As a guy, there’s often an unspoken rule that you can’t show emotion or weakness among other guys. It seems like showing emotion or weakness could cause you to lose respect from your peers for failing to portray the masculine stereotype. Well, all of that is pretty challenging to do when you have a health condition like inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).
For me personally, I was hesitant to talk about my Crohn’s disease because it felt like I was publicly displaying my hidden weakness. Unsure about how others would judge me, I chose to keep my disease very well hidden except for a few close friends and family.
It took me years to accept my condition but one regret I have is not opening up and sharing my story sooner. Sharing my story has allowed others to better understand my condition and has allowed me to connect with IBD patients across the globe.
Here, I asked two men living with IBD to share their perspectives on the stigma of IBD and their advice for others living with the condition.
Mental Health Matters—Ask for Help When You Need It
“One thing I always bring to light is the mental health side of IBD,” says Jordan Wilson (Instagram: @who_is_jordan_wilson), 35, Orange County, California. Wilson was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis in 2010. After experiencing a severe flare, which Wilson says lasted for nearly 18 months, he underwent a total colectomy. He has been living with a j-pouch ever since. After recovering from surgery, Wilson resumed his career in real estate—he also teaches indoor cycling on the side and is a vocal IBD advocate.
“The symptoms associated with IBD are draining and can lead to anxiety and depression. Often, this side of the IBD struggle gets ignored or neglected. It’s important to treat the whole patient. Anxiety, depression, and fatigue can take a huge toll on our mental state of mind.” His advice: Take your health into your own hands, ask the tough questions, and ask for help if and when you need it.
Being a guy with IBD means that sometimes we have to swallow our pride, ignore the cue to “suck it up,” and just ask for help, adds Wilson. “Our support system is crucial and it’s important to take advantage of it.”
Opening Up About My Health Was Terrifying—But I Wish I Did It Sooner
I was hesitant to talk about my Crohn’s disease because it felt like I was publicly displaying my hidden weakness. Unsure about how others would judge me, I chose to keep my disease very well hidden except for a few close friends and family.
It took me years to accept my condition but one regret I have, is not opening up and sharing my story sooner. Sharing my story has allowed others to better understand my condition and has allowed me to connect with IBD patients across the globe. Connecting with successful and influential IBD patients is incredibly inspiring by knowing I’m not battling this disease alone.
Share Your Story to Help Break the Stigma
“Growing up I was embarrassed to talk about my disease because I feared other kids would make fun of me,” says Jason Barayuga (Instagram: @barajason), 26, Kauai County, Hawaii. Barayuga was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease in 2004 after experiencing severe IBD symptoms for years. Despite experiencing excruciating IBD symptoms—Barayuga graduated college as a civil engineer and is now a construction engineer building bridges on Kauai.
By educating others, I learned to embrace who I was. The challenges that I faced not only made me different, but made me into a tougher, more resilient person, adds Barayuga. Being able to openly talk about his disease gave Barayuga a lot of courage and confidence to enjoy life with a whole new perspective.
Barayuga wants all men to use IBD as a strength and inspiration. Share your story and use it as a driver to achieve your goals—be it career, relationship, spiritual, or health goals.
“Sharing your story with friends and open-minded people can help break the stigma that may not fit society’s version of what men feel the need to portray.”
You’re Not in This Alone
Finally, there are always ways to connect with others with IBD. Joining support groups or volunteering through your local Crohn’s and Colitis chapter is a great way to meet other guys (and women) with IBD. It’s always nice to connect with other guys and share experiences, and truthfully, sometimes it’s easier and less embarrassing to talk with someone of the same gender who can truly understand what you’re going through.
If face to face isn’t your thing, you can always reach out online through support pages or social media. That’s how I connected with Jordan and Jason. I know Jason, Jordan, myself, and many others in the community are always more than happy to connect with others with IBD.
Sharing your experiences with IBD might be difficult at first—but it gets easier, and you never gain any outside support if you don’t take that first step.
Oshi is a tracking tool and content resource. It does not render medical advice or services, and it is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. You should always review this information with your healthcare professionals.