I enjoyed white water rafting before I had Crohn’s Disease at age 19. Part of the fun was not knowing how much water would be released that day and how big or rough the rapids would be. The best part was that the rapids lasted only 30 minutes, then it was a smooth and calm ride down the river. Life with a chronic illness and my Crohn’s Disease is very much like taking a raft ride down a fast moving and ever winding river with white water rapids.
Each day, each moment I never know truly what to expect. I might wake up and think that today will be a good day and then 5 minutes later end up the bathroom for an hour with severe pain, bleeding, and diarrhea. The problem with this and any chronic illness being unpredictable is that it is harder to cope with and manage.
Knowing that the white water river rapids lasted only 30 minutes gave me a finish line, and end in sight – I knew I could endure it and that it would be over soon. With Crohn’s Disease, I never know what is around the next bend. River rapids are rated on a 1 to 5 scale, with 4 and 5 being very rocky, fast, and dangerous. I never know in my daily life if I am about to go around the bend and suddenly there is a waterfall with huge rocks, or if the current will slow a bit and provide me some reprieve from the onslaught.
Interestingly the way to manage both river rapids and Crohn’s Disease moments of crisis is the stay in the moment, not focus on the past or future and be present. This concept is called Mindfulness and essentially it involves paying attention to only what is going on at the moment without judging or evaluation it. I simply notice and comment in my mind what is going on. A key factor is that I pay kind attention. There is empathy and kindness when I observe any pain and suffering and I take deep breaths and focus on my breathing, noting I am okay and I can handle this!
In the future I plan to write more about the uses and benefits and my personal journey with mindfulness and relaxation.
By Isaac Levinsky