Jacklyn Green was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis three years ago. She’s gone through debilitating symptoms, hospitalizations, medications, countless doctors’ appointments, and much more. While having UC has been incredibly painful, what’s been just as incapacitating for her is the mental anguish she’s experienced. Below is her journey with UC and mental illness as told in her own words:
“My self-esteem took a major blow. The person I saw in the mirror looked sad. Her skin looked sallow. She looked lost and unhappy. Her clothes didn’t compliment her; they hung on her small frame. I didn’t let anyone else see this, except for my boyfriend now and then. To most of the people around me, I was keeping my head held high, I was doing great. I looked great. I was so positive. I had bad days but I was determined. Inside, though, I was full of doubt and fear. I was depressed.
[When I was diagnosed] I wasn’t told about the impact that ulcerative colitis would have on my mental health. It took a lot over the last two years to realize that the life I had before was gone, and to accept that it was not coming back. I had to mourn that life and realize that I have a new life with UC. Having this disease has taken me into the deepest, darkest trenches of my mental health. I’ve lived with depression and faced the possibility of death. I know what it’s like to be told, ‘We don’t know how to treat you.’ I know the weight of the feeling of uncertainty about what could happen next. I know the feeling of being invisible when people say, ‘You’ve lost so much weight, you look great!’ while inside you don’t even recognize your own body and feel as though someone keeps twisting a knife in circles in your intestines. I know the overwhelming feeling of fatigue, and I know the guilt of having to cancel plans because your body just needs rest and you can’t help it. I know the shame, the fear, the sadness, and the loneliness. I know that this disease is a monster.
Ulcerative colitis is invisible not only physically but also mentally. The feelings of depression and anxiety are real and raw and need to be addressed in a patient’s treatment plan. I make it my mission to ensure that other patients feel supported and are doing well with not only the physical ailments this disease presents but also the drastic effect it has on mental health. I am visible, I am strong, and I am determined to keep fighting for myself and others.”