Sometimes I forget that I exist in a slightly different way to ‘normal’ people. Having a chronic illness means making adjustments to ones normal life, and then it becomes your ‘new normal’, to use a phrase from the pandemic that I absolutely detested but sums this up perfectly.
One way I’m not ‘normal’ is when it comes to food. I have a severely restricted diet because of crohns, which is irritating because I love food, but I can work around a lot of things that I can’t eat and find alternatives that work just as well.
Takeout, however, is still a minefield for me.
My team at work is ordering takeout to the office soon. We have planned this in advance, and I have said I will bring my own food.
Cue ‘no we can pick something that you want!’ from one of the team members. I said to her that it was easier for everyone if I brought my own food because my list of safe food was very small right now.
That’s true, but the only fast food that’s safe for me is McDonalds and I know people don’t generally like that, plus by the time it gets to the office it’s gross and greasy, so I thought I’d just bring my own food and let the rest of them work out something they liked. They’ve chosen something I personally think is foul, but that’s up to them, I’ll be eating my chicken tacos while they’re munching that.
I don’t know how to get it through to people that I can’t just order in whatever I fancy. I have to meal plan like mad, even if it’s takeout. I’m ok with pizza, but pizza in the office usually brings other departments sniffing around, and this is our lunch, not theirs.
Sometimes I forget that me saying ‘I’ll bring my own food’ won’t just be met with ‘okay’ from people. They’ll push back and want to know why. I’m not afraid of getting graphic if I need to, but I’d rather not. The people I work with know I have an illness, and I need to remember that they don’t live with it every day and some of the stuff I do or say that I consider utterly normal seems weird to them.
I also don’t think some of my colleagues realise how tired crohns makes me, or how much of a mission it is to prepare for a day at work. I can’t just run out the door with my handbag on my arm and half a piece of toast in my mouth. I have to be prepared, and a field trip is even more of a faff to prepare for than just a day at the office.
This is why I prefer working remotely, even though I’m convinced my colleagues think I’m taking the piss by only going in the office once a week. Live a week of my life then tell me what you think about that, folks.
I would love to be ‘normal’. I would love to be able to get up at 7am and get ready, leave at 7.30am and not have to worry about my gut turning over halfway through my commute. I would love to be able to eat anything I wanted, without wondering if it’s going to cause me intense pain or make me sick.
But my normal is not their normal. I need to remember that, and so do they.