How do you handle inappropriate comments

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Date Joined Feb 2007
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   Posted 2/14/2008 7:10 AM (GMT -7)   
I was at the gym yesterday, first time since before christmas because of health issues. I got into conversation with a woman I've known for 35 years (our children went through school together). She's put on some of that post-menopausal weight around the middle and since her husband retired they've been hitting the gym together, but she said she hated every minute of it. I love working out, because I feel the difference immediately. It's like my muscles are saying, thank you for not forgetting about us in the midst of your misery. I'm not sure what I said in response, but I know I was thinking that I wished my disease wasn't always forcing me to forego the things that make me feel good.

In response to whatever I said, she commented on my weight. "You're so lucky. You've always been so slender" By now she's sort of picking up from my face that maybe she's stepped into a mine field. Her words start to sputter and then she picks up steam again and comes out with this gem. "I guess you just have the right body type."

You know how sometimes you just know what someone is thinking? In that moment of awkward silence when I'm trying not to say what I want to say, I watch this dawning recognition cross her face and I just know, "She thinks I have an eating disorder!"

I don't know what got into me, but before I could snatch them back I hear myself telling this woman who is a nurse and her husband who is a retired physician, " this is not a body type. I have crohn's disease. I have had it for over 30 years."

From there it just went from bad to worse. She was embarrassed, and in her attempts to make it right, just made it worse when she speculated that I must not have it bad, ... no surgery or anything? Oh yes, said I. Train tracks running up and down my belly, abscesses, septic shock, fistulas, obstructions, I've had the whole program.

I just don't know what got into me. I NEVER do this. suggestions?

30+ years living with Crohn's.

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Date Joined Mar 2006
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   Posted 2/14/2008 7:16 AM (GMT -7)   
Frankly, I don't see anything wrong with your responses. They were truthful and candid. I think she was trying to compliment you in a clumsy way, and I think you set matters straight with facts. Nothing wrong with that. You can't be responsible for any embarassment the woman may have felt.

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Date Joined Feb 2007
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   Posted 2/14/2008 7:25 AM (GMT -7)   
Thanks Mike I appreciate your perspective. I've spent a lifetime keeping this disease to myself and it just seems ridiculous that I get my knickers in a knot about this, but it seems so awkward. It's sort of like keeping an illegitimate child in the closet for 30 years and then trying to explain that this grown child as yours.

Maybe I need to get a nametag or something that says I'm not dieting, I've got crohn's!

30+ years living with Crohn's.

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   Posted 2/14/2008 7:37 AM (GMT -7)   

Hello my friend,  Be kind to yourself, you let it know when people keep making comments they sometimes set themselves up for the truth and they own the problem of knowing when to say," I am sorry, having a chronic disorder cannot be easy."  Then move on to another topic. 

Throw out the guilt, you are just human and extremely kind. All my life people have felt they have the right to say inappropriate comments to me so I understand this problem.  One day I just bit back at someone that had been doing this to me for 10 years, I decided she was really not a friend and I had been allowing her to be disrespectful to me.

I did not handle it the best way but her mouth fell open and I just kept on walking.  Shame on me, it felt good and yet sad too.
Hugs to you this morning and Happy Valentines Day.

Kitt, Moderator: Anxiety ~ Panic  ~ Crohn's
*~* *~*
It is health that is real wealth and not pieces of gold and silver.~Mahatma Gandhi~

Veteran Member

Date Joined Apr 2006
Total Posts : 1665
   Posted 2/14/2008 8:18 AM (GMT -7)   
I always feel like it is my job to educate the world about whatever I am dealing with at the time, so I tell everyone "I have been very sick, not sure what it is, yes I have tried everything, no it is isn't stress" sometimes I hate it, but for me it is better than having them talk behind my back about my percieved eating disorder.
it sounds like you handled that great, Bell and sorry you had to!
48 y/o woman.  Diagnosed 4/06 after colonscopy, SBFT, CT-scan all showed crohns. 3 months later, after pred and remicade, all tests showed no crohns. December '06 had adhesions cut through a laparoscopy. Now taking Glycolax, Ultra Fiber Plus, Florastor, and DHEA. Have become gluten-free diet per naturopath's tests.

ally's law mom
Regular Member

Date Joined Feb 2008
Total Posts : 35
   Posted 2/14/2008 8:35 AM (GMT -7)   
I also think you handled it well. My daughter, unfortunately, had to deal with the same type of behind-her-back comments. It's very hurtful. Good for you!

Veteran Member

Date Joined Jan 2006
Total Posts : 3141
   Posted 2/14/2008 8:44 AM (GMT -7)   
Bell...I think you handled it fine. People have to learn when to stop talking!!! I think it is something we have lost in this world of "see it all" TV. I usually do the short curt answer with a VERY sarcastic tone to try to get the person from stop asking "Yes, aren't I slender". It usually comes off snotty sounding, but stops them. Others just don't stop and earn a little tougher treatment
New Friend at club: Want to volunteer waitress for us Fridays
Me: I'm sorry I can't
NF: But you would have fun
Me: It's too hard on me medically
NF: hours of "you seem fine", "come on"
Me: final answer.....I have to be able to go poop whenever I need to. try that while serving up a fish fry!

I don't think I will be asked to volunteer again!
Dx'd '90 (emergency rupture), symptoms ignored long before that, '03 fistulas and bad flagyl reactions, B12 weekly, Pentasa [until I surrender to the bigger meds]
I'm riding on the escalator of life....

Veteran Member

Date Joined Feb 2007
Total Posts : 1010
   Posted 2/14/2008 9:02 AM (GMT -7)   
Hi Kitt, Habs et al: Ya, I think the thing that bothers me is that I didn't feel in control of disclosing. It just sort of burst out. I think that's what I need to work on. How to gracefully acknowledge this condition without waiting until I'm ready to burst. And then again, isn't it all just ego? I mean, it was the idea that she thinking that I had an eating disorder that triggered me. Why do I care whether she thought i had an eating disorder, or was just a natural ectomorph? Anyway, I'm always amazed at the common sense you all display.

30+ years living with Crohn's.

Veteran Member

Date Joined Dec 2007
Total Posts : 739
   Posted 2/14/2008 10:11 AM (GMT -7)   
don't feel bad, my own family thought i had anorexia...and at work everybody always says that they want to be my size! while im steady trying to gain weight! when i started losing i could see the way they looked at me, speculating about why iv been out of work for so long and then would come back even thinner than when i left. Lord only knows what they assume.

But in my case, i say its none of their business, if i want to tell i will, if i dont i wont, i mean people are going to talk and assume any way, and even when u do tell them sometimes, they always mention a friend of a friend who has it and controlled it with their diet! that pisses me off even more than the speculations bc it insinuates that i'm chosing to have this problem.

N e way, u probably broke down b/c u were tired of holding it in, relish in the fact that you got that relief of letting it out. and you wont have to have that conversation with HER any more lol
25 y/o female- crohns disease since 14
Ileostomy pending-very worried
Tried asacol,pentasa,prednisone,remicade,6mp,azasan, no avail
Seatons placed
Worst year ever!

"For God has not given us the spirit of fear....."
Where does mine come from?!
Temp Ileostomy performed 1/29/08
Still Adusting has been my Godsend...Thank you

Regular Member

Date Joined Oct 2006
Total Posts : 153
   Posted 2/14/2008 10:20 AM (GMT -7)   
It drives me crazy when people keep going on and on about how lucky I am that I'm so slender. Depending on who it is I may just ignore it or may tell them the real reason. When my friends do it though I let them have it. Usually I respond with "I'll take your fat and you can have my Crohns"! Terrible I know.......but they should know better!
32-year-old female diagnosed with CD in 2001.
Currently taking Pentasa 4g x four times daily and probiotics.

Veteran Member

Date Joined Feb 2007
Total Posts : 1010
   Posted 2/14/2008 12:04 PM (GMT -7)   
yah RK: Many years ago when I was back at work after my first resection -- and after four four-hour emergency ambulance rides in six months -- the accountant -- and company weight-watchers' leader -- gushed about how terrific i looked (I'd dropped so much weight at that point, I had literally lost my ass -- and asked what my secret was. I said, "I guess misery becomes me." and left it at that.

Ya we are such a weight-obsessed culture that most people just don't even think it's inappropriate to comment on someone's weight. We may suffer from the runs, but there's a lot of others out there who suffer from verbal diarrhea.

30+ years living with Crohn's.

Elite Member

Date Joined Feb 2004
Total Posts : 20577
   Posted 2/14/2008 12:48 PM (GMT -7)   
Key word is perspective....knowing her for as long as you have she must know you've had CD for so long? She was proably trying to compliment you but we sometimes get very defensive about how we look because of our disease...often we think about our disease more than the people who know us do...there are plenty of overweight crohnies that deal with comments from people as can't win for losing, don't sweat the small stuff.

My bum is broken....there's a big crack down the middle of it!  LOL  :)

Blue Velvyt
Regular Member

Date Joined Sep 2006
Total Posts : 194
   Posted 2/14/2008 12:56 PM (GMT -7)   
Sometimes it is not what you say, it is that you said anything. I am always tellign my wife, standing up for yourself doesnt have to mean being nasty, it just mean you spoke up for yourself. Not every word or phrase or your demeanor may have been exactly how you wanted it to come out, but standing up for yourself is never a bad thing.

My family always tells me "you look great" cause I lost over 60 pounds over the last 3 years (I was overweight). I try to shrug it off, seeing as they know I have crohns. I dont always shrug so well.

Anyway, been there for sure :)

Veteran Member

Date Joined Nov 2007
Total Posts : 4366
   Posted 2/14/2008 2:04 PM (GMT -7)   
Hi Belleenstein,
First of all, I want you to know you have been so supportive to so many of us here, and you are an inspiration to me. I am 49, but I've only had my Crohn's dx since Sept. '07, and have only really suffered symptoms for a year. Still, it has been a terrible year for me adjusting to chronic pain, missing too much work and all the stuff that goes along with Crohn's. I often hear myself in my own head saying "Belleenstein has been doing this for 30 years, and she still keeps going...I can do this too!"

I have always been somewhat overweight, but I was the type of person who didn't really mind. I didn't even own a scale, and I just tried to be happy and healthy, and for the most part, I was pretty successful at both. Since I have been sick, I have lost about 15 pounds. I can't tell you how many people have come up to me to tell me how marvelous I look. It is really hard to hear...first of all I wonder if everyone was thinking I looked so terrible before, but also, if I could go back to my overweight, happy healthy self, I would in an instant!!! If it is just an acquaintance, I don't share much, and just say thanks for the compliment. But what drives me the most crazy is my extended family, who know what I have been through, and still say stupid things like they are jealous that I lost so much weight, or that I'm better off, etc. I've been feeling a little better the past week after complete hell the past few months, and my mom actually told me "now be very careful with what you don't want to be fat again." I wanted to strangle her!!~!!

In a perfect world you would have polite response to everyone, but you have earned your right to "lose it" once in awhile. I do believe that most people don't mean any harm, they just don't understand. Thanks for all you do for so many of us here!
49 yr. old female, diagnosed with Crohn's in small intestine and terminal ileum Sept-Oct. 2007
currently taking Pentasa 2750 mg- 9pills/day and on and off Prednisone for flares

Veteran Member

Date Joined Oct 2004
Total Posts : 504
   Posted 2/14/2008 3:20 PM (GMT -7)   

I was already overweight and the prednisone packed on another 30 pounds.

I am trying to lose and have lost just a few pounds so far.  I work in a public library and patrons think nothing on commenting on my size or anything else they want.

Just today, I had a lady I've known for years, say well what do you eat?  You've got to find something healthy, surely they've given you a diet.  I said well, I am so restricted I have to set my own diet.  She kept pushing, I was not going to tell her my meals and finally I said just don't worry about it and walked away.

Then, I must look really fat today because another long time patron wanted to know if I was losing any weight.  I said yeah a few and she said well, you need to lose more!  Then, she said I'm sure you're doctor has told you to lose more!

SO SO rude, I just walked away.

It's hard enough without the peanut gallery chiming in every day.  I didn't get this size overnight and it's not going to go away overnight either.

Also, I had to wear my protective diaper today, so maybe my rear end seems larger.

Diagnosed with Crohn's August 2006
Age 30
Asthma, Rosacea, Venous Insufficiency, Malabsorption and Excessive Bile production
Questran 1 package per day
Colocort Enema 2 per day
Advair 100, 2 per day

Veteran Member

Date Joined May 2003
Total Posts : 3103
   Posted 2/14/2008 3:45 PM (GMT -7)   
You mentioned that you have spent a great deal of time trying to keep your Crohn's to yourself -- maybe that's why you burst out the way you did. Just a thought. I try to be pretty up-front about having Crohn's with people. Sometimes they have questions that come across rude, but are just the product of ignorance. The only way to solve that is to educate. Sometimes they ask questions for the sake of seeming polite, in which case they deserve to be made uncomfortable by a few gory details. Mostly, though, people have been understanding. I've been very fortunate with that. I still have a few folks who treat me like I'm made of spun glass, but they're a real minority, and I don't deal with them that often.

You did the right thing. You told them pretty plainly what the deal was, and if they're embarassed, it's their own problem. Sometimes I wonder about our society -- we're so intent on making sure that everyone is all "shiny and happy" (to paraphrase REM), and really, it isn't healthy. I'm not saying we should go around just insulting people, but locking things in isn't good, either. We don't want to bother anyone else with the details of our lives, other people don't want to or shouldn't want to get involved...sometimes words are like a good fart -- Grandpa always says "better the shame than the pain." It's better to let it out than get your guts in a twist hanging on to it for everyone else's sake.
"Let me light my lamp,"
Says the star,
"And never debate
If it will help to remove the darkness."
-- Indian poet, Rabindranath Tagore

Veteran Member

Date Joined Jan 2007
Total Posts : 3200
   Posted 2/14/2008 4:55 PM (GMT -7)   
Hi all, I think it's the yo yo weight I have the biggest problem with, and the comments, from family, that comes with it.
When I'm on steroids, generally at my sickest (and moodiest) is when everyone tells me I look soooo good, I look really
healthy, almost glowing. Yea right! thats when I could really lose it. Walk around with a sign, saying this is false, I feel
lousy. Then I go back to "normal. My a*** could do with a little meat ect: Yet I feel pretty good. Go figure.

Bell, you did just fine, in fact I would've opened my mouth a lot sooner.

I was also wondering if it's just us women, that have to justify our weight problems, or do you guys feel that you have to

Too many years with CD
Two bowel resections, several obstructions.

Laughter is the brush that sweeps the cobwebs from our hearts

Veteran Member

Date Joined May 2005
Total Posts : 4219
   Posted 2/14/2008 6:53 PM (GMT -7)   
I really think it is tough for the guys. For girls it is sexy to be so skinny. For guys it is looked at as wimpy. People assume they do drugs, don't work out, or worse. One guy on here once said someone thought he had AIDs. At least a lot of crohns girls are super skinny and as much as it sucks to hear "i wish I could look like you" I think it is worse to be a guy and feel that the "crohns look" is unattractive.

I apologize in advance to overweight crohnies since my post focused on skinny crohnies. But, in the overweight department I think it is tougher on the ladies than the men. Just my two sense.
26 Year old married female.  Diagnosed w/ CD 3 years ago, IBS for over 10 years before that, which was probably the CD.  Currently on Pentasa 4 pills/4x day, hysociamine prn, nexium, and ortho evra.  Good times!!!

Veteran Member

Date Joined May 2007
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   Posted 2/14/2008 7:17 PM (GMT -7)   
My response is to "let them eat their heart out over my "slim" figure". I am not a vain person when it comes to my weight, not that I'm suggesting anyone here is! Bell, I agree with you! It's soooo nice just to enjoy knowing you still have muscles and can feel the blood pump through them again! People are just ignorant sometimes and I don't feel the need to share every detail of my life with someone who "prods" me for information. Let them think what they will! I've had the "no behind" syndrome myself! It's so sad that we live in such a society. I've watched my own daughter receive such treatment over her Turner's syndrome which comes with short stature, in her case 4ft.,3in. and her constant battle with her weight for 29 years! She is always approached from the "unknowing' like she just stepped out of 3rd grade. OMG, can't you see the woman wears a size D cup bra! She handles this treatment much better than her mom! Bell, you go girl!
Dx'd Jan'06, 1st Resection 7/06, Predinsone, Humira, Imuran, B12 injections, Nexium. Secondary conditions: Psorasis, Acne, Fatigue, Joint Pain, Lactose Intolerant, gallstones, fibroid cysts, peri-menopausal.

Regular Member

Date Joined Apr 2007
Total Posts : 254
   Posted 2/15/2008 2:12 AM (GMT -7)   
belleenstein don't feel bad about your reaction, it's normal!!!!! 
Over the years of having CD I have heard many comments like "how can you loose weight so easily, tell us your secret", or "don't complain, you don't look sick at all", or when I'm super bloated because of pred "you must watch your diet, you don't look attractive with all this extra weight".  What really bothers me the most, is when I hear comments from people who theoritically know about my condition.
A few months ago I had a big fight with one of my best friends because she told me to tell her the secret of my diet (!), and how envy she was of me.  I said "try going to the bathroom 20 times a day, feeling nauseous and crap, and then come and talk to me"
If they felt for one day how we feel daily, they wouldn't even show up at work!

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Date Joined Mar 2005
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   Posted 2/15/2008 2:47 AM (GMT -7)   
My own physician is like, "You have lost an incredible amount of weight." I'm like, "No duh." My med school friends squeal, "Ohhh, you're so skinny! I mean, I know it's because you don't feel good, but you look GREAT!" Ha. Whatev's. I'm holding steady now at 115, which ain't so bad for being 5'2". I have to admit I enjoyed buying size-2 clothes for the first time in my life, but then felt ridiculous about that. Who the heck cares how much I weigh!?
Co-moderator - IBS Forum

Veteran Member

Date Joined Feb 2007
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   Posted 2/15/2008 5:53 AM (GMT -7)   
Thanks everyone for sharing your intersting perspectives.

Katy -- I spent the last four years, before going on disability, directing communications for a regional library system. I understand what you mean about patrons. At the library, they really see the library clerks as extensions of their family. It is very rude to be accosted about your weight, but maybe they're being rude in the way of families, because they feel a connection to you and really care. It doesn't make it any less appropriate, but ...

Sarita we are all conditioned by our culture to think about weight this way. It really is crazy ... but if slimness is one of the effects of crohn's for you, well enjoy it.

Something Pb4 said really struck me though. She quite naturally but wrongly concluded that since I'd known this woman for 35 years that she must know all about my condition. The fact is I know her, but she's not a friend and no, she knew nothing about my issues. Most people don't. It's left me questioning myself. I mean, why doesn't she know? Why have I, until now, worked so hard to keep it private? From the beginning, I think I looked at crohn's as something to be ashamed of, a weakness, that I needed to control. Part of that control was to keep it to myself or, in the case of family and close friends to minimize its effects.

In my early years as an editor a crohn's colitis chapter was getting established in my community and I had to interview the organizers. I did not disclose my relationship to the disease and eventually turned the story over to another person in the newsroom. Five years later during a hospitalization the hospital nutritionist, who had been one of the organizers, was stunned to see me as a patient. The truth is, the disease scared the crap out of me and i didn't want to be associated with it because I didn't want to see how sick people could be with this disease.

My relationship to my disease has been transformed over the last two or three years, but I guess this lingering discomfort I feel in disclosing is part of the vestiges of that former, distorted view. I told my husband last evening (over a very lovely Valentine's Dinner) that from now on I'm going to treat my crohn's the same way that i treat my address or who my parents are. If it is appropriate, I'm just going to say I have crohn's. Period. Time to stop agonizing over whether it will change how people relate to me and just own it as part of who I am. My husband, of course, says it's nobody's business. I say yes it is. It is my business and I've decided to come out of the closet.

30+ years living with Crohn's.

Regular Member

Date Joined Jul 2007
Total Posts : 239
   Posted 2/15/2008 6:49 AM (GMT -7)   
I'm very upfront and honest about my condition, and when my belly sounds like a freight train, I tell people why. When people tell me I don't look sick, I tell them that's because I work very hard at looking good, staying positive and staying as healthy as I can. If someone starts to get rude or snotty about it , or nosy-not sincere nosy, that I appreciate, but gossip nosy - I go into details about how I spend so much time stretching and doing yoga because I can't do cardio (gives me D) and how some days I feel so tired I can barely take a shower, and how I have to get at least 9 hours of sleep or I can't function. And on weekends I usually get about 12 hours a night to make up for the energy I spent during the week. Then I go into details about what I can eat and cannot eat, and how it varies day to day sometimes, and how I had to give up Starbucks coffee, and popcorn, and now tomatoes bother me. Then I tell them about the pain, and the medications I have to take. And when they start to walk and then run away, I follow them, and keep giving them details getting more and more technical. And when they are trying to get into their car so they can drive away from me, I stand in front of the door and start telling them about the medical costs my family has had to absorb, starting with the ct scans and the surgery and the prescriptions, and oh, by the way, did I mention the side effects of those? And when they are finally in tears, begging me to please stop talking, then I sweetly let them know that I appreciate them taking the time to learn about a disease that affects so many people. And I ALWAYS make a point of saying that you never know what another person is going through, so you shouldn't ask questions you don't want to know the answer to!
diagnosed 11/06, solving the mystery of years of on/off abdominal pain. No more "it's just a virus". 33f with 2 boys, a lovable dog, and a wonderful husband. 150 mg Imuran, bowel resection 9/07, healing well and feeling well. Entocort 9mg.

Veteran Member

Date Joined Nov 2007
Total Posts : 4366
   Posted 2/15/2008 7:44 AM (GMT -7)   
Sounds like you are doing great things for yourself..talking about Sarah and now your Crohn's. I grew up in a family (Jewish) where we talk about all our ailments, probably to excess! But it never occured to me to keep the Crohn's a secret...I don't see it as a personal failing, but rather a very unlucky thing that happened to me. You should never have to share something that you are not comfortable with, but I'm glad that you are becoming proud of who you are!!!
49 yr. old female, diagnosed with Crohn's in small intestine and terminal ileum Sept-Oct. 2007
currently taking Pentasa 2750 mg- 9pills/day and on and off Prednisone for flares

Veteran Member

Date Joined Feb 2007
Total Posts : 1010
   Posted 2/15/2008 8:24 AM (GMT -7)   
Thanks Gumby, especially for mentioning Sarah's name. That feels good, let me tell you!

I'm the typical WASP. Add to that, my parents were raised in a colonial-British home during the Edwardian era and you can understand that stiff-upper-lip repression is practically hardwired into my soul. Here's to liberation.

30+ years living with Crohn's.

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