When is the last time you pooped your pants? Amber speaks with April Michelle Harris, who lives with ulcerative colitis, a type of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), for over 13 years. April shares her journey, from her initial diagnosis to her struggles with depression and anxiety, and how she has managed to build a fulfilling life despite the many challenges that come with living with a chronic illness.
We also dive into April’s new book “I Pooped My Pants”, where she shares her story and those of 20 other IBD warriors who have bravely shared their experiences with living with the disease. April’s book provides a refreshing and honest perspective on what it’s like to live with IBD, and it’s a must-read for anyone who wants to learn more about the disease and how it affects people on a daily basis.
Tune in to hear April’s inspiring story and learn more about living with a chronic illness, and how you can build a fulfilling life despite the challenges that may come your way.
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Find April Michelle Harris at:
- Web: “I Pooped My Pants”
- Web: VirtuallyAprilMichelle
- Instagram: @VirtuallyAprilMichelle
- Instagram: @IPoopedMyPantsBook
- Facebook: Virtually April Michelle
- Book: “I Pooped My Pants” at Amazon
Find Amber J Tresca at:
- AboutIBD.com: About IBD
- Verywell: Verywell Health
- Facebook: @aboutIBD
- Twitter: @aboutIBD
- Pinterest: @aboutibd
- Instagram: @about_IBD
Find Mac Cooney (mix, sound design, and theme music) at:
- Facebook: @maccooneycomposer
- Instagram: @maccooneycomposer
- Web: Cooney Studio
- Theme music, IBD Dance Party, is from ©Cooney Studio.
[Music: IBD Dance Party]
Amber Tresca 0:04
I’m Amber Tresca and this is About IBD. I’m a medical writer and patient educator who lives with a J pouch due to ulcerative colitis. It’s my mission to educate people living with Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis, about their disease and to bring awareness to the patient journey.
Amber Tresca 0:19
Welcome to Episode 133.
Amber Tresca 0:22
When was the last time you pooped your pants? I did some looking into how many people with IBD experience fecal incontinence. Several of the studies reported it to be at about 15%. Frankly, I didn’t believe that. It does raise questions about if people will be truthful about incontinence because it’s associated with so much embarrassment and shame.
Amber Tresca 0:44
I found at least one study, however, that put the estimate at closer to 60%. That one seems more like the truth.
Amber Tresca 0:50
So why am I talking about this? Because my guest is April Michelle Harris, who lives with ulcerative colitis. April runs a successful virtual assistant coaching business, which is helpful for her in managing her disease.
Amber Tresca 1:02
She’s also the author of “I Pooped My Pants: Removing the Stigma of IBD One Pair of Trashed Underwear at a Time.” She explains her motivation behind writing this book, which as you can imagine, involves a story. She also gives some good advice for anyone who is newly diagnosed with IBD.
Amber Tresca 1:24
April, thank you so much for coming on About IBD
April Michelle Harris 1:26
Thank you for having me.
Amber Tresca 1:28
Oh, it is absolutely my pleasure. So I would like to get started by asking you first to introduce yourself.
April Michelle Harris 1:36
So my name is April Harris. I am an IBD warrior for the past 15 years. I’m also an author, author of the recently released book, “I Pooped My Pants: Removing the Stigma of IBD One Pair of Trashed Underwear at a Time.”
Amber Tresca 1:54
So just gonna really briefly because I have your book here, so and the cover for those listening has several different pairs of undergarments on the front of it. And I took a lot of joy in bringing this book out into the world and reading it in different places in public because it is called I Pooped My Pants.
Amber Tresca 2:16
And because I also live with ulcerative colitis, I’m in the I pooped my pants club, I think with probably I don’t have the percentage in front of me, but it has been studied as to how many people with IBD live with incontinence. And it is staggeringly high. And yet we don’t always talk about it with our doctors, which is interesting, right, um, and maybe understandable. So let’s begin though with your diagnosis journey, I would first like to hear about when you were diagnosed, and what that process was like for you.
April Michelle Harris 2:51
So surprisingly, I, from what I understand now of IBD. Like my diagnosis story was kind of anti typical, because many people that I talked to they, you know, it takes a long time for them to get a diagnosis. But for me, it was actually really quick. From, from the time of my very first symptom to the time of my diagnosis, it was within about three months. I was Yeah, I was 20 years old.
April Michelle Harris 3:20
And you know, when you’re 20 and you think, you know, you’re running on like caffeine and sugar, and four hours of sleep a night and you’re doing, you know, everything with everyone. I remember, I was actually training for my first 5k race that I was doing, and I had ran that race. And that day later on that day. I went to the bathroom and there was blood in the toilet. And I’m like, That’s not normal.
April Michelle Harris 3:49
And I talked to one of my friends, one of my co workers and friends and I said hey, you know, this is kind of weird, but, you know, I know you’re a runner. And like this is kind of new for me like have you ever like after a race like experience like blood in the toilet or like and she’s and I remember her saying she goes well yeah, actually sometimes after long races like you know, I like I will like it could be like a hemorrhoid or it could be you know, it could be something totally like innocent and it’ll probably go away on its own. So like, okay, nothing to worry about.
April Michelle Harris 4:18
I’m gonna just continue on with life and but it doesn’t get better doesn’t go away. It just keeps getting worse and it gets to the point where I’m now it’s nothing but blood in the toilet. Going to the bathroom upwards of 20 to 30 times a day, lots of pain and discomfort. So I make an appointment with my doctor and immediately they refer me to a gastroenterologist. I had scheduled my first colonoscopy and then from that very first colonoscopy so from it was an October from when I first experienced my first symptoms and then it was December that I had my first colonoscopy, and I was diagnosed from that, from that procedure.
April Michelle Harris 5:05
And I remember the doctor, you know, coming in after I was, you know, coming out of the anesthesia and he said, Well, yeah, the, the scope confirmed you have ulcerative colitis, you know, I’m gonna give you a prescription, a prescription, just go home, take this follow up with me in, you know, in a few weeks, and that was that.
April Michelle Harris 5:23
And so from that point forward, I was like, oh, okay, I had no idea what ulcerative colitis was. It was just, it was such a, I don’t know, it was just such a surreal experience. It was like, I don’t know, I, I had no idea really what I was, what I was stepping into, you know, what, what this meant for my life, or that this is even a forever thing that it wasn’t just something that I was going to take medication for and then get over. It was like, No, this is just what you have.
April Michelle Harris 5:52
And I remember going home and looking up online and in finding out just information, like it’s something that affects mostly, interestingly enough, like Jewish people, like I remember reading about that, and people that were like, 55, and up, you know, and here I was 20 years old. And I’m like, What in the world, like, I didn’t know anybody else, you know, that had this disease. And, you know, this was way before, you know, the time of social media where you can easily search, you know, hashtag ulcerative colitis, or hashtag IBD, or, you know, IBD warrior, and, you know, you have all of these resources that come up. This was way before that time.
April Michelle Harris 6:31
So I remember just feeling like, What in the world, I had no idea, you know, really what that meant for my life and what that would look like. And so because I was so inflamed, and like the disease was so really severe at that point, I just, I went downhill really, really quickly from that the medication didn’t help, I was losing more blood losing more weight, I was jaundiced. And it wasn’t until a couple of friends came to visit. And they, they because I hadn’t been like, around people in a while. And they said, April, you look really bad. Like, in the most loving way possible, like you like, I think you need to like, you need to, like go to the ER or something.
April Michelle Harris 7:17
And so and I kept calling my doctor, and I’m kind of in a small town. And he just kind of kept dismissing it. Like it wasn’t like, oh, just you gotta give it time. And, and it’s just, this is just part of it. And so eventually, my grandparents actually came down, and they were like, we’re taking you to the hospital. And so they drove me two hours to like the next nearest town, which is St. Louis, Missouri. And I ended up in the ER there and I was in the hospital.
April Michelle Harris 7:47
And from that point forward, it was like, you either need to have your colon out right now. Like they’re prepping me like as soon as I really check in into the hospital, they’re, they’re prepping me for an emergency colectomy or they said you can try Remicade, which Remicade is a biologic. And they said, If this doesn’t work, you know, within the first like 24 to 48 hours to turn you around, then we’re going to we’re going to go with surgery. So it just everything progressed super, super fast from from the point of diagnosis. At that point. Thankfully, the Remicade worked.
April Michelle Harris 8:23
And like, my numbers started getting better inflammation was going down. So from that point forward, I was on Remicade for quite a few years. And that kind of brings us up to today. It kept me in pretty decent remission, but I just I don’t think too often about like that time now that we’re talking about it. I’m like, oh, man, that was such a crazy time like diagnosis because I’ve been living with it for so long. Now. It’s just kind of like my normal, but you know, really thinking about that it was it was a pretty, pretty crazy time.
Amber Tresca 8:57
So really, really, really harrowing time. The first flare up for some people, and it sounds like you might be in this category is sometimes the worst one that they ever have. So sometimes you meet people who do wind up with a colectomy after a first flare up, which is bonkers. I don’t even know how to wrap your head around that. But so remind me though, April, What year was this?
April Michelle Harris 9:21
This was Oh goodness. 2008 and eight 2009? Well, I didn’t even know since the pandemic, I don’t even know what time is anymore. But yeah, 2008 2009 I was I was 20 years old, and I’m about to be 35 now, so I don’t know if 10 years ago, so okay.
Amber Tresca 9:43
Yeah, it’s it’s just it’s always so wild to me because I was diagnosed in 1989. And at least when I was diagnosed, my doctor gave me a book, maybe the only one that was in existence at the time that was about IBD which scared the hell out of me. But that’s another story.
Amber Tresca 10:00
But the idea that so many years later, you could be diagnosed and just sort of sent on your merry way without so much as, you know, a couple of clues you were left to be on your own, to, to pop into a search engine, which again, is going to scare the hell out of you, you know, right. It’s just like, I find it very frustrating. And it makes me angry. Do you have feelings about, you know, the way that you were just sort of sent home with some medication?
April Michelle Harris 10:35
Oh, I have lots of feelings. i And like you said, it’s crazy, because I feel like it’s still that way. You know, I met a lot of different like IBD groups. And it’s, that’s still the general experience of most who are diagnosed, it’s, it’s like, I got this diagnosis. And now what it’s literally you’re just you’re handed a prescription and told the follow up, there’s not really nobody hands you a how to do life with IBD, or how to do life with a chronic illness, welcome packet, you know, there’s it doesn’t exist, at least not facilitated by the medical community, you know, by our doctors.
April Michelle Harris 11:15
And so, for me, that was one of the motivations for writing my book, like, I literally remember thinking, like, I want to write the book that I wish I would have had when I was first diagnosed, when you’re dealing with all the craziness and all the embarrassing things that that you don’t really just want to talk about with, with anybody else with random people. And the practical side of it, because of course, when you’re dealing with a disease that affects you, you know, in such a physical way, like there’s, there’s things that you have to deal with physically.
April Michelle Harris 11:49
But there’s also an emotional impact. There’s a mental impact, there’s a financial impact or relational impact on your life. So that’s why I think it’s so important that we have patient advocates, and we have people who have that lived experience that are so vocal, like, for instance, I never thought I would be the girl on the internet Who pooped your pants and decided to write a book about it. But here we are. You know, I like you know, somebody had to do it. So I guess that’s me.
April Michelle Harris 12:18
And like I said, my, my family was kind of mortified whenever I told them the title, you know about the book, when I had this idea for it, and but I told him like, listen, the people who get it, get it, like, everybody who I talked to, like within the IBD community, or whether you have IBD, or you love someone who has IBD it’s like, Oh, my goodness, that yes, like, somebody needs to talk about these things. And because it’s, it’s, it’s our lived experience, it’s real.
Amber Tresca 12:47
Yeah. So it’s super important, because your medical team can only take you so far, you do need to have somebody else in your life that understands it in a more intrinsic way.
[MUSIC: IBD Transition]
Amber Tresca 13:18
I follow you on the Instagrams. That’s, that’s where I saw you first where you share so much of about your book and about your experiences with ulcerative colitis. But you also share what you do for work, which is you work as a virtual assistant, you teach other people how to start their virtual assistant careers, amongst other things. And did you get started in this because it was kind of compatible with living with a chronic illness? Can you tell me more about that?
April Michelle Harris 13:50
Yes. So for the past few years, I have actually been looking for, you know, some type of like work from home job, something I could do from home that was flexible. If we go back five or six years I had, I was going through that phase in my life where I was like, Okay, I’m going to do all the things I’m going to do like natural things. I’m going to change my diet, I’m going to change my lifestyle. You know, I’m going to get off of Remicade. I’m going to get off of Western medication. And I’m going to I’m going to cure myself. You know, completely naturally. Fast forward a little bit through that. That didn’t happen, you know.
Amber Tresca 14:27
Well, I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I’m sorry you didn’t find the miracle thing. [laughter]
April Michelle Harris 14:32
Yeah, but what also Yeah, didn’t happen. Right. Yeah. Right. But in that process, I remember thinking so again, as we mentioned, like when it comes to living with a chronic illness, not only does it affect you physically, but it affects you mentally and emotionally and financially.
April Michelle Harris 14:52
And for my Remicade. I remember, if I didn’t have insurance out of pocket, it would have cost me like 8000 dollars per infusion. And I was getting an infusion every eight weeks. And so I remember thinking in my head at the time, like, oh, I need a job with insurance. And at this time, also, I was flaring, because I was trying to all natural thing and it wasn’t working for me.
April Michelle Harris 15:16
And so I’m also trying to work on top of that, but my heart has always been with the autoimmune community, the IBD community, because it’s very, of course, near and dear to me, and my lived experience. And I remember thinking, you know, what, I think I want to be like a health coach, you know, because here I was going into, like, natural health and you know, just doing things that I, I could control to better my situation. And that was in 2019, I had gone back to school, I was, you know, doing some like trainings and stuff online for, you know, holistic nutrition, and coaching.
April Michelle Harris 15:54
And so then I had invested in this program to to build my own online health and wellness coaching business. And so that was December of 2019, I was doing this program, and then March of 2020, happens. And the world is like kind of a dumpster fire. And I remember thinking like, Oh, my goodness, nobody is going to spend money on health and wellness coaching, when they’re just trying to figure out how to pay their bills and how to the world is in a pandemic, and it was just everything was kind of, you know, so uncertain at that time, you know, every everybody was, we didn’t know what was going on, you know, then.
April Michelle Harris 16:33
But whenever you’re building a business, as the business owner, entrepreneur, there’s all of this back in office stuff that has to be done as well, you know, there’s all the nuts and bolts that you have to do to actually run your business. And I remember, you know, working on those things in my business, and I love doing that stuff. Whereas all these other you know, ladies that I was in this program with, they hated it. And one of my friends one day, she was like, April, you’re really good at this, like you should do this for work like a virtual assistant.
April Michelle Harris 16:59
So that was the first time I had ever heard even the word virtual assistant, I didn’t even know that that was a thing. And so I kind of switched gears, I had put it out there and said, Hey, I’m offering services as a virtual assistant, if anybody’s needing support, let me know. Within three days, I had my first client that I didn’t even know prior to that. And then within three weeks, my schedule was completely booked with VA clients.
April Michelle Harris 17:25
And so at that point, my business like was take my VA business was taking off, while my health, health and wellness coaching business was really doing nothing. And so I got to this crossroads in my business. And I’m like, Okay, well, do I do this work as a virtual assistant, because this is what’s making me money. But at the same time, I love working with this demographic, I love working with people who have health challenges and supporting them. And so then back to the drawing board, I went, and I figured out a way to combine the two.
April Michelle Harris 18:00
And so now, not only as I mentioned, I work as a virtual assistant, myself, but I also have a course and a coaching program where I teach those who do have autoimmune or chronic illnesses, how to build their own business from home as a virtual assistant with skills that they already have. One of the things that I’ve learned and living with a chronic illness is there’s a lot of qualities, and there’s a lot of skills that you gain. Because of it because of the nature of living with a chronic illness. We learn resilience, we learn problem solving, we learn time management, and energy management and task management, because we have to, we don’t really have any other option.
April Michelle Harris 18:45
And all of those qualities and skills make us perfect virtual assistants, because those are the exact types of skills that business owners and entrepreneurs love to have in someone on their team. They love to have people who are problem solvers, and who know how to manage their time and their energy.
April Michelle Harris 19:03
And so helping like my students to be able to see like, oh, yeah, like, I do still have a lot to offer, like I have, you know, valuable qualities and skills that I can still offer, you know, in the workforce and, and be compensated very well for it. And it’s it’s a very empowering feeling.
Amber Tresca 19:23
Yeah, yeah, it just seems to be serving you. Well. One of the things, though, that you didn’t mention is motivation. And that’s something that, you know, you’ve discussed on Instagram, and it is something that it sounds like has propelled you. You’ve had some clear pivot points that maybe you wouldn’t have taken had you not had ulcerative colitis. But behind all of that is motivation. We live with these diseases. We’re tired all the time. We have brain fog. I’m just speaking for myself. I don’t want to speak for you but I’m tired and I have brain fog. And so the motivation can be really difficult to find? How do you stay motivated?
April Michelle Harris 20:03
So it’s so funny, and I’m so glad that you asked me this question. Because although I need flexibility, because of my health, I also am discovering about myself that I also really need structure to get things done and to be motivated to get things done. So getting up and getting out of the house is really important for like, my mental health and my emotional health. So like, for me to actually get up and get dressed and go to a coffee shop, or go to like a co working space helps me so much with motivation and productivity. So that’s something that kind of helps me stay motivated is, is getting out of the house as I can. But then like I said, it is nice to have that option that if I can’t get out of the house, I can still make a living.
Amber Tresca 20:51
Mm, yeah, you need to have that flexibility. And I always say that. I also think at least for myself, I’ve worked from home for a really long time. And I would sometimes have colleagues told me that they didn’t understand how to do that, because they would get distracted, they would get distracted by the dishes or the laundry or whatever. And I think it’s one of those things that like, you really just have to shut that off, you have to let go of the other things.
Amber Tresca 21:17
And for me, and it sounds like for you to having a deadline. Having somebody say I need this by x day or time is helpful in doing that. And so I think that your love of the structure, and that also helps you in your VA business because people need their things, and they need them when they need them. Right. So yeah, all of that ties in together. I agree not being able to get up and go somewhere during the pandemic. It didn’t wear on me in the beginning. But like finally, like two years in I was like, Okay, I really wish I could go somewhere, hang out and just look at four different walls for you know, yeah,
April Michelle Harris 22:01
Amber Tresca 22:03
And you know, another thing that a lot of us deal with the mental aspect of living with chronic illness, it’s, we’re finally just starting to, I feel like scratched the surface of this when I was diagnosed, it never even came up. But you’ve been transparent about how you live with depression, you live with anxiety. But how do you incorporate that with your clients and with your physical health, and how have your clients responded to that part of living with ulcerative colitis?
April Michelle Harris 22:39
So one of the things that I love about my business is like, I’m very intentional about the types of clients that I work with. So, you know, I’m not going to work with any client that is not understanding of, you know, the challenges that I face with my IBD or even with anxiety and depression. Many of my clients actually do live with those diseases themselves, they do face those challenges themselves. There was a time, about a year ago, even and like, my business was, was going great, everything was going great.
April Michelle Harris 23:11
But I was dealing with like, a really heavy bout of depression for a few months. And I remember thinking, like, all of my clients hate me, they’re all just, like, ready to fire me. And I remember I sent out an email to all of my clients and I was very transparent about what was going on. And I said, I understand if you know, if you if you don’t want to work with me anymore, right now I you know, I’ve had to take some time back, you know, away from from work and just take some things off my plate. If you don’t want to continue working with me, I can definitely give you a reference. Every single one of them was like April, take all the time you need take care of you, you know, and I remembered like just thinking like, oh my goodness, like, they’re awesome.
April Michelle Harris 23:52
So one of the things that I’ve learned with, just with dealing is is being transparent about it. It’s like okay, you know, I can do that. Like, I can step away I can I can set those healthy boundaries and I can step away and and I can be fine. So I will say that that has been something that has like pleasantly surprised me because I tend to put a lot of pressure on myself I think a lot of us do that we’re so much harder on ourselves than then we ever would be on on anyone else. Again, we think the worst like people are just like, oh my goodness, I’m we we project that that people are gonna judge us or that people are going to be but then we don’t realize like they’re dealing with their stuff too.
April Michelle Harris 24:36
And oftentimes they just appreciate that someone is able to say it let you know that someone is able to be vocal about it and which is why I talk about it on social media because like I said oftentimes when we are when we allow ourselves to be vocal and give ourselves the freedom to say, you know, to say how we feel it often makes other people feel safe to say how they feel, and to tell you know, their experience. So that’s why I just, I want people to see like, you can be successful, even if you’re dealing with anxiety and depression.
April Michelle Harris 25:13
And of course, like I do things to help support that, like, you know, I see a therapist, you know, I take medication, you know, I try to do what I can to minimize the effects of anxiety and depression, you know, in my life and in my business, but it is something that I live with, I’ve discovered, like, Okay, if, if it’s something that’s going to be here, like, I have to learn how to work with it. So what changes what what systems, what can I put in place in my life, in my business, you know, in my relationships, that that will support me, you know, not only when I’m feeling, you know, 100%, and at my best, but also when I’m, when I’m not feeling, you know, 100% my best.
April Michelle Harris 25:52
I will say, like, when you do have your own business, that is something that, that I found, like, I don’t have to bottle it up, I don’t have to be secretive, or I don’t have to be afraid about talking about what I live with on a daily day to day basis, because your people will find you and it’s like, I find that I attract people who who are like me, who also deal with these same challenges because again, they feel safe, because they know what it’s they know that they are working with someone who also understands what it’s like to deal with the challenges that they’re facing as well.
[MUSIC: About IBD Transition]
Amber Tresca 26:45
April, as we mentioned, you’re an author, you wrote a book entitled, “I Pooped My Pants: Removing the Stigma of IBD One Pair of Trashed Underwear at a Time.” As a person who has left more than one pair of underwear in the trash in public places. I identify with it, as will our audience, I’m sure. Tell me a little bit about the process of writing your book, though. I kind of know where you got the idea. But where do you get the idea? And how did you go about this?
April Michelle Harris 27:15
So if you can imagine it actually stemmed from a very unfortunate experience where I pooped my pants very publicly. And then it was not the first time it won’t be the last. Yeah, but the the situation or the that day, I remember I was I had met a friend for coffee at a new coffee shop. And we were going to be doing a photo shoot.
April Michelle Harris 27:39
And we went to this new place that I had, I had never been to before. Well, of course it hits me. And I’m like, oh, goodness, I gotta go to the bathroom. And my friend is like, Oh, well, I don’t think that they have a public restroom here. And exactly right. And at the time, hindsight is 2020. Like, I could have explained the situation, I’m sure they would have let me use the bathroom.
April Michelle Harris 28:02
But in the moment, I was like, You know what, that’s fine. No big deal. I’m just going to jump in my car and I will run up, you know, run up the street to a different coffee shop that I’m very familiar with that I go to all the time. I know exactly where the bathroom is. Like, I’m going to run to the restroom, and then I’ll I’ll meet you, you know, at the location. So I get in my car. I’m doing like the deep breaths. Like, okay, you can make it, you can make it. So I drive I get a front, you know, parking spot. I’m right outside the door. I’m thinking okay, April, like you can do this, like, only 20 steps from the door to the bathroom. Like you can do this. You know, I’m unbuckling my pants. I’m like, you know, trying to prepare? Oh, yeah.
April Michelle Harris 28:50
And again, because it’s like, you know, I’m doing a photo shoot that day. So I’m dressed up super cute. I’ve got like these leopard print heels on and these cute like bell bottom pants and just, you know, I’m really feeling myself that day. And so I’m like, Okay, I’ll just make a run for it. So I get out of the car. I’m like, sprinting towards the bathroom. And like, you know, for whatever reason, I don’t know why our, our, our brain and our gut does this, but the closer you get to the bathroom, like The urge is just, yep. You know, it just multiplies.
April Michelle Harris 29:24
And so I literally get right outside the bathroom door and I don’t make it. And I’m like, No, you know, and so I get in the bathroom. And so now it’s no longer like it’s just a cleanup mission. Right? You know, and so I’m in the bathroom and I just remember like it normally like 10 years ago April like I would have bald, I would have just been like so defeated and I would have been so embarrassed. I mean, it was embarrassing, but I just it would have ruined my whole day and I remember I’m in the bathroom and And I like kind of like laugh to myself.
April Michelle Harris 30:02
And I’m like, This is so ridiculous. Like, what happened today? Like, of course, you know, I’m all dressed up. I’m like, really feeling myself. And like, of course, this would happen right now. Like, I need to FaceTime my sister like, so someone can share in this like, moment with me, you know. And in that moment, it just like it was kind of an epiphany. I was like, Man APR, like how far you’ve come, you know, from that, from that very first diagnosis to now, you know, 1213 years later, when this event happened, or when this you know, story happens?
April Michelle Harris 30:40
And I’m just thinking, wow, like, you never would have thought you would get here where you could actually laugh about this, you know, you’re still living life, you know. And I remember thinking when I was first diagnosed, like I had all these plans for my life, and just thinking, Okay, well, that’s all out the window now. Like, I’m married now. Yeah, I had actually met my, my now husband at the time when I was during this whole diagnosis process.
April Michelle Harris 31:03
But I remember thinking, like, no one’s gonna love you, like, you’re damaged goods. You know, this is horrible. This is my inner dialogue at the time, you know, yeah, you know, like, you’re never really going to be able to travel, you’re going to be tied to this medication for the rest of your life you’re in it was just like, your whole life is going to revolve around this. Now fast forward. And although my life, it still does affect my life, like it, my I will say, I don’t want to say my life revolves around it, but it’s my entire life is affected by my disease. And now, of course, with my business, and in my book, like, Yes, I talk about it a lot.
April Michelle Harris 31:40
But it’s, it’s not, it’s not my entire life. Like, I still have a very fulfilling life, I still travel I, I have a wonderful partner and husband, and, you know, I have a thriving business. And there’s so many, like, amazing things that have happened to me since my diagnosis. And because of it, you know, here I am on a podcast talking about this with you. And, you know, these are our experiences that I’d never would have had otherwise. So, just because my life looks different than you know, than what I thought it was gonna look like when I was first diagnosed doesn’t mean that it’s necessarily worse.
April Michelle Harris 31:40
So 34-35 year old April, looking back at, you know, little April, when she was diagnosed, I can say like, it gets, it gets better. Like, this is not the end of the world, like, yes, your life has been changed. But your life is not over, you know, like, you still have so much that you’re going to do with your life. I think writing this book was a big piece of that acceptance, you know, puzzle as well, like, finally getting to that place where, okay, like, this is something that I live with, it’s something that I have, it’s not something that happens overnight.
April Michelle Harris 32:57
But it is eventually, you know, you can get there, you can get there. So if I had to say anything, you know, to those who are who are newly diagnosed, like, yes, like, it sucks right now. Like, it sucks. And yes, your life has been changed. And you’re gonna go through that grieving process. And it’s okay to be angry and upset, and it’s okay to cry. It’s okay to grieve what you’ve lost. But at the same time, like know that you don’t have to stay in that place, and you won’t be in that place forever, that there is life after diagnosis.
Amber Tresca 33:35
Oh, little April, I have empathy for her. And perspective, I think is hard to come by. But you clearly have come around to it and have taken quite a journey. And from myself, who’s a lot of my life revolves around the IBDs a lot of your life also revolves around the IBDs I can appreciate how far you have gone to come around to acceptance, coming around so far to acceptance, that you wrote a whole book about pooping your pants, which is which is wonderful. But you have to have things in your life that don’t revolve around the stupid IBDS. Tell me: What’s your favorite thing to do for self care? That’s got nothing to do with ulcerative colitis?
April Michelle Harris 34:25
Say no, it’s so funny because I have tons of hobbies that like I’m all about for like, two or three months, and then I move on to the next thing. So I have like, what do they say? A jack of all trades, master of none. Like, I swear, like, every three months, I’m picking up something new. Like I feel like I’m like I’m a chronic learner. Like I love, I love to learn new things like but I don’t have like any one thing that I do consistently, like all the time that I’ve been doing for years.
April Michelle Harris 34:59
But One thing that I would still be doing now if I could, so I actually took outdoor roller skating during the pandemic loved it. I was doing it every single day. Like it was my favorite thing. And I still love to roller skate, but I fell and broke my arm twice.
Amber Tresca 35:16
Oh my gosh.
April Michelle Harris 35:17
Yes, the same arm twice. Within like, well, I fell in broke it. And then I was off of skates for a while and my doctor gave me the Go ahead, like, okay, yeah, you’re all healed, you can go out again. And like that same week, I fell and re broken in the same spot. So my husband was like, you gotta you gotta…
Amber Tresca 35:36
You’re done. [laughter]
April Michelle Harris 35:36
…get off skates. Yeah, you’re done. You’re done. But I also love macrame like, I’ve done like, some, like macro make pieces. But again, I’m not amazing at any of these things. I just, I do it enough to get decent at it. And then I move on to the next thing. Like I love like trying to learn new instruments. But again, I don’t stick with it long enough to actually like, I learned one song.
April Michelle Harris 36:00
And then I’m like, Okay, now I’m on to something else. Like piano, guitar, ukulele. And on that I’m moving on. But, so as far as like ongoing hobbies, like I said, I don’t have like any one thing that I do, but I love to learn. So I will say that is probably my hobby, like, I like to learn new things, then I move on to something else. So I’m a chronic learner, I guess. That’s my hobby.
Amber Tresca 36:31
I love that. I think that’s really unique. I also think a lot about the idea of when you get to be an adult. And starting new things can be difficult. And you also have to give yourself grace and patience to suck at something for a little while until you learn how to do it, too, against whatever measure you’re looking to measure it against whatever that looks like. So I actually think the fact that you try a lot of new things, says a lot about your character, because you’re willing to not know anything to keep going until you’ve written that as far as you’re willing to go. So that’s what I’ll say about that.
April Michelle Harris 37:14
Yeah, I Yeah, I’m a beginner. I’m a chronic beginner, too, I guess. But I would love to get to the point where I can I can be good at something. Maybe I will really enjoy that feeling one day, if I ever make it that far. But But yeah, I do. I love to learn. I love it. I love a challenge. Yeah, I like to figure things out. And yeah, yeah. So thank you for thank you for that. I like your perspective on that. Makes me feel a little bit better about it.
Amber Tresca 37:41
Oh, I think it’s great. Well, April, I want everybody to be able to find you. I don’t think you’re difficult to find. But your social media is a truly wonderful space. So tell me first your social media. And then also tell me where people can find your book, “I Pooped My Pants.”
April Michelle Harris 37:59
Sure. So online, I am known on Instagram, as well as Facebook, virtually April, Michelle. So on that main page, I talk mostly about like my VA business and my course. So if you are interested, you know, and learning more about the VA world and how to get started. I also do talk about building a business with a chronic illness and things like that on there. So virtually, April, Michelle.
April Michelle Harris 38:26
And then if you are interested in my book, so I do have a separate Instagram page for that, which is I pooped my pants book on Instagram. You can also go to I pooped my pants book.com To learn more about me as an author and the book itself. And you can find the book on Amazon. So I’m sure if you just Google search, I pooped my pants book. It should show up. Right at the top. Yeah, so check it out.
April Michelle Harris 38:55
And my DMs are always open. I love having conversations with people. And that’s one of the things that I love too, about this book is that so it’s not only my story, but there’s 20 other stories of other IBD warriors who are sharing the good, the bad, and the ugly of living with IBD. And some of those ones that shared their story in the book are ones that I’ve connected with, you know, in online communities. So yeah, Instagram, Facebook, website, you can find me on there. And if you want to reach out, please say hi, send me a DM I’d be happy to chat.
[Music: IBD Dance Party]
Amber Tresca 39:27
This amazing April. Thank you so much for all the work that you’re doing in the community, and for being so transparent with everything that you’ve been through. And for writing your book. It was a joy to read. And I especially loved reading it out in public so and thank you so much for coming on about IBD this has been really lovely for me.
April Michelle Harris 39:45
Thank you. It’s been a lot of fun for me too, I love it.
Amber Tresca 39:53
A super listener thanks to April Michelle Harris for sharing all her wisdom and for her transparency about her life with ulcerative colitis. Adas, I encourage you to pick up a copy of “I Pooped My Pants: Removing the Stigma of IBD One Pair of Trashed Underwear at a Time,” which you can find on Amazon. I will put a link in the show notes.
Amber Tresca 40:11
Maybe take a selfie if you’re out reading it in public and send it to April or myself. Our DMS are always open.
Amber Tresca 40:18
Links to a written transcript, everyone’s social media handles and more information on the topics we discussed is in the show notes. And on my episode 133 page on about ibd.com
Amber Tresca 40:28
You can follow me Amber Tresca across all social media as about IBD thanks for listening. And remember until next time, I want you to know more about IBD.
About IBD is a production of Mal and Tal Enterprises.
It is written, produced, and directed by me, Amber Tresca.
Mix and sound design is by Mac Cooney.
Theme music is from Cooney Studio.