Brittany Imperadeiro is a 23 year old blogger who is, unfortunately, all too familiar with the world of of autoimmune disorders; but has been newly diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis. UC is an inflammatory bowel disease that affects the large intestine, the colon and rectum, which causes inflammation and sores called ulcers on the lining of the large intestine. Brittany would like to encourage other chronic illness warriors to not give up. Read our interview with her below.
Why did you start blogging?
I created my blog to not only document my journey as I navigate through this new chapter, but to also reach out to anyone else who may be going through any chronic illnesses. Although chronic illnesses can be hard to manage, I want to remind people that you are NOT invisible and you do have a voice to fight for your body!
What do you find most challenging about your chronic illness?
When I was first diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis, I was told that I was on the mild to moderate part of the spectrum, which most likely needed to be treated with steroids. Everyone, doctors included, was so optimistic controlling my illness wouldn’t be a problem, so I thought, sweet if I’m going to get sick at least I got it easy. Well the problem with autoimmune disorders is we don’t know what causes them, so it’s hard to stick to a plan of treatment. As I began my journey, we quickly realized I was a lot worse than we had thought. I went from being not sick enough to see a doctor right away to being so sick that waitlists somehow disappeared. I would have experienced potential serious side effects if we didn’t control it fast enough. It felt so overwhelming.
I think that’s the biggest challenge is Adjusting. You have to adjust to your body after the diagnosis, whether you want to or not: adjust to taking millions of pills, seeing specialist after specialist, doing hours of blood work, being poked and prodded, monitoring and adjusting to your symptoms, learning your breaking point, and even just adjusting mentally. Because autoimmune diseases have no control, it happens way before you have time to adapt. Months ago I felt like I was generally a pretty healthy person. Now I fight with myself to get out of bed and start my day.
Describe your experiences with some of the people you’ve met on your journey?
When I first announced my diagnosis, I was so shocked with how many people I knew who either had the disease, knew someone who did, or had a different autoimmune disorder but knew what it was like to be where I am. It’s definitely been comforting having such an awesome support system and having people to turn to; especially because I’m still trying to figure out my road to recovery ( I am on my third treatment plan!). It’s hard to know exactly what to expect, but the people I’ve met have all been so welcoming in answering my questions and so encouraging as my journey continues.
I’ve made friends now across Canada, the United States, Spain, and even England! It’s so cool to be able to connect with so many people and just to be able to vent to someone about what you’re going through, because they get it. They’ve been there.
On the other hand doctors and I have had a “roller coaster” relationship. My journey began with being turned down by three doctors. They either simply didn’t know what was wrong with me– which wasn’t comforting, at all– and thought they couldn’t help me any further. Some doctors didn’t want to acknowledge that something was actually wrong with me in spite of my lab results that would come back perfectly normal (another reminder that everything isn’t always as it seems).
It was such a frustrating experience because I knew I was sick. I just needed someone to believe me. Luckily, someone finally did; they tried to advocate for a colonoscopy to be ordered. Because I lacked lumps or bumps, it was assumed that whatever this was, it wasn’t cancer. Therefore, I was turned down by four specialists, and the one who finally took my case couldn’t see me for another four months. Unsatisfied by this, both my doctor and I continued to search– and God Bless– our prayers were answered. My current G.I. specialist took my case immediately and within a week! It was unbelievable! Fight for your body! Eventually, you will get the answers you need.
How do you come up with material/content for your business / blog and keep ideas fresh?
My blog was initially created to help me through this process. Writing has always been something I turned to when I struggled with anything in life, it’s just something I generally like to do. My material is mostly all my personal experiences and questions I have for the world or have been asked myself and want to take the time to answer them.
It’s a place where I really let my guard down and show people exactly who I am while dealing with this illness. It’s a very vulnerable feeling, I am completely exposed. However, knowing someone else in the world is connecting with my thoughts and feelings as they go through their own similar journey is what keeps me going to keep up with my blog.
What’s the best thing a blogger can give to their readers?
Be honest. People value honest perspectives and genuine experiences. People are naturally driven by connection, and being able to empathize with someone else is really going to captivate a loyal audience.
What are some tips for people going through their new journey with chronic illness?
Expect it to get worse before it gets better. It’s only natural, especially with autoimmune disorders where your body is literally battling with itself. It’s definitely a process. Not everything works for everyone, so you definitely have to take the time to figure out what your body responds to and unfortunately, what it doesn’t respond to.
This is the time where you will have to learn how to put yourself first, and I know with families this can be really hard. You are already going through so much physically, so being at your best is really key to getting on the road to recovery. This doesn’t mean you have to completely abandon your responsibilities, but it may mean learning how to ask for help, learning your boundaries and when to say no, and learning to really listen to your body when too much is too much. People with my disease often get hospitalized not because of the disease itself, but because they didn’t listen to their bodies. A big culprit is dehydration!
What was the most challenging moment during this process and why?
If you’ve read my blog, I’m sure you could guess it- my mental health. I’ve quickly learned that when it comes to the physical changes associated with my disease and the medications, I can handle this. I can handle the fatigue, joint pains, painful poop attacks (for the most part), restless sleeps, sore jaw, the poking of needles, ect. But I’ve been challenged by my mental health. It has been almost too easy to give in and just let the signs of depression and anxiety completely consume me.
A part of this is due to the medication itself but the other part has been just learning to let go. I often find myself comparing myself to who I was months ago, which isn’t fair because I am not that person anymore, whether I like that or not. I was forced to change and in a short time, so letting go of what my “normal” self once was and accepting that I have a new “normal” has been a difficulty. I’m 23! I feel like I should be in my prime, going out, going for runs, hanging with friends, eating whatever, and traveling. Instead I get winded climbing up one set of stairs; I have to definitely watch what I eat because there are certain food items that just wreak havoc on my intestines. Plus, I can barely stay awake past 10 pm some nights, so what is going out?
I have definitely shower cried numerous amounts of time over this, which has led me to take a step back to essentially re-learn how to love myself again and figure out who I am becoming with my illness.
If someone was interested in blogging or starting a business, what would be a few things you would suggest?
If you want to blog about your own health journey, make sure you really are doing it for yourself. It’s what is going to keep you motivated to continue writing and updating your blog; it’s going to be where a lot of your blog ideas will come from. I don’t see my blog as something I need to do, I want to do it. I genuinely enjoy writing on my blog and if someone reads and enjoys it too then I consider it a bonus!
Again, be honest and true. People respect honesty so much, and that has contributed to getting so many loyal followers in such a short period of time. They want to know more about your journey, they might see a part of themselves in your writing or know someone who is going through a similar situation.
I definitely post factual posts, such as: understanding what steroids are or information about autoimmune disorders. Therefore, it’s not all just about my experience, but definitely a mix! And I make sure that when I am creating a factual post, I cite my references! It’s important to avoid any legal mix ups the best that you can.
Thanks for stopping by this week for #FeatureThursday!
Check out Brittany’s blog: https://shitsandgiggleswithb.com/