‘Invisible and isolating’: Lauren Beasley’s battle with Crohn’s disease
It's known as an invisible illness, but after listening to Lauren Beasley detail her battle with Crohn's disease, "isolating" was the word that stuck with me.
The Silver Sands resident has been locked in a fight with the inflammatory bowel disease for the past two years, and as she describes, it has all but brought her life to a standstill.
In that time she’s gone from energetic retail worker to unemployed and often bedridden, with both the financial and physical impacts of the condition straining her social life and mental health.
But perhaps most frustrating aspect of all is the lack of awareness around the disease.
Lauren was diagnosed with Crohn’s earlier this year, but it took her almost 12 months wading through waves of misdiagnosis and uncertainty to get that confirmation.
She was regularly dismissed by doctors as having a “tummy bug” and was often told she was simply a dramatic hypochondriac, all the while dealing with the debilitating pain the disease can bring on.
“I was basically just left to fend for myself,” she said.
“A lot of doctors were telling me that I was just stressed, or that I had anxiety and it was my anxiety making me sick.”
After months of continuing to doubt herself, Lauren decided to again seek further advice, and after another lengthy process she received her official diagnosis.
But by that point the now 31-year-old had already lost her job, and her way of life had been completely turned upside-down in the space of a few months.
“I had to leave my job, and I ended up using my savings to pay for everything,” she said.
“Rent, groceries, medical bills – all of my savings is completely gone now and because it’s not considered a disability I don’t qualify for financial aid.”
Amazingly, Lauren has continued to find a way to be optimistic and enjoy “the easier days”, but she also found herself losing friends as her social life took a dive.
“Because it’s an internal disease and doesn’t necessarily manifest on the outside, I found so many people looking at me thinking that I’m actually fine,” she said.
“So I would miss birthdays or just drinks at the pub and people would think I’m avoiding them.
“I’ve had people get really mad at me for missing events that I just couldn’t physically drag myself out of bed to attend.
“Then people just stop inviting you and you kind of just get forgotten about in the end.”
Lauren is currently taking injections of biologics treatments for Crohn’s disease every eight weeks, a medication that brings on its own challenges.
But while she continues to cross her fingers that a cure may one day be found, it’s the attitude and perception towards the illness that she is desperate to see change in.
“It’s a serious condition, and it’s just not taken seriously enough,” she said.
“I’d really like to see the family and friends of those suffering from Crohn’s just taking the time to do their own research, and that way there will be more empathy towards it.”
More information about Crohn’s disease can be found at healthdirect.gov.au/crohns-disease