Are the questions driving you crazy? Are you getting "Did you have diarrhea?" if you spend more than five minutes in the bathroom, or "Are you getting cramps again?" if you happen to touch your stomach? Try offering your parents a deal: you'll promise to tell them if anything is wrong if they promise to stop with the third degree. Ask them to trust you enough to clue them in when necessary (and then make sure you keep up your end of the bargain).
See if you can tell the difference between your parent being overprotective because you have IBD and your parent being overprotective simply because he or she cares about your well-being. In other words, try to keep in mind that your parents would probably be worried or set rules even if you didn't have a disease. For instance, if your father wants you to be home from a friend's house before a certain time at night, that's just typical "I want you to be safe" dad-ness.
Getting diagnosed with a serious disease is a BIG DEAL for you and the people you love. Don't wait until it's Situation Critical before getting help! Instead, why not start things off right with some outside guidance? Almost every family in this situation benefits from talking to a professional, even if it's just for a few sessions to get through that first rocky period. Keep in mind that when you're physically sick, being emotionally strong and healthy will help you recover. Therapy -- either individually or with a group -- can really make a difference.
Do any of these sound like something you wish you could say to your parents?
"Life with IBD is hard! When I say I'm in pain, I usually am. I'm not exaggerating or trying to get out of school, chores, or other responsibilities. Please believe me!"
"Don't push me to be as social or outgoing as I used to be. I don't feel the same as all my friends. They worry about crushes and clothes; I worry about pain and going to the hospital. Besides, I've been poked, prodded, and maybe even cut open, and that gives me a more mature perspective on life than my friends have. I haven't quite figured out how I still connect to them, but I will. This teenage thing is hard enough without being sick. Give me some time and let me work it out my own way."
"Listen when I want to talk, but don't push. Sometimes I want to talk about my disease and sometimes I don't. Let ME decide! After all, there's so much of my life that's out of control right now; let me at least control how much focus I put on my disease."
"Yeah, I may be sick, but I still want to do the things I've always enjoyed. As long as I feel up to it, I NEED to hang out with my friends, go to movies, play sports, or even date. Let me be a teen when I can, okay?"
"I've changed. I'm still the same me inside, but now I have to deal with adult stuff too. Please don't baby me or go backwards from treating me like a young adult!"
"Please don't try to hide the truth from me. It's my body; I should know what's happening to it. I want to hear everything the doctor has to say. When you try to hide things from me, all it does is make me think the worst."
Think about ways you can let a parent know these things and anything else that's burning you up inside. Can you sit down and talk face-to-face? Is it easier to write a letter or e-mail? The sooner you get these things off your chest, the sooner you can move on to a healthier, happier relationship with your folks -- something that will only help your IBD get better, too.
If this seems like a really difficult conversation for you to have with your parents, get some help! Perhaps you know a social worker, guidance counselor, or another adult relative who can help you explain your point of view to your parents. Another person standing next to you in a show of support can make all the difference in the world.
Ask your parents not to talk about your disease with their friends or relatives. This stuff is hard enough without them talking about your bloody diarrhea at the summer family picnic, right? Insist that you're the one who should decide who gets told, and how much; after all, it's your life. Your privacy should be respected. At the same time, understand that your parent probably needs to talk about what's going on. Suggest that he or she pick one trustworthy person to confide in -- and maybe you could pick that person together
If you need it, ask for help with taking your meds. Suggest practical ways your parent can do this without driving you crazy. For instance, Mom can get you a pill case and help you fill it. Or instead of nagging, "Have you taken your medicine yet?" Dad can bring you the pills with a glass of water.
Imagine what it's like to be your parents and understand where they're coming from. They love you and want you to get better. If they could, they'd most likely take your pain upon themselves. But since they can't, they cope in ways that might annoy you, like worrying too much, being overprotective, or collecting lots of confusing information about your disease and its treatments. Did you know that the first stages of life with IBD are generally harder on parents? Even though the kids are the ones who are physically sick, most of them do better emotionally than the adults. For many kids, it's almost a relief to finally have a name for the condition that's been making them feel so horrible, whereas for some parents, it may be distressing knowing that their child has a diagnosed chronic illness.
Support groups are also a great way to sound off, get advice, and simply connect with other families who are experiencing the same things. You can find groups for parents, groups for just teens, and groups for families together.
Cut everyone a little slack. Each member of your family is probably hurting emotionally, focusing inwards on how they can manage the stress of this new situation.
Be patient. Eventually, as everyone gets used to life with UC or Crohn's and (hopefully) your symptoms come under control, your parents will most likely ease up. In the beginning, everyone's learning. Ride out that learning curve and see where it takes all of you.