I successfully hid my undiagnosed illness for years. I hid the illness from friends. I hid it from workmates and fellow students. I even hid it from my family. No one else knew I was sick.
I caught a virus
The illness started when I was working in Brisbane. A virus went through my workplace. The virus caused chronic diarrhoea. Some of my sick workmates lost a lot of weight. I caught the virus and needed a week off work to recover.
But I didn't totally recover. I used the toilet more often after the virus. Often I had to rush to the toilet. The unpredictability of my bowel movements made life difficult.
There was little supervision at my work. So no one seemed to notice my many trips to the toilet. But frequent sick days eventually led to my retrenchment. As I was unemployed, broke and sick I returned home.
Good at hiding
Amazingly, I managed to keep hiding my illness from my family. I did not want to add their worries about my health to mine. I became an expert at nonchalantly rushing past them to the toilet. Sometimes I did not arrive at the toilet in time. So I also became an expert at the quick and quiet clean up.
I tried a number of methods to control my bowels. I took the supplement psyllium. Every morning before I left the house I did exercises to try and completely empty my bowels. But I still soon learned the location of every public toilet in town.
My illness would come and go with varying degrees of intensity. Sometimes the symptoms would quieten for months. But then the illness could strike at the most inconvenient times. It struck on the afternoon of my diploma's first-year break up dinner. It also struck on the first day I went fruit picking.
I did the rounds of doctors. From previous experience I had little faith in doctors. One doctor thought I had haemorrhoids. But haemorrhoid treatments did not help. Finally I found a doctor who said a colonoscopy should find the cause of my illness.
On the day of my colonoscopy a storm struck Wangaratta. The hospital power ominously flickered just as I was wheeled into the theatre. The colonoscopy revealed a severe case of ulcerative colitis. I left the hospital in a daze as I wondered what ulcerative colitis was.
What is ulcerative colitis?
Ulcerative colitis is an inflammation of the large bowel. It is similar to the more well know Crohn's disease. About 70,000 people have ulcerative colitis or Crohn's disease in Australia. The medical profession does not know what causes ulcerative colitis and there is no cure.
Impossible to hide
I reacted badly to being diagnosed with a life-long illness. My body also reacted badly to the prescribed drugs. It became impossible to hide the illness from my family. But I still frequently hide it from other people. I want to avoid their disgust, pity and toilet humour.