing!! I drank a sip and made that face…you know that shudder face that people make when they swallow something that is just well PUKE!!!

I guess I have never really been a hot drink person until the past few years. As a kid I didn’t even like hot chocolate – I know odd kid ( I didn’t even like the Simpsons). I still won’t drink kitchen made coffee, only soya lattes with froth and yummy gingerbread, vanilla or caramel syrups, and hot Vimto 🙂 the drink of the gods :)and I will have hot choc but only in a certain mug with mini marshmallows!!!

I am officially a HOT DRINK SNOB…. I like coffee because you get to make a choice every single day. No matter how shit your day is you can walk into Starbucks (not any more they scam us tax payers – but I can throw out my morals for a good caramel soy frap at half price) and make a massive decision which if you get wrong can seriously change your day into a living nightmare – I mean the wrong coffee, such as straying from your sturdy and reliable latte to say a macchiato can be the final straw that tips you over the edge into THIS IS THE WORSE DAY EVER, I WANT TO QUIT, I HATE MY LIFE!!! But the right can be an AHH moment of pure bliss with the foam and the heat blasting your troubles away.

I get great satisfaction in saying a TALL, SOYA, SUGAR FREE VANILLA, LATTE, EXTRA HOT, WITH ONE SHOT OF COFFEE please, when I order my coffee – it may just be the single most complicated thing I do on an almost daily basis. But it never lets me down!!!

But now because of this challenge and because of Winnie my poo bag I am having to throw my milky, dreamy, hug in a mug aside and dabble in the world of tea – something that most people do on a scarily hourly basis. I knew I was going to hate it – but these challenges are not meant to be easy and I was determined not to stop until I had drunk every last horrific dreg – I guess I hadn’t counted on the fact they would give me a bloody vat of the pale brown liquid!

So my tea loving friend Becca (who really loves tea) vowed to help me conquer this challenge. Let me make one thing clear I am not a tea phobic, I have drunk peppermint tea in hospital to try to stop Winnie from farting and spluttering and me burping like Homer Simpson after 20 doughnuts and a crate of Duff!! And some fruit teas – well kinda!! At home my tea bags linger at the back of the cupboard waiting in anticipation for a builder or electrician to be offered a sacred cup of my flats forbidden drink.

We ended up at the Mad Hatters Tea Room – which if you haven’t been – DO!!! It is Alice in Wonderland in a cafe, so pretty and slightly insane. While waiting for Becca I was literally perspiring (and not from the heat) from the array of different teas on offer at the cafe. I seriously thought there would have just been one type called TEA – but no there was about 10 different ones.

We sat down and Becca and the very nice waiter who was genuinely amused and I think a little concerned when he heard I had NEVER drunk a cup of tea….I think he genuinely thought I was a crazy person!!! He might have been a little freaked out!

I chose the Rose Petal Tea – which is described as “our own blend of black tea infused with the elegant scent and taste of whole dried rose petals” – mmm!!! the anticipation was very literally killing me!!

As we chatted the tea arrived….imagine my horror when it came in a very cute teapot with a strainer (which could have been from Mars by the way I looked at it) and a dainty flowery cup. I had been prepared for a cup of tea not to try to force down a who teapot!

Seriously, my friend had to explain what I had to do. I poured the tea through the strainer and took a sip…and you know what, it wasn’t that bad…I mean I wouldn’t rave about it and I’m not about to start inhaling tea through my sinuses but it was managable…and with us chatting and laughing I managed to rather enjoy the experience.

That was until I absent mindedly decided to pour myself another cup, and, yes you have guessed it, forgot to use the strainer! ROOKY mistake!! Then cause i was laughing so much and was so embarrassed (and this is someone who has told the whole world she has a bag of poo on her stomach) that I couldn’t bear to ask the waiter for a new cup, I precariously tried to pour the leaves back into the teapot…I did quite well but obviously made a mess!

The second cup reminded me why this was a challenge – It was like drinking acidic skunks piss – I struggled and politely smiled over the rim of the cup but I think it was obvious to the whole tea room, not just Becca, that this experience (the tea not the chatter I mean, to make that clear) was actually painful to me – I must have looked like I was constipated!!

I tried to make it nicer by adding a sugar cube – which I also admitted was a first, i don’t recall ever adding a sugar cube to anything (I’m actually starting to realise how sheltered my first 25 years have been!!) in my life. This was a BIG MISTAKE – it was REVOLTING – but in all fairness I managed half of the cup – forcing it down in pained gulps with a grimace which would probably have scared young children half to death.

SO I did it – mostly thanks to Becca. And I exceeded my own expectations by drinking 3/4 of a little teapot, far more than the cup that I had challenged myself to drink for this blog.

Horray one down 100 to go. Except Winnie is not enjoying the tea, it seems my choice gives acid reflex mmm lovely!! And I can feel an overdrive in the bag section stirring, thank god I am sleeping alone tonight 🙂 I know too much info, but being blatantly honest I am a Coffee girl through and through – sorry guys tea just isn’t for me.

I hope the tea bags understand and don’t get upset, but I’m afraid you will be staying tucked away from the light of day along with the Five Spice I bought when I was going to make an exotic dish at uni but couldn’t be arsed and then my illness stopped me ever eating anything hotter than a sprinkle of pepper again, until a builder says yes to the worse cuppa he will ever drink in his life.

ONE DOWN 100 TO GO – WEDNESDAY is LIFE DRAWING – GOD HELP ME AND MY TEMPERAMENTAL OSTOMY BAG!!!