“Elevating the voices of others” – Lauren’s story

In 2019, my life took an unexpected turn when I was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease. It all began with what seemed like a simple flu, but as days turned into months, I found myself unable to recover. What followed were months of disabling fatigue, intense body and joint pain, constant nausea whenever I tried to eat or drink and a range of other horrible symptoms. As someone who was once vibrant and full of energy, the sudden onset of these symptoms was devastating.

Despite my persistence in seeking answers, doctors continued to dismiss my concerns and attributed them to stress-related triggers or a breakdown in my mental health. But deep down, I knew something wasn’t right. It wasn’t until I realised I would have to fiercely advocate for myself and demanded further testing that my Crohn’s disease was finally confirmed.

While the diagnosis brought relief in knowing what I was facing, it also brought a wave of grief for the disbelief I had endured, and the loss of the career, relationships and the life I once knew, which had all been impacted as a result of my uncontrolled illness.

Living with Crohn’s disease has been a journey filled with ups and downs. Managing the constant pain and limited energy has been a daily struggle, and there any many access barriers in society that I still have to contend with. But it has also taught me invaluable lessons about resilience and self-belief.

Despite the challenges, I eventually found the strength to pursue my passion for mental health and disability advocacy. Returning to study and gaining qualifications to work in this field has been a beacon of hope for me in my journey. It’s a passion I might never have discovered if not for my illness. Through it all, I’ve come to realise the importance of using every part of my life to overcome the obstacles presented by Crohn’s disease, and to elevate the voices of others who are experiencing the same challenges. I believe this is where we can make change happen.

Managing this illnesses requires a collaborative effort between patients and healthcare providers, as well as unwavering support from loved ones. Not everyone will have support networks like this, and it’s especially for these people that I hope my story will relate. For me, It’s about taking control of my health, well-being, and lifestyle, and learning to find joy in the little things. If there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s the importance of being your own advocate and speaking up for the care and treatment you deserve.

While I might not have reached remission yet, I hold onto the hope that there will be a treatment that works for me in the future. In the meantime, I am committed to using my story to support others living with chronic illnesses and disabilities, and to #flushthestigma surrounding inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).

My journey with Crohn’s disease has been filled with challenges, but it has also been a source of growth and empowerment. I am grateful for the opportunities it has provided me in making a difference in the lives of others, as well as this new community that’s welcomed me. I truly hope to continue to advocate for a more inclusive and understanding world.

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