Monday, May 7, 2012

Display Case

If you’re looking for my dorm room, you won’t have a hard time finding it. Besides the unmistakable clue of my name, the dead-giveaway is the IBD awareness poster on the door. Of course I did.

And while I’m all for awareness and raising the profile of IBD, sometimes I have a slightly negative experience with professing my guts (or rather, lack thereof). Let me paint the picture for you: I was hungry, it was late, the dining hall was closed. I meandered downstairs to get a snack from the cafe. I ran into a friend I had recently met, and while I think she’s super nice, we don’t know each other well. This translates into her not knowing about my IBD. Awareness has to take place at the right times - it’s not something to say just to say, not for those awkward moments of silence, you have to have a sense of the audience. 

Back to the scene at hand. At the cafe, tummy grumbling, searching for food, chatting with a friend. With finals looming, it was the natural subject of our conversation. So luckily I only have one final on Thursday so I’m currently enjoying endless reruns of Alias - and okay, studying too, I promise - and I was jokingly saying that I wanted to be Sydney Bristow (come on, being a kick-butt spy would totally rock). As we’re talking away about wanting to be super secret awesome spies, I heard my name and saw my RA.

“Jennie,” she said, “it’s so nice to see you out and about and alive and out of the hospital.”

Uh oh.

My friend turns to me with a ‘WHAAAT?’ expression on her face. Confession time. “Oh yeah,” I said, “I have Crohn’s and last semester the hospital was my secondary residence.” And when the moment of truth came, she didn’t even blink and said, “My cousin has that.” Ah, relief. We then were talking about that and meds - in the middle of the cafe I might add - and finally my ostomy. “Your what?” was the response. I pulled down the top of my sweatpants to show her and quickly followed it up by adding that I wanted to be the first spy with a bag. A white lie? Perhaps (though it would still be awesome). But I felt the need to be especially chipper and upbeat about it since the moment had been thrust upon me. 

I felt like I was on display, being prodded for a story before I was ready to share it. I’m more than willing to share when given the chance, but I dislike when others (even when the intention is good) feel the need to over-share and expose my medical background. 

Awareness only works when you’re a person first. You have to first know that my favorite color is purple, that I love to lip-sync as I run (a confession I might want to keep to myself...), I could eat crate-loads of bananas, I would faint if I met Patrick Dempsey out of sheer thrill, I truly love school and learning, I want a big family, and so on and so forth - you get the idea. 

You have to know that first before you can understand my life with IBD, before you can understand that IBD is just a part of me and not a defining characteristic. I am me before I am anything else and I’ll never give up that right.


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