Whenever Serena Ehrlich goes someplace new, she scouts out the location of the bathroom. That's because Ehrlich, 38, a Los Angeles-based salesperson for a commercial wire service, has ulcerative colitis. She developed the disease 12 years ago and has been in remission for the past three. Still, the old habit lingers. "Everyone who has ulcerative colitis will tell you that when you walk into a bookstore, a shop, or a restaurant, that's the one thing you want to know first. It's our rule of thumb."
Fortunately, you can still keep up rewarding and loving relationships, even when you don’t feel well.
Let Your Friends In
Megan Starshak was 18 and headed to college when she learned she had UC.
"I was still learning about the disease and didn't know what to tell others," says Starshak, who is now in her early 30s.
As a result, she spent a lot of nights at home while her friends noticed that she never seemed to want to do anything fun.
"People would say, 'Join us when you feel better.' It was like they thought I had a cold. They didn't understand that I was dealing with a chronic illness," she says.
Come clean with your close friends. Or at least let a few friends know the details of your condition. Chances are, they’ll want to know more so they can support you better.
"It's good to have someone in your corner who can tell others, 'Look, Megan has a serious illness, and today she's not feeling well,'" says gastroenterologist Aline Charabaty-Pishvaian, MD. She directs the Center for Inflammatory Bowel Diseases at Georgetown University.
It's nice to be able to count on a pal who might be willing to give up an occasional night out in order to spend time with you when you need it.
"Looking back on my college days, I wish that I had been more open and let people in on what I was going through," Starshak says.
Ways to Deal With Dating Jitters
It's up to you whether you want to make your digestive health a topic for your first date. But you shouldn't wait too long to bring it up.
"Your date may feel confused and insecure if he doesn't know what's going on, and you're canceling engagements because you don't feel well. Or you're distracted when you're together because you're concerned about having a mishap," Charabaty-Pishvaian says.