Greece, Alexandra

"It was 1996 when I received, at the age of 24 and after 6 years of constant medical search, the diagnosis of Crohn’s Disease and I still remember my doctor telling that “I’ll be “married” with it for the rest of my life”!! Luckily my employer at the time and my colleagues were extremely understanding and supporting and I continued my full time work with no problems.

After the first year of getting to know each other, I decided to pursue my dreams and I took my new partner and my medication with me and in 1997 we arrived in Scotland to attend a full time MSc in International Banking. Ups and downs where daily but the love for what I did and a great campus GP helped me go through the intensive course and the demands of my CD.

A year later with the MSc in my qualifications “bag” I landed a job in a major International Bank... I loved the job, I loved the intensity of it, I loved the daily deadlines I had to meet, I loved the working environment and the people I worked with but my undeniably handsome CD got envy and started showing it’ s ugly face...

For 2 years I was having a flare that wouldn’t stop no matter what the doctors did. The pain in my tummy and my joints was constant, I couldn’t eat or drink almost anything, I lost weight and looked like a shadow of myself. At work I couldn’t concentrate, I was tired, spent a lot of time in the toilet and as I pushed to myself to maintain my productivity I got worse. I was hospitalised once for 20 days and I had to be off the job for 2 long and lonely months. The most important thing I remember is the doctor’s advices when I was in the hospital. The first was “You either slow down at work or you will never be in remission” and the second was “Get rid of your watch because looking at the time (a habit I picked at work) only adds to your stress levels”.

I took these 2 advices to heart and eventually I went back to my dream job without my watch and with the determination to make it work for me. My managers listened carefully, re-adjusted my workload to make it less stressful and offered me an unbelievable amount of support plus a raise (!). My CD on the other hand started subsiding and things looked for the first time in 2 years promising!!

At this point, and while I was physically recovering and everything career wise was getting better, depression hit me and I realised that I needed to leave and return to Greece. But my Crohn’s did not win!!!

For the last 17 years since my return to my homeland, I set a new balance between my CD, my personal life and my work life! I have a full-time job as a public servant in the Finance Department of Attica’s Region as an auditor, I am a full-time volunteer and board member of the Greek patients association HELLESCC, I’m managing my IDB and I enjoy my life.

The only advice I would give to people with IDB is to embrace it, never underestimate it, talk about it and state clearly their needs as this is the only way to communicate to friends, relatives, employers and co-workers what they can do to help them achieve the best they can and to feel whole, independent and productive."

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