At 31, I might fall a couple of years short of being young enough to get involved with Me and IBD, Crohn's and Colitis UK's support group for people aged 16 - 29, but that doesn't stop me from telling people about it. They offer encouragement through a discussion forum, information sheets and even have information service phone-line to call.
I was diagnosed with Crohn's Disease when I was 13 years old, so I know what it's like to live with IBD throughout secondary school and university. I didn't know anything about Crohn's Disease and I dealt with it be burying my head in the sand, I was operating under a 'what I don't know can't hurt me' theory. It didn't work, when I was 20, I developed abscesses and fistula that I had no idea were due to Crohn's so I ignored it until I was hospitalised. After that I realised I have to know exactly what I was dealing with so I would know the side effects were and if I could do anything to help myself.
It's never very easy to tell fellow adolescents, "yeah, I have chronic diarrhoea," without the fear that they'll mock you. It's tough enough as an adult to explain to others that your condition means you have bowels with a death-wish ('toilet issues' are a sensitive subject with most people). I was skinny, except for a giant steroid moon-face and combination of the disease and the treatment stunted my growth. I was bullied and excluded by my friends because I looked too young and my prescence in the group was deemed embarrassing. It's something that damaged my emerging sense of self to the point that I had little confidence in myself as a person and still haven't found any self esteem about my appearance.
Me and IBD are there to support young people through all of the rough times by putting them in contact with others going through exactly the same issues. They have made a series of videos with some of the Crohn's and Colitis UK Ambassadors who share their experiences of living with IBD when they were young. I was particularly moved by the videos with Della Thielamay (above) and Rick Parfitt Jr, who at times could be talking about my life, their experiences are so similar to mine.
If you, or a family member, are 16 - 29 years old and living with IBD, you can be part of the Me and IBD video campaign. Just watch this short video and make your own to submit to Crohn's and Colitis UK. Or head over to the Crohn's and Colitis UK website and take part in their survey.