I’ve been dating Peter for just over a year now. Well, actually, we're engaged. A few months after we started dating, he started flaring. He went from telling me his surgery was no big deal and just for a ‘Crohn’s thing’ to telling me pretty much everything—possibly too much, but I love it.
So your boyfriend has Crohn’s Disease. What are some things you should know?
1. You can’t make his pain stop, but there are things that you can do.
“My head hurts so bad, I think I’m going to throw up.” He said this, then went to the bathroom, turned the fan on, and threw up. He did this on and off all night. I sat up in bed listening to him suffer through the thin walls, feeling helpless. I put a bottle of water outside of the door for him. He didn’t see it and came back in and asked for a bottle of water. I got him one.
A lot of the time, the best thing to do when someone you love is suffering is just to be quiet and wait for them to ask for something. When Peter is sick, I don’t bug him because he knows what to do for himself. When he asks me for painkillers, I jump up and get them. I guess it’s sort of about being ready to help when he needs it, and at the same time accepting that he won’t always need my help. It’s a hard thing to reconcile when you’re watching someone you love hurt, but they don’t always need you in the way you want to be there for them.
I remember that night asking Peter if I could rub his back or if he wanted me to just leave him alone. He said to leave him alone. I also remember asking him if he wanted more space or if he wanted me to stay beside him while he tried to rest. He said to stay. So I did. When he’s sick, I try my best to be what he needs and not what I want to be. I want to be a superhero that takes all of his suffering away but, instead, I’m a fiancée getting him earplugs to make sleeping a little easier.
2. Ask his parents how they’re doing when he’s in a flare.
I was talking to Peter’s mom once, asking her all sorts of questions about how her son’s disease affects her. She said it was interesting to talk about it, because only once did someone ask her how she was doing when he first got sick. I think it’s easy to forget that the support system goes through the trials with the patient. Take the time to see how his parents are doing, and if they could use some help themselves.
3. He is the best person to take care of himself.
This is an important one. No matter how much you fuss and fixate over his health, he knows his body best.
4. There is such thing as unproductive worrying.
Sometimes when Peter tells me he’s in pain, I’m sent into a state of panic. My anxieties occupy my thoughts and I can’t think about anything else. My one focus is him feeling less pain. But the thing is that Crohn’s Disease isn’t compatible with my worries because sometimes the pain just doesn’t let up. It’s moments like that where you have to realize that life is still happening and it’s not healthy for you or for your boyfriend to be constantly dwelling on his pain. It’s unproductive worrying that isn’t helpful for either of you. It sounds silly but your boyfriend needs to know that you can survive his pain.
5. He will snap at you because he’s close to you.
If you really think about it, it’s kind of a compliment. He trusts you enough that he knows you won’t up and leave if he throws some anger your way.
6. He will appreciate the good days with all his heart.
When Peter has a good-health-day, the world needs to watch out because he’s out there doing everything he can while he can. When you’re sick all of the time, it makes you all the more grateful for even “just an okay day.”