The strongest people are not those who show strength in front of us but those who win battles we know nothing about.
The fundamental attribution error is the tendency people have to overemphasize personal characteristics and ignore situational factors in judging others’ behavior. Because of the fundamental attribution error, we tend to believe that others do bad things because they are bad people. We’re inclined to ignore situational factors that might have played a role.
An example, in recent days I have heard people complaining about a runner that has been relieving himself in the woods in our small town. Our first thought might be, “that is disgusting”, instead of considering what could cause a person to do such a thing. I honestly believe that if we knew all the facts we would likely sympathize with the person, rather than judge them as being a bad person.
I will share a personal story. I was a runner. Sadly after finishing the 2017 RunDisney Wine and Dine Half Marathon I gave up running. Now, 1-1/2 years later I am trying to get back in shape and get back into running, and it is proving to be difficult both physically and emotionally. And now the crappy part of the story… The reason I gave up running is because I got sick in the winter of 2016, and in the spring of 2017 I was diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis.[Note: Ulcerative colitis (UC) is a disease that affects your large intestine, or colon. It causes irritation and swelling called inflammation. Eventually that leads to sores called ulcers in the lining there.” – from WebMD]
Now, probably more information than you would like to know… For nearly a year after I was diagnosed I tried to maintain my health and manage my weight by running, but it was extremely difficult. One of the annoying effects of UC is that you experience frequent diarrhea and urgent bowel movements. This is highlighted well in two commercials, Humira – A day at the fair, and Xeljanz – A different direction. For me, I found it was hard to run more than a few miles without stopping for a restroom. However, the worst was when I would suddenly, and unexpectedly, have to go to the bathroom. The pain would force me to immediately stop running, and to search for a place to relieve myself. Sometimes I could pause and control my body enough to walk back home or to a nearby place, but often I could not. I would frequently soil myself and then have to walk slowly back home and clean up. I began running with a folded up gallon ziplock bag, a supply of toilet paper, and a wet-wipe for those emergency situations, but even with all of this I would still have times where due to the location I could not execute my “emergency plan” and I would again have to do the walk of shame back home. I was so embarrassed I would often not even tell my wife, and simply try to get cleaned up without anyone knowing.
In the fall of 2016 I was in great shape and ran my first half marathon with my wife. At that time I was about 180 lbs and 14% body fat and was able to finish the 13.1 miles in under 1:52 with an average pace of 8.5 minutes per mile.
A year later I would do the same race with my wife, but my health was no where near the same. I had fully expected that I could still finish in under two hours, but that would not be the case. Even with careful planning on diet and preparation, including taking three Imodium AD pills prior to race, I ran into problems at mile 7 and had to seek a bathroom. Fortunately Disney places bathrooms at every water station, and their was one ahead at mile 8. Sadly my body could not control itself and by time I got to mile 8 I had to carefully clean myself before I could finish the next 5 miles. I managed to finish the race in a respectable time slightly above 2 hours, but physically and emotionally I was drained. After finishing that 13.1 miles I would only manage to run another twenty miles over the next year. I allowed the disease to overpower me, and to take away my joy and my confidence.
Thankfully, a few months after this race I had the courage to start taking some medicine to help me with my depression. I was also able to work with my Gastroenterologist and start a new medicine that helped me get my UC under control. This, and some other factors, would change my life and I share a bit in my testimony. However, even with the improvements I was slowly putting on weight and lacking the motivation to exercise. Today I am about 40 lbs heavier than I was in 2016, 218 lbs and 29% body fat, but I finally have the will to fight back and I will not let this disease control me and my life. It may take me a few years, but I will get back to my previous running level, and I know that I eventually will beat my PR (personal record) and finish a half marathon in under 1:50.
I know I am not alone. So many people have suffered, or are suffering from something right now. I am not that poor person that is relieving themselves in the woods, but if this was a few years ago it could have easily been me. My ask is that before you judge anyone, try to think of what circumstances they may be going through. We likely have no idea what battle they are fighting, but almost everyone is fighting something.
I know my story is embarrassing to me, but I hope that sharing it helps someone else share their story or seek the help they need to overcome their battle. I know people see weight changes, or attitudes changes, but we seldom have the courage to ask if everything is OK? Some may live an illusion of perfection, but I choose to be authentic and share my situation with others. I know I am not alone. I know many are suffering right now. This is the sad reality of the world we live in…
Thanks for your support. Please reach out to me if want to learn more or if you want to share your story. Wishing you all the best, Douglas