Hi, I’m Marcus and I’m the first person on Billie’s new guest-blog-post-thing (big privilege I know). We’ve been together for just over 6 months and it’s been amazing; being with someone who’s as thoughtful, clever and brave as she is. I know she hates people calling her brave, but in my eyes she is. In these 6 months I’ve discovered bravery and confidence is contagious; if you can be proud of a friend, family member or S.O. it’s a lot easier for you to rise together.
Going into a relationship was a first for me, but along the way I’ve learnt the more you can do for someone, the more you grow yourself. So, I think it’s best to write about how Billie has helped me become more confident and happier in myself.
Our first date was filled with standard first-date-chat about family, friends and ourselves… Then, Billie told me she had Colitis. Honestly, I didn’t mind too much and just wanted to get to know her as a person. But before you start hailing me as a hero, I didn’t truly understand the magnitude of her illness and what she went through prior to that date. The main reason for that was, Colitis is an invisible illness; when I saw her she was (and still is) exceptionally good looking and there are no clear signs whatsoever. For me, (and I think lots of other people too) when you think of disability you think of a wheelchair or something clearly visible. However, with Billie, you wouldn’t know because of how she hides her stoma bag; meaning I was oblivious to what she went through physically and emotionally.
To be honest on that first date, I didn’t appreciate how much of a big deal it was that she’d had the guts to tell me she had colitis.
Before I dated Billie I didn’t know much about IBD; it’s not something they teach you in school and no one close to me suffered from it. I didn’t understand the struggles of having Crohn’s, Colitis or a stoma until we started spending more time together. One of these struggles I’ve come to understand are bag leaks; something I only started to realise in our second semester at uni. The second term of the final year of university is the hardest part; the partying is essentially over and you spend more time with your head in books, than in the club; but on top of that Billie had to deal with the problems her stoma bag gave her from time to time.
I remember working in the library; she popped to the toilet and came back quietly; saying her bag leaked and she needed to go home. I could see how upsetting it was even though she tried to be strong. I think they’re the most difficult moments because I wanted to support her, but didn’t know first-hand how emotionally painful it is. Left in the library on my own, I felt powerless; struggling to concentrate and only thinking about whether I could have done more, said more, helped more? I could tell the bag leaks upset her and giving her space was the hardest part. But even when those moments came around, she kept working hard, and I saw first-hand what resilience looked like and how strong people are if you support them in anyway you can.
She’s taught me to be proud of the hurdles you’ve overcome because they make you into the person you are right now! That became clear to me when she told me the full story of when she got ill: The months on countless drugs, the operation and the road to recovery. She’s told those stories so many times she doesn’t realise that they’re terrifying for me. What do you say when someone you love tells you they’ve passed out in a running shower for an hour due to the severity of an illness, or how the journey started with a cancer scare. Even now, I never know what to say partly due to how serious it is, but mainly because of the confidence in her voice when she talks about it. The more time I spend around her I realise that awful time in her life has made her the incredible person she is today. She always tells me she’s much happier now after going through IBD and ending up with the bag. From her response and how she lives her life, I learnt that pride in yourself and others for what you’ve both achieved is so important in making yourselves happy.
A final lesson: To be happy with someone you need to proud of who they are, and this isn’t something you can work on; it comes naturally. The more I’ve got to know Billie the prouder I am of her. I don’t think there’s a way of proving you’re proud of someone; and I don’t know if you should be taking advice from me; but one things for sure, I was taught actions speak louder than words. If you can be by someone’s side when they need you most, that’s the best way to show them you love them.
Finally, you may ask… If I could go back to that first date, would I have still seen Billie again? To answer that, I wouldn’t change a thing. Since we’ve been together, I have become a happier person. When you feel like you’re with someone who is your equal, and when you approach life as a team, that’s something you need to keep hold of.