Medically reviewed by Jenny Blair, MD

It’s easy to pretend with IBD. It’s easy to hide behind a smile. It’s easy to mask the pain and shield those around you from your true reality. While all of that may seem easy, the only person you are truly hurting is yourself.

As someone who has battled Crohn’s disease for nearly 14 years, I used to be that person. The denial and staying silent was part of how I coped. Staying silent helped me feel somewhat normal, like the rest of the 20-something population. But once I started verbalizing my struggles and accepting the challenges of what it’s like to live with a debilitating, chronic disease, it opened me up to a whole new world.

On this World IBD Day, the theme is making the invisible visible. Use this day as an opportunity to be heard. Take those inner thoughts and fears and use them to spread awareness and educate your friends and family. We all need to stop pretending life with IBD is no big deal and start articulating how physically, mentally, and emotionally taxing it can be.

Here are my 10 hopes for you in the year ahead:

  1. Rather than fearing judgement, expect support.
  2. Instead of smiling when you’re hurting, discover how empowering it is to voice your pain.
  3. Choose to show others the light, rather than keep them in the dark.
  4. Don’t wallow in your situation, but instead collaborate and join hands with the legions of others who live your reality.
  5. Instead of sugarcoating your experience, use brutal honesty to help pave the way for yourself and others.
  6. Decide not to live in isolation, but instead go out of your comfort zone and connect with fellow IBD warriors online near and far.
  7. Rather than expending energy on one-sided friendships and relationships, find people who are in your corner during the good and the bad times.
  8. Instead of living in fear of your next flare, try to find and celebrate the joy in any simple moment.
  9. Rather than constantly belittling your body and your capabilities, show yourself love and appreciation.
  10. Instead of wondering why me, wonder why not me.

Author Natalie (Sparacio) Hayden is a former TV news anchor with Crohn’s disease. Her blog, “Lights, Camera, Crohn’s: An Unobstructed View” (lightscameracrohns.com) covers everything from overcoming struggles to celebrating small victories. As a passionate health advocate, journalist, wife, and mom, she strives to show there is more to life than your diagnosis and illness.

Jenny Blair is a writer and journalist covering science, medicine, and the humanities. She earned her MD at Yale University, then completed a residency in emergency medicine at the University of Chicago. After several years in practice, she transitioned to working with words and ideas full-time. Jenny has contributed to Discover, New Scientist, Washington Spectator, and Medtech Insight, among other publications. She lives in New York City.

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.