There certainly is a ton of stigma attached to having ulcerative colitis.
First of all, nobody talks about bowel movements, let alone bowel disorders. No one wants to be associated with chronic diarrhea, constipation, farting and all of that. In fact, let me illustrate by giving you an example. I used to be terribly embarrassed by the gas that kept slipping out, and I would spend a great chunk of time panicked that somebody would discover that it had been me. What would everybody think? Oh great, I thought, everybody is so grossed out! However, with time, I realized that it really doesn’t matter what the rest of the world thinks. After all, why on earth should I be caring about everyone else’s opinions and reactions, when I am the one suffering incredible pain? And, my worrying only further exacerbated the problem.
Recently, I have finally let go of this paralyzing concern with “the rest of the world”, particularly when it comes to the social embarrassment of my problems. Having the problems are trouble enough; I now see that it’s not worth getting worked up over what other people think. It is definitely a long process, and we are socially conditioned to worry. I would worry that people wouldn’t like me because I was plagued with flatulence, which I now see is so ludicrous.
Essentially, nobody cares, and nobody should. At the very least, it’s a social nuisance, but all others have to put up with is the smell. Yet that is temporary! Nobody is going to secretly harbor resentment against you because you farted or have diarrhea, unless, of course, he or she has a whole other set of unresolved issues. But hey, that’s not your problem! Your concern is to soothe your emotions, to soothe your belly, to tell your emotionally reactive gut that it’s not the end of the world, that you’re not getting attacked, that you don’t have to feel pressured to flee (or have explosive diarrhea) because it serves nobody. That’s right, it’s time to be concerned with the workings of your own emotional brain, to make sure that your emotional experience serves rather than deters you. It’s simply too exhausting to manage an overactive mind-gut system, while juggling concerns about social implications on top of that. Stop torturing yourself, and take care of yourself instead. Yes, there absolutely is a lot of stigma around bowel disorders, but in the sensitive minds of the sufferers, we’re blowing that stigma out of proportion. We don’t need it; we just need to let it go.