The Mental & Emotional Side Of Crohn’s Disease

It has taken me two years to publish this post. In some form or another, it has sat in my Drafts folder for a full two years.

It’s a bit of a tough topic — the mental and emotional side of Crohn’s — and is certainly a vulnerable one. It has been difficult for me to put these feelings into words, in part because they’re so personal, and in much larger part because I feared criticism over how I was feeling. I know firsthand (ohhhh do I know firsthand!) how nasty the internet can be, and while I can normally blink and dismiss “the haters,” this topic was (and remains) one I’m particularly sensitive and defensive about. Maybe just keep that in mind as you’re reading (with an open mind, I hope).

Ultimately, I’ve decided to share my feelings, because to ignore the emotional aspects of having a chronic illness would be neglecting a huge part of what a disease like Crohn’s encompasses. 

So today, continuing to honor Crohn’s & Colitis Awareness Week, I’m sharing my emotional and mental journey through my worst Crohn’s flare-ups. 

I spent many months in 2013 and 2014 feeling deeply depressed. I don’t remember it starting or coming on suddenly. I was sick and getting sicker, and in the summer of 2013 my Crohn’s disease flare-up had gotten so bad that I had to go on temporary medical leave from my job. During that time, my mental health suffered.

I never sought help, and I pushed away my loved ones. I refused to see a therapist because I didn’t want to see more “doctors.” I didn’t want to talk about it (the past, present, or future) with someone I’d never even met, I envisioned myself just crying the whole time, and I believed that my depression (which is how I refer to my state during that time — I never saw someone to get a clinical diagnosis) would be solved as soon as I got healthy.

But I also believed I would never get healthy again.

I remember — once I was starting to regain my health — returning home from a work trip to L.A. As we were nearing our landing spot at JFK, I took a deep breath and thought, “I am glad our plane didn’t crash today.” It’s an awful thing to even think about when you’re cruising at 35,000 feet. But nearly every other time I had gotten on a plane that year, I secretly wished it would go down and put me out of my misery. I hated thinking those thoughts, but I couldn’t help it. I was so profoundly unhappy, and if I couldn’t change my situation myself, maybe a bad case of turbulence or a flock of high-flying pigeons could help me out.

Now, to be clear, I was never suicidal. I never wanted to take my own life. Ever. (Seriously, Mom. I promise.) I just didn’t want to exist anymore. I was in such a state of constant pain and unhappiness from this disease that I did not want to be around anymore.

It was on that plane that night that I realized I had reached the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel and was ready to move past that seemingly never-ending stretch of darkness I had gone through to get to that point.

People talk about the extensive symptoms and side effects of Crohn’s disease — diarrhea, pain, cramping, fatigue, fevers, joint pain — and they’ll usually tack “depression” on there at the end, like it’s something a few Tylenol will help alleviate every few hours. But it’s rarely elaborated upon, and I didn’t fully understand it until I was in it.

For 25 years, I was the happiest person I knew. My hands were in a constant state of “Jazz” and my smile was practically plastered on. I saw the bright side of everything, and my glass wasn’t just half full, it was overflowing (but didn’t make a mess, like all those smoothies on Instagram).

I never thought I would be someone who was depressed. It didn’t even cross my mind.

I had a great job! Lots of friends! A super great boyfriend! A cool apartment in New York City! A pet giraffe!

But I also have Crohn’s. And when this one particular flare-up beat me down so unrelentingly for months, it took a big piece of my soul right down the toilet with it (#poetry). After two decades with this disease, I knew to expect the bloody bathroom visits and the multiple nightly costume changes on account of night sweats, but I did not expect my spirit to quit on me, too.

So this particular flare-up was bad. If you’ve been around for a while, you know that. It kicked my ass and rocked my world and tore me apart. It was so much more than physical.

During those dark days, I completely lost my identity, which was really hard. I was no longer Ali the Editor in Chief (I had unwillingly gone on medical leave from my job), I wasn’t Auntie Ali (I had to miss Tyler’s first birthday party because I was too sick to make the trip to Boston, and when we FaceTimed, I often had to hang up to run for the bathroom), and I certainly wasn’t Ali On The Run (running? I could barely walk, let alone leave the apartment). I felt so lost, so sad, and so completely empty.

I spent every day at home, alone, on an awful, sweaty, leather couch. I loathed that couch. I was in physical and mental pain, but at some point the mental sadness became something more than sadness. The mere sight of the couch every morning made me cry. Eventually I started experiencing panic attacks just thinking about spending the entire day sitting on the couch. Brian would come home from work, and I would be in the exact same spot I was in when he had left 12 hours prior.

I isolated myself a lot during those times. I didn’t want to ask for help, but also wouldn’t let my friends come visit because I didn’t want them to see me so sick, and didn’t want to spend their entire visits in the bathroom.

I felt guilty. Like I shouldn’t be burdening people with my problems, my pain. My coworker-turned-friend-turned-neighbor-turned-BFF-turned-bridesmaid, Michael, would pick up my prescriptions from Duane Reade and would drop them off at my apartment, but I would rarely let her stay and visit.

There were days I thought I would never stop crying, and there were days I felt nothing at all. I would just sit for hours, watching bad TV and waiting for the day to end. Our apartment has great views of the East River and gets tons of natural sunlight — and the first thing I did every morning was close the shades. I wasn’t interested.

The week I was supposed to go to Hawaii with Brian knocked me from “really bad” to “rock bottom.” We were supposed to go to Hawaii for a friend’s wedding, but I was too sick to go. I insisted he still go, and I went to New Hampshire so my parents could take care of me. I couldn’t take care of myself anymore. I was finally waving my white flag (I picture it being made of white glitter and snowflakes) and letting my mom make me grilled cheese sandwiches.

At one point while I was in New Hampshire, my mom said, “At least you’re alive.” My response? “Yeah, but I don’t want to be.”

I will never forget the look on her face when those words so dryly came out of my mouth. It was heartbreaking. I was being truthful without thinking about how my brutal honesty was affecting my loved ones who only wanted to help.

When my parents brought me to the airport to return to New York City (to see a new doctor!), I wasn’t any healthier. They hadn’t been able to fix me, and that was sad for all of us. I remember leaving them at the airport, sobbing as I walked toward my gate with my suitcase and a bag full of gluten-free snacks (a failed experiment).

Back in New York, I stopped opening my medical bills. Since I was on medical leave, I wasn’t getting paid and couldn’t pay my bills. Of course, hiding them didn’t make the debt collectors stop calling. It was a very out-of-character move for someone who always used to pay in full, on time, every time. But I couldn’t look at the mounting pile of dollar signs.

I finally stuffed the entire stack of half-opened bills into a manila envelope and sent them to my former accountant Dad with a note: “Can you help me figure these out?”

A few days later, he sent me a spreadsheet, telling me exactly what each bill was for, which ones needed to be paid immediately, which could potentially be negotiated, and which I could keep hiding from (thanks, to this day, Mount Sinai Infusion Center, for completely screwing me over).

Meanwhile, I felt my relationship with Brian slipping away. Every single day I expected him to come home from work and break up with me — and I wouldn’t have blamed him.

Dating someone who is sick is not easy. Dating someone who is sick and has given up — who has no fight left in her — is even harder. (If you missed Brian’s take on all this from earlier in the week, check it out when you’re done here.)

Every day that I woke up and didn’t feel better was another day wasted. I felt kicked when I was down, over and over and over. I had no hope. My heart felt shattered. What was I living for? I missed my family, I didn’t want to see my friends, my boyfriend probably didn’t want to be around me, and I couldn’t even think about running, spinning, or yoga. My job was on hold, along with my income — the thing that helped me partially afford this expensive disease.

Some days I was sad, others I felt angry. Most days, I felt nothing at all. I didn’t respond to emails, I didn’t shower, and I definitely didn’t feel like “fighting.”

Everyone kept telling me to “keep fighting!” and it would make me irrationally angry.

I wasn’t fighting. I was sitting around, unshowered, covered in fever-induced sweat. I wasn’t trying to leave the apartment. I wasn’t making myself nutritious meals. I was barely surviving. I was letting Crohn’s win, and I had no desire to “fight.”

And despite their urging, I never sought professional help. I only talked to a few select people most days, and I told them every day that I “just wanted to disappear.” I rarely elaborated, but they listened and empathized. They were all I thought I needed.

In retrospect, it wasn’t fair to unload such heavy feelings onto them. I should have talked to someone trained to respond and help as needed. I should have invested time and money in someone who could adequately handle what I was going through.

I was so defensive, though. Beyond my “why bother?” mentality were my excuses and my strong belief that if I ever got healthy again, I wouldn’t be depressed anymore.

While that did end up being true, for the most part, having someone to talk to in the interim probably wouldn’t have made my situation worse.

Plus, I insisted, I couldn’t leave the apartment to go talk to someone, and I couldn’t afford the cost of therapy since I didn’t have any money coming in. I had every excuse in the world, and I was set on surviving on my own.

There was no magic trick that got me out of my deep funk.

Eventually, spring and summer turned to fall.

I had started a new medication and was getting Iron and Albumin infusions twice a week. That combination worked just enough to get me off the couch. I started acknowledging little victories — getting off the couch, showering, getting dressed, walking to the elevator, taking the elevator to the lobby, walking outside — and eventually basking in them and celebrating them.

Walks to Central Park turned into cab rides back to work, which eventually turned into subway rides to work. One day a walk in the park turned into a .5-mile run in the park. I think I sweat out 85% of my emotions in those seven minutes (yes, seven minutes).

I returned to my people, and most of them were still there, ready and willing to have “The Old Ali” back. Some of them weren’t, honestly. That’s life, though.

As I got back to my routine — less time in the bathroom, more time outside, socializing, and making my life count again — I knew the worst had passed, at least for a while.

I got to be Editor Ali, Auntie Ali, and Ali On The Run again.

My mental and emotional battles through Crohn’s disease broke me down in a way I had never experienced. I had dealt with the stomach stuff, but never the “other” side effects.

Now I know that, should I get sick again, this might all come back.

And that’s OK.

I know it’s OK to ask for help, and I know it’s OK if it takes a little time to get to that point.

I know I can get through it — me and my support squad.

I don’t have a beautiful kicker to end this post. Just reassurance that you’re not alone.

When I was feeling this way, Hyperbole and a Half writer Allie Brosh gave me something to cling to; something, finally, that kind of explained how I was feeling. These posts (part one, part two) were the most relatable things I found. 

Oh, last last thing…

When I was deeply sick and deeply sad, you — the people who read and support me and this blog — helped more than you will ever know. The constant love and support from my internet family kept me going on so many occasions. I don’t know how to adequately thank you for that. So, two years too late: THANK YOU. From the bottom of my most grateful heart. 



66 Responses

  1. I’m so late to this post but am very grateful for what you wrote. I had a very similar experience (also in 2015) but didn’t have the words to capture it and certainly not the compassionate bravery to share with so many others. I came to this post because I started running about a year ago — after being diagnosed with IBD in 2006 and thinking running was forever off limits — so just wanted to say a very belated thank you. Also because of my experience with depression, I was able to spot it very quickly in one of my sisters and get her help fast. I am grateful for that. I’m sure your post has similarly helped people.

  2. Thank you for this. Your entire post was the first time I have ever felt someone understands how I feel. I have had Crohns since I was 10. At this time it was almost unheard of with kids, and there were no kids doctors at 18, was the last major flair up I have had until last year. I am 28 now, and a year ago was the start of the worst flair up I have ever experienced. A year later and I am still suffering, but this was the first time I have suffered mentally like this. I have been feeling exactly how you explained what you went through. Thank you for this post. It means a lot knowing I’m not alone. I know there’s thousands of victims of Crohns, but this was the first post that actually understood how I felt.

  3. THANK YOU! This is perfect. I don’t exactly have a way with words and often find myself struggling to say or write what I am actually feeling and you nailed it right on the head. I have been going through very similar troubles with colitis and gastroperisis and can completely relate to so much of this post. It must have been really difficult to publish but I hope you know that by doing so you have helped so many people; and i can assure you that you very much helped me. Thank you for all your posts and sharing your stories, they have helped me through some of my own tough times. Wishing you health and happiness always!

  4. I’ve been reading your blog for a while now (since Jack Rabbit Sports/Team Sweat days). While we will never meet, I want you to know how much this post meant to me. I have admired your tenacity over the years and how hard you have worked to get it under control. This post has so much honesty and transparency and, as a runner who struggles with a pesky illness myself, I just sat and cried and cried because it was like you read my mind.

    Thanks for being so open about something so deeply personal. Here’s to 2016….full of health, laughter and puppies!

  5. Thank you so much for being brave enough to share! I found your blog the day after I was diagnosed with Crohn’s two years ago. I was going through exactly what you described in this post. Reading your story made me feel like I was not alone and gave me hope that life could still be great despite having Crohn’s. Two years later, life is pretty good and I still love reading your blog! I’m happy to see that you’re getting back into running – being able to run after a flare is one of the BEST things ever!

  6. great post and very well-written. I’m sorry for everything you’ve been through. I don’t have crohn’s but I do suffer from depression/anx/ocd, so I’m no stranger to those lovely visitors. professional help, both in the form of medication and therapy, are a wonderful thing. I hope it at least brings you hope that should this ever creep up on you again, you have professional support.

  7. Thanks for sharing. It is sad that people are afraid to talk about it because depression because it is very isolating for the person experiencing it. Thanks for opening up and sharing I am sure that you have helped someone by do so.

  8. Thank you for this post.
    As a fellow Crohn’s gal, your honesty brings much comfort.
    Unfortunately, I have also felt this way in the past, and for some reason knowing that I am not the only one who goes through this makes it just a wee bit better.
    Sometimes, when you think it can’t get any worse, it does. But post’s like this bring back a little hope for those currently in this awful frame of mind.
    After advancing to Fistulizing Crohn’s two years ago, I am back in remission with no more open wound. What a punch in the face that was…
    Healthy days are the best days!

  9. I don’t leave comments often but this time I want to say good of you to get this story out as you are always showing us you cheerful self while many of us that read all you posts of course know that you have many many hard time with this.

    I really liked reading the Crohn’s series and hear about the experiences of your husband and dad.

    Thanks for sharing 🙂

  10. Wow. I remember reading your posts when you were going through this but never really realized how bad it had become. As others have commented, I can somewhat relate to the feelings of losing youself and feeling depressed that can come with health ‘issues’ and am inspired by your ability to make it through. I am curious if you have any thoughts about recent research on the gut microbiome and how it affects mental health and chronic diseases – I’ve read a bit about fecal transplants etc. but not sure if there is any research related to Crohn’s?

  11. I’m so sorry you’ve had to deal with depression. It’s not a fun club to be part of, but we have more members than people realize. Mine was situation-based, too, but it doesn’t make it any less life-stopping.

    Bravo for being brave enough to share how you felt. I don’t know if I could do the same – it’s very dark, and it scares people. Thank you, once again, for being a light even when sharing the hard stuff.

    (I just realized “bravo” and “brave” are only one letter off from each other. Without consulting the dictionary, I think it’s appropriate. So bravo, Ali.)

  12. Dear Ali,

    This post made me realize how long I’ve been reading your blog (a long time!). Thank you for your honesty and your bravery. A friend of mine was diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease a couple of years ago. Although we were shocked and helpless, I was able to somewhat understand what he was and will be going through – thanks to your blog. I understood that he may not want to us as often or at all for a while, and that was okay… as long as he knew we were all here whenever he’s ready. Again, thank you! For sharing all your highs and lows.

    P.S. Congratulations to you and Brian!

  13. As always, such a beautifully written post. And after reading some of the comments, that’s exactly why your readers keep coming back and feel like we are so connected to you and your writing. As someone who is on the recovering side of depression (postpartum), I really connected to your feelings when you started seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. Nothing compares to feeling like your old self again. And I definitely cried when you wrote about the look on your mom’s face in NH. It’s so hard seeing your child in pain, and knowing there’s nothing you can do to help. Except for being there for them, loving on them, and remembering that ‘this too shall pass.’

    You have a wonderful support system and I truly hope this disease finds a cure one day. Thanks for sharing all of these posts this week. This one was my favorite.

  14. I appreciate the sharing and wanted to say that in my darkest of times (oh so dark) during a recent UC flare, your blog helped a lot. I went back and read through all the posts and I didn’t feel so alone or crazy. Actually, yours is the only blog remotely about IBD that I read.

    It’s hard to be chronically ill and sad and to be honest about those feelings. Because people don’t like to hang around sad and sick people. I’m a health professional and everyday I notice that the patients who come in with a sunny and positive attitude (whether it’s real or faked) towards their illness are the ones who are “liked” and they are congratulated on their ability to cope well. The ones who come in and are obviously emotionally beaten down are often treated as though they have a bad attitude which is contributing to their situation. It’s not fun to be around them, so they’re avoided by staff.

    So as a patient, I feel like I can’t even be honest with my doctors about how crap I’m feeling and how much I am mentally struggling, because I want them to like me and help me. It’s the same with friends and family.

    I just end up retreating into my own world, pretending I’m fine to everyone on the outside, because there are only so many people around me who will put up with my “i have no hope and i don’t want to exist anymore” attitude on a daily basis for six months.

    Next time I’ll get some help.

  15. I don’t have any comment that would be nearly as eloquent as this post, but just want to say how much I loved it, and am incredibly impressed by your honesty. I wish I were still in NYC to suggest getting together and maybe giving you a hug (even though it sounds like things are great now and you probably don’t need it anymore), but instead I’ll suffice by saying that I’m incredibly grateful and appreciative that you wrote this. I don’t have Crohn’s, but I’ve been through depression, and I know what you went through wasn’t easy. Thank you SO much for sharing!

  16. Thank you so much with your posts this week (actually for your whole blog!!) I have uc and sometimes I don’t know how to explain how I feel mentally and physically. I think I’m gonna show your posts to my mum and my fiancé.
    You are so strong and such an inspiration. I hope you’ll be as healthy as possible. Take care

  17. Hi Ali, I have been following your blog for 4 years? 5 years? (I’m not sure!) I started reading when you were still training for your first marathon, the Hamptons,, and were not yet (officially) with Brian. I wanted to respond to this post specifically because I have actually wanted to say something like this to you for some time.

    Ali, you have sparkle. You have grit. Your enthusiasm is rare and infectious.. It is awesome. And it makes me root for you. 🙂 But I remember that terrible flare so well from reading your posts, and I remember how it hurt you, and I remember how it was pure gut-wrenching times, and I felt helpless to watch. I don’t even know specifically what I wanted to write , except that I really want to validate what you went through (which seems so silly from a stranger).

    I want you to know that I saw. I saw how it could almost destroy a spirit like yours, and it gave me a new understanding of what a beast and a monster of a disease it must be. Because if anything could diminish your unbounded joy and optimism, it must have been something far beyond my comprehension.

    I am so so so glad that you are relatively well again. That you are sparkly all over the place. And I sincerely hope that if you ever face monsters like that again you’ll reach out. And remember that people care. And remember that ANYONE in your shoes would need help.

  18. Thanks for sharing your struggles so openly! Can relate to most of what you said…and that raises my hopes immensely! You are an inspiration! THANK YOU!

  19. I am also a longtime reader, infrequent commenter. But I so look forward to seeing your posts pop up in my feedly! Thank you for this. Thank you for sharing a side of you that many people hide for fear of what others will say. I have suffered from depression and was always so scared to actually utter the word, “depression”. But I know that so many others have been in the same place as me.

    May your upcoming days be filled with giraffes, sparkly tutus and kick ass runs.

  20. I hardly know what to say after this post, but like all the commenters above, I feel I have to in order to commend your courage in writing it and also to say how incredibly sad I am you and your family had to go through this and how very happy I am that you’re through that particular phase. There is so much love for you (in the comments) from total internet strangers, I really hope that encourages you in difficult times to come. Hugs.

  21. I just want to give you a hug! Thank you for sharing. I knew you were going through dark days from your posts and I hope that you never have to experience that again. Enjoy the good days and may they always outway the bad ones.

  22. I want to thank you for posting this. I originally found your blog when I was first diagnosed with ulcerative colitis in December 2013. You just described exactly how I felt during my first flare. I went through my initial diagnosis, a severe flare that caused a lost pregnancy and landed me in the hospital for a month with disability leave from work for four months. My world was rocked and I couldn’t face anyone or leave the couch for months. Walking down the stairs to my living room felt like an amazing feat of strength and willpower. Even after I went back to work I felt like it was months before I was my old go-getter, do-it-all self again. This is all so difficult to explain to people who are not suffering from this disease. Thank you for putting this into words and sharing your story with the world. You may have waited forever to share this post, but I am glad you did, and I know you will help so many people by sharing this story.

  23. All that I want to say is… You are so brave. Ali, this post means a lot to so many people. You articulated depression so well. I have been there so I know. Thank you for this.

  24. I don’t have Chrones and can’t imagine what the impact of a long term flare up is like, but I have been in the throes of morning sickness for the past month and some change, and this post is so encouraging to me emotionally. Being sick and tired all the time makes me feel like a lesser version of myself, withdrawn, and lifeless. Thank you for the reminder that others battle with emotional side effects of physical issues, and that there is sun behind the clouds! Love this post and your blog.

  25. Oh, and I also love Allie Brosh’s posts about depression! I stumbled across them when I was deep in a depressive state; they helped immensely.

  26. Ali, I have read your blog for years, though I’ve never commented here or on any blog for that matter. I cried while reading your post because your description of depression is accurate and so painfully familiar. I do not have Crohn’s, just major depressive disorder. Regardless of the cause, the symptoms of depression of similar. I know exactly what you mean when you say you don’t remember it starting or coming on suddenly. Depression is so sneaky, and probably one of the reasons it is so scary. It is as if one day you suddenly realize you are in this deep hole filled with dark thoughts; you have no idea how you got there or how to get out. I know what you mean when you say you’d rather not be dead, but you never wanted to kill yourself. It is as if you are simply tired of living. Despite dealing with this most of my life, I didn’t reach out for help until about age 26 for many of the same reasons you mentioned in your post. I want to thank you for sharing, I think the more people who speak up about their depressive episodes the better. I know you thanked you readers who have supported you through all of this, but I so much thanks goes to you, I think you will help a lot of people with your candid words. If nothing else, you will make people struggling feel less isolated and along; that is half the battle of depression.

  27. Hi Ali,

    I just found your blog a couple of months ago but have gone back and read a lot of your old posts. I have ulcerative colitis, and I so appreciate you writing about IBD with so much honesty. I get caught up in the “what ifs,” but it’s always helpful to see someone living their best life in spite of IBD – it’s a nice reminder that we can be “normal” too. Hope you keep feeling healthy and happy.

  28. Oh Ali, thank you so much for sharing. I can sure imagine how hard it must be for you to open up about such a deep, personal matter.
    I can relate to the feeling of just wanting to shut everyone out, sometimes including loved ones who are just trying their best to help. I underwent chemo for a year. It is very different from having Chron’s: for one, there was no way to hide it (it is just plain clear to everyone you have cancer, no 19 year old just shaves off their head and develops a moon-like round face), but then again everyone can understand any bad behavior you may present, having an unshown disease may present a hard time as no one understands how bad you feel right when they see you.
    Opening up to people is something I usually have a really hard time doing, I admire you so much for sharing your feelings with such a wide community (although we are all Internet friends!!!). I also try to stay as positive as possible about everything in life. I am now healthy and have been for the last 4 years, with a long hair now (which I treasure and for which I am thankful every single day). But I do acknowledge that nothing lasts forever, not the good and certainly not the bad. So even though hard times may come by, they will pass and it is our duty to enjoy every moment alive, positive people are the best, so we’d better be one of them!
    Thank you thank you thank you. I always find it inspirational to see people who value life, especially if they value life in spite of living through rough times.

    BTW, I should probably tell you that since I live in Brazil and have never run in cold weather (did live upstate NY for a year during college, but was too busy eating American cookies to care to exercise), I once googled what to wear to run in the winter (am probably moving to Canada next year) and your blog came up, have been following you ever since. What a pleasant surprise!

  29. Thanks for sharing. It is very hard to openly talk about these things. From my own experience, I understand the perspective of pushing others away and not wanting to seek help. I’m glad you were able to persevere through this hard time and come out on the other side with such an optimistic and mature outlook on your battle.

  30. I think the posts about your beautiful wedding and amazing honeymoon made me so emotional–like, more choked up than I’ve been at IRL friends’ weddings–because I remember reading those posts. I remember that time. I was so, so scared for you.
    Because I’ve been there. Not for the same reason, but the same thought pattern. “Of course I wouldn’t do anything to kill myself, but I’d be all right with it if something just sort of…happened.”
    I couldn’t write about it then. I’ve written about it a little since, but I’ve been much more open with people in person. The more we share, the more we talk, the more likely it is that more of us will feel less alone.
    I’m not the praying kind, Ali, but I am so full of good wishes and hope for you. I’m grateful some of that can waft through the internet at you, in good times or bad.

  31. Thank you for being brave and putting your feelings out there I know from first hand experience how challenging and difficult that can be. While I don’t have Crohn’s I do suffer from depression. Back in the early spring I also shared the experience online. I needed to write and that was the place to put it.

    Every time I go running in Central Park I always take a glance at Bernie’s Bench just to see if you are there. Hopefully one day I’ll see you and be able to just stop by and say, “hi.”

  32. Wow. I just want to thank you for being vulnerable and raw and sharing your story. I think what you wrote many people will find relatable – not because they have Crohns per se, but because you are REAL about what depression looks like. Thank you!

  33. Long time reader, infrequent commenter here.

    Thank you so much for this, Ali. While I don’t have a chronic disease, I was incredibly sick for 4 years without an end in sight. During that time, which consisted of seizures, vision loss, and brain surgeries, I was ready to go and told my mom so. It still, to this day, is the only time I’ve seen her cry.

    The mental aspects of any serious illness are real, and I’m glad you took the time to share yours. You are a brave, wonderful soul, girl, and don’t you forget it. <3

  34. Anyone who read your posts during that time could see how you were emotionally and mentally struggling. It was hard to read but honest, even then. We’re all glad you are out of that. Hopefully never to return.

  35. This made me cry. I first found your blog in Jan. 2013, a few months after being diagnosed with UC. I was so relieved to know I wasn’t alone in dealing with horrible IBD, and your blog has been a source of encouragement, inspiration, and light. Thank you for sharing this. There have been points in my own journey where I have wished not to be here. I’m so glad you’re still here, Alison.

  36. Thank you for writing this. I know how much courage it takes to share something like this (I just did something similar, but far less in depth, on my own blog), and if ANYONE gives you a hard time for it, please send them my way so that I may punch them squarely in the jaw. Living with chronic illness is horrible, and the depression piece of it is often misunderstood. I’ve been in the throes of it myself, and you hit the nail on the head with the “wanting to die but not actively suicidal” piece. It is horrible that you have gone through this, too, but there’s comfort in knowing I’m not alone. And just so you know, even at your worst, you have always seemed amazingly strong to me. I binge-read your entire blog over a several week period recently during my own depression, and I can’t tell you how much it has inspired me and kept me going. Big internet hugs. Thanks for being you.

  37. I have been reading your blog for a long time, and always find your posts inspiring. Thanks for such honest posts this week (and from your dad and Brian)! I have 2 friends with Crohn’s, and it’s always hard to relate, but your stories and honesty shed some light on what they may experience. Glad you are feeling better again and congrats on your recent marriage!

  38. The absolute bravest thing I have ever read. Thank you for sharing something so painful and difficult. You have no idea how many people you have helped.

  39. Just like everyone else here, I want to thank you for your beautifully honest post. Whether a person has Crohn’s or not, I think many of us can relate to a time in our lives when we were at the bottom due to matters out of our control, and we feared for how our lives would be. I admire you for getting through each day.

    As someone who had a mysterious virus for over a month last year, I can relate on a much smaller scale. I couldn’t move, I couldn’t go anywhere, I couldn’t even look at the TV without wanting to throw up. I was restless but too tired and weak to go anywhere or do anything; I couldn’t even concentrate to read a book. I lost 15 lbs in 15 days (going from 137 to 122 on my 5’3″ body). I think what was even worse for me — and perhaps you can comment from your own experience — was getting healthy again and gaining weight back, and then being MAD about the weight gain! I was finally healthy again but I felt like a big, fat failure and my self-esteem plummeted. It felt like I just couldn’t let myself win — either I was sick and skinny, or I was healthy and critical of myself. I still fight with it to this day.

    Anyway, thank you again and so happy to hear you’re feeling better!

  40. Ali, I’ve been reading your blog for years (and have even seen you cheering at some NYRR races!) but have never commented. I wanted to thank you for this beautiful, honest post. I don’t have Crohn’s, but I do struggle with anxiety and depression. To put these very raw emotions out there is so brave, and I’m so grateful that you did. Keep on keepin’ on, girl.

  41. If anyone is mean to you because of this post (not that I think they will be! I’m a recovering pessimist!), then they are the worst. Sharing what you go through with a chronic physical disease is BRAVE, and sharing your struggle with depression is even braver. I really, really related to a lot of what you said. It’s SO easy to post pretty pictures and pretend everything is perfect, and I respect people who are willing to push the curtain aside and show that things aren’t always so wonderful behind the scenes.

    I have been reading your blog for a long time, largely because we have a lot in common. We moved to the city at the same time! We are close in age! We both have high-stress jobs! We both just got married! You are in shape and I am totally out of shape! . . . Okay, I guess we don’t have that one in common at all. ANYWAY, as a long-time reader, I am genuinely happy to see that you seem to be in such a good place. I am sure you still have difficult days, but, for what it’s worth, please know that there are a lot of people (including anonymous strangers on the internet) who hope for the good days to far outweigh the bad!

  42. I’m sure this must have been very difficult to write, but you expressed everything so well. I know it’s not the same situation, but these sound so much like the actions and motions I went through after losing my mom a few years ago. I was totally of the opinion that the worst things you could say to someone in depression was “keep fighting” or “stay strong” – ugh! – but I probably would have been pissed if they hadn’t said it too. Anyway, I’m glad you’re feeling better. I love these posts this week, by the way.

  43. Thank you for this honest post that I’m sure was very difficult to write. As a reader, I love your endless positivity and funny musings, but also appreciate your ability to share your “realness.” Keep doing you!

  44. I don’t have any wise words or relatable stories because I haven’t had to deal with anything as awful as CD, but I felt the need to comment and give my support anyway. I’ve read your blog for years, not because I have CD or am a runner (lol, no), but because your infectious excitement and love of life shine through in your writing. Your blog is one of the few that I actually read because, no matter what you’re writing about, I know I’ll enjoy it. This post was no different, though enjoy seems like the wrong word given the content. I’m sorry you ever had to feel that way but I am so glad you’re on the other side and I hope it lasts for a good, long forever. Congratulations on the marriage (you were gorgeous and looked so, so happy!) and also the post about Giraffe Manor made me bawl my eyes out because you love those damn giraffes so much and I’m glad you got to experience that. Okay, this has taken on a creepy fan girl vibe. I’m just gonna go now.

  45. Ali,
    I know who you are from NP NYC and friends of Lew Leone(that may be a good thing!!!) Both of my kids, 23 and 25 have colitis. While our flare ups not as bad, we are familiar with the disease. You are a real champion, inspiration and heroine.
    Love following your blog. I will introduce myself one day but i am usually in the background!!
    Keep posting. Keep inspiring. Stay the course. Much love, Nancy Rieger

  46. As always you are honest and open to the core. I can’t tell you how many times you have made me laugh, lifted me up and generally improved my day. Those long long looooonnnnnggggg months you were so desperately ill I thought of you each day, cried at each post you somehow managed to grind out and in general wished I could find a way to share some of my good (by comparison!) health with you.

    My husband laughs at me because I am always sharing the adventures of “my friend Ali in NY”. It takes a real gift for writing and for people to make someone hundreds of miles away who you have never met feel like your friend.

    1. I have been a reader since that time also and remember it breaking my heart. I agree with the reader above feeling like a “friend” from hundreds of miles away. When I’ve gone through loss and sickness, I find so much hope and encouragement in her writing when she’s been through similar events. I’m so thrilled you are feeling good and happy, Ali!! (In September, I remember thinking–today Ali is getting married!) your readers love you!

  47. If someone has something snarky or rude to say about this post or you sharing your mental state during this very difficult time in your life I will glady punch them in the face. Send them my way, please.

    Thank you for sharing this and thank you for always being so honest and giving of yourself to your readers. It’s what makes you such an amazing writer and someone that we can all relate to whether we’ve gone through the struggles or the feelings that you have or not. You write about it in a way that we can empathize with you and most of us want to take your pain away – however possible.

  48. While I don’t have Crohn’s, I have been through depression and this hit it right on the mark. Thank you for putting yourself out there, making yourself vulnerable, and just writing honestly about the thoughts in our heads during depression. I hope when others read this and are going through the same thing, they feel like they’re not alone for a second and that there is hope.
    And on a more personal note, I’ve been reading your blog for quite a while and even when you were in the middle of it, I still saw a tiny spark in your writing. You have a light that shines so beautifully and bright that it affects everyone around you – including those who just simply read your words and see your pictures. It always brightens my day reading your blog. By just simply being who you are, you have SUCH a huge affect on this world! =) I hope you have a great day Ali and I can’t wait to read more from you!

  49. Thanks for sharing Ali. This one was hard to read.Knowing what I know about you and your friends while you might get sick again(and I pray that you don’t) I’m pretty sure you will never return to that dark place.You are an inspiration!

  50. When I read the paragraph about your parents bringing you back to the airport I couldn’t help but cry for you. This must have been such a tough post to put out there but so important. You should be so proud of yourself for being brave. Thank you.

  51. Thank you for sharing this! Wanting to die without being actively suicidal is a very common symptom of depression. Should it ever happen again you can get a low dose anti-depressant from your regular doctor – you don’t need to go to a therapist. The doctors you are already seeing could probably write you a script in like 30 seconds and if you find one that works for you it’s like magic how you go back to feeling human.

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about ali

I’m the creator of the Ali on the Run blog and the host of the Ali on the Run Show podcast. I’m also a freelance writer and editor, a race announcer, a runner and marathoner, a mom, and a huge fan of Peanut M&Ms, Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again (way better than the first one!), and reliving my glory days as a competition dancer in the early 2000s. I’m really happy you’re here.
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