My name is Aaron, and I have Crohn’s disease. I was diagnosed in 2009. I had to learn quickly how to navigate life with Crohn’s as a college student. I spent most of my free time either studying or sleeping, but some of my Friday nights (every six weeks, to be exact) were spent at an infusion center getting treatment to keep my disease in check.
I have been advocating for Crohn’s for quite a while now, and it has been a humbling experience. Getting through college with Crohn’s was tough, but the experiences taught me lessons I’ll always remember.
Here is how I deal with FOMO — the fear of missing out.
Be as honest as you can with your friends about your disease
This might seem out of place when dealing with FOMO, but it has been beyond helpful. If you aren’t comfortable giving too many details, don’t. Just letting your friends know you have a health issue that may hinder your ability to be social can go a long way.
I let my close friends know about my illness — especially my college roommate. Why? Because I felt bad turning down invites. I didn’t want them to think I was ignoring them. Trying to go out while sick was stressful, but being honest with my friends made me feel better.
They would also plan to do things on campus or in the dorm, so I didn’t feel left out. It can be tough to open up, but letting your friend group know can be helpful.
Know your limits
The longer you’ve been living with Crohn’s, the more you realize what you can and can’t do (and whether doing it is worth feeling a little sicker afterward).
Is it worth going out and risking a flare? Is it something you can be OK with missing out on? It can take some time to figure this all out, but it will pay off to figure out the events you can tolerate and those you can’t.
There were times I pushed myself too far during a flare and regretted it. Other times I wanted to do something I knew I might not have the chance to do again, so I went for it (and loved every second).
Get creative with your nights in
If you want to be social but aren’t feeling well, then plan a night in — and get creative with it! Invite some of your closest friends over and have a movie or game night. Serve food you can tolerate, and establish what time the gathering will end, just in case you aren’t feeling alright.
Nights in like this can give you the social experiences you want without the added anxiety of being in public.
Go easy on yourself
I am my own worst enemy when it comes to feelings of guilt and anxiety. Realizing that your health comes first makes it easier to deal with FOMO. Remember, not everyone will understand how you feel and what you are going through, and that’s OK. But true friends will see past your health problems and support you every step of the way. Having this chronic illness is not your fault, and realizing that is a huge step in the right direction. Taking care of yourself is important.
Living with inflammatory bowel disease is hard. Unfortunately, there will be times you miss out on something you wanted to do, but it will get better.
Realize your health comes first, learn your limits, and cherish the memories you’re able to make. There will be times when missing out is best for your health. There will be times you don’t feel well, but push yourself to go out anyway. Some of the most important advice I ever received after my diagnosis was to keep living in spite of my disease. That’s what I try to do, and I hope you do too.
The journey is not easy, and there will be setbacks, but keep fighting and keep living.
Aaron Blocker has been living with Crohn’s disease since 2009. He has an MSc degree in biomedical research and is passionate about science. He advocates for IBD on multiple platforms, hoping to spread awareness and educate others so that people living with the disease might enjoy a better quality of life.