Actor and Crohn’s & Colitis UK Supporter
Actor Sacha Dhawan shares his experience of life with Crohn’s disease, learning to ask for help and addressing stigma around emotions.
I have Crohn’s disease, it’s taken me over ten years to accept those four words. In fact, being able to celebrate the highs as well as the lows has given me the most amazing sense of freedom.
I was diagnosed with Crohn’s in 2006 and without social media I didn’t feel inclined at all to engage with others like me. In fact, I didn’t make any effort to find out more about this chronic disease, which along with colitis affects an estimated 500,000 people in the UK.
I was prescribed medication, so I would eventually get better right? And I did, I went into ‘remission’ for several years, or so I thought. What I hadn’t prepared myself for were the long term effects on my body, both physically and emotionally from living in complete denial.
Little did I know then that one call to Crohn’s & Colitis UK (which I’m now a proud ambassador for), would have potentially saved years of damage to my bowel. For me, it was easier to just suffer in silence.
Making that first call and asking for help was the single-most rewarding moment of my life so far. Not only has it had a positive impact on my Crohn’s, but it’s given me the opportunity to see life that bit more clearly.
Helping to address the stigma
Looking back, I realise how unconnected I was, not only to the disease, but to myself. I put all my energy and focus on the bowel itself with sheer frustration because it was tangible; the pain was physical, tender to touch, and I could see the scar tissue damage in scans, but what about the thing that couldn’t be seen?
There is scientific evidence about the gut-brain axis, but the stigma attached to talking about your emotions and feelings, especially for us men, seems to outweigh the benefits. I have battled with this stigma for many years, feeling that by opening up about my struggles with mental health I had somewhat failed, so when I first got help, it was inconsistent.
Consistency is key, whilst daunting, making that first call and asking for help was the single-most rewarding moment of my life so far. Not only has it had a positive impact on my Crohn’s, but it’s given me the opportunity to see life that bit more clearly.