A Family Unites
Georgia Richardson has been living with Crohn’s disease for 13 years and has become a stronger person for it with the help of her loved ones.
My first memory of my Crohn’s disease was when I was nine years old. I remember waking up for school and going to the bathroom. I remember wiping and all I saw was blood on the toilet paper and inside the toilet bowl. I ran to my parent’s room scared and ended up fainting twice.
After a few hospital visits, and being sent home because we were told it was only gastro, the final diagnosis was first UC, however I then later came to be diagnosed with Crohn’s when I was 13 years old. My experience with Crohn’s was difficult, scary and anxiety-ridden. Being so young I was unable to understand what was going on and why my body was going through this.
My body was also the type to be put onto medication and have It only last six to nine months roughly or not at all before having to change and try something new. I was given a plethora of medications to try, and experienced multiple flare-ups. It wasn’t until I changed hospitals to the Royal Children’s Hospital and was taken off everything and put on a medication called Methotrexate, taken via injection every week, that I started to improve.
For the first time this medication meant I could get out of bed, I could go to school, I could go out and see friends or play sport. I was no longer having to miss out on doing those things. This medication however did not come without limitations. Unfortunately I began to get major side effects including nausea, shortness of breath, vomiting and confusion amongst others, which would last for at least two days. I was on this medication for seven years. For a while I could tolerate the side effects because it meant getting to do the things I loved again, but in the last two years of being on this medication the side effects caught up to me, and I began to relapse. So I asked to change. I was put on a medication known as Stelara and for the first time ever I am on a medication that currently works and does not give me a single side effect.
The impact on myself definitely affected my mental health. I became anxious and didn’t want to leave the house, and when I did leave, I didn’t like to go very far. I always needed to know where the nearest bathroom or hospital was, both things I still do to this day especially when travelling to places I don’t know.
It has taken me a long time to be able to build back my mental strength, and I am now able to trust that I’m ok and can get through those anxious moments. My family and partner are my biggest supporters, and I am forever grateful to have such a support system. They have sat by me through every step of my Crohn’s and my mental health, but I also know that my health was not easy on them. I know that they were constantly worrying, constantly trying to figure out how to help and even had to miss out on things themselves. I believe having
Crohn’s was a learning curve for us all.
I feel like the people in my life do understand my Crohn’s to a large extent. They see what I go through, and they always try to support me the best they can and help out in any way they can. However I do believe that IBD is not an easy disease to understand, especially considering that every individual goes through different experiences with the disease. So unless you go through it yourself, there’s no way to fully understand it.
Live Fearless Challenge I have always wanted to get involved with anything that is related to Crohn’s and UC, and so when I came across the Live Fearless Challenge online one day, I decided to get involved. I also got my family involved, both immediate and extended.
Doing this challenge was my way of showing myself how far I have come and doing it for those who aren’t able to just yet.
That my family supported me with the challenge was amazing, even more so because they got involved. The first year of doing the challenge was the hardest, during the big lockdown in Melbourne and struggling with my irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and mental health. Having my family do the challenge with me kept me going. I knew that I wanted to finish it the best I could while also not being hard on myself if I had days where I just couldn’t do it and needed to rest.
Having such a big group in the challenge really helped to get our group out there and raise money for the cause. Everyone did such a great job in helping to raise money and reach the distance goals. Having someone to walk with or ride with made all the difference and gave me extra motivation.
Where I’m at now
Currently I am in a good state Crohn’swise. It is back to being stable and under control, so I’m able to work, see friends, do things with my family, do things with my partner. Day to day however I do still have to take it easy sometimes. My body doesn’t always respond the same, I get tired a lot, I get sore muscles and joints, I get sick easily due to my immune system not being great, and I have IBS, which causes me the most stress. However, all of these are very much manageable and I have learnt / am still learning how to better take of my body.
My biggest focus is trying to find food that makes me feel good and making those kinds of lifestyle changes.
The biggest thing I have learnt about myself is that I am a lot stronger than I thought I was. Managing IBD takes a lot out of you at times and, I remember moments where I would feel so low because I was in pain all the time. But I also realised that no matter what I got through it, and it has made me a lot stronger.
The best way I try to care for myself on bad days is usually to rest up. It’s one of the biggest things you can do for your body when you have days that are hard and you feel like you don’t have much energy.
The advice I would give to others trying to manage and figure out Crohn’s and colitis, and something I had to really learn and still am learning, is to listen to your body as it will tell you what it needs, whether that be extra rest or a more chilled out day. Don’t be hard on yourself for the things you can’t do. It’s ok to focus on you and allow yourself the time to heal.