Mike's Story - What does it mean to be 'worried sick'?

In our latest blog post, we introduce you to Mike, a 71-year-old who proudly embraces the title of a 'silver surfer.' More than three decades ago, Mike received a diagnosis of Ulcerative Colitis. We spoke with Mike and discussed his experiences living with this condition and the valuable insights he's gained in managing stress throughout the years, as he came to understand the true significance of the phrase "worried sick."

Hello, I’m Mike. I am 71 years old fit, healthy and play league Badminton. I live with Ulcerative Colitis and have done so for almost 50 years.

I had my first flare-up when I was a teenager in the 1970`s during my A-Level exams. My parents insisted I see the GP after several weeks of diarrhoea and some weight loss. The doctors suggested it could be related to a dairy and/or wheat allergy, neither of which had caused any reaction before. I’d put the symptoms down to what I call ‘personal performance stress’ at the time of my exams. It affected my teenage life immensely, embarrassing and worrying where the nearest toilet was.

I was put on a course of steroid medication for several weeks, which seemed to help. After a year or so, when my A-Levels were over, the symptoms gradually ended, and I made a full recovery. It wasn’t allergies as I was able to eat everything again with no repercussions. However, in my 40’s the symptoms returned.

I again went to the doctors. After they reviewed my medical history and saw the symptoms I’d experienced in my teens, they suggested I had a colonoscopy. The colonoscopy showed I had inflammation in my bowel and I was diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis.

Prior to my second flare-up, I was very stressed. I worked for Social Services as a Manager for a large Day Centre. Again, I was prescribed Prednisolone steroids in the hope they would relieve my symptoms. However, at this time I started to draw similarities between the two flare-ups I’d experienced. The common factor being stress. I realised that history was repeating itself.

My strategy, if I can call it that, was to remove myself from the situation. I decided to change my job because I felt again that the stress was triggering my Colitis. I appreciate that it is easier said than done, just changing jobs, but I felt I had to, so my wife and I became self-employed in the care industry. 

The feeling of being in control of my work made a huge difference to me mentally and for my Colitis. I do believe, in my case, that stress and being overwhelmed, combined with not feeling in control of my work situation very much contributed to my Ulcerative Colitis flaring up. Within 6 weeks of leaving that job, I was off steroids and I haven’t experienced a flare-up in over 20 years.


Living with Ulcerative Colitis

Furthermore, even though I’m aware there’s no genetic link, my Step Grandson has just been diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease, another form of Inflammatory Bowel Disease. He recently experienced a lot of stress in his life, including taking his GCSE exams. Before these stresses occurred, he was the Rugby and Cricket Captain for his school. He is now on steroids and lost one and a half stone. I can’t help but feel the stress he’s experienced recently may have contributed as well. The link between the mind and the body is extremely powerful, and I believe that stress and acute anxiety can affect your digestive system. More attention/research should be given to this area and for the sake of your own mental health.

If you’re experiencing any bowel illness it’s important to be honest about how you are coping, whether that be in your personal and/or work life.

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