In honour of IBS Awareness Month I’d like to give an insight into what it’s like to suffer with IBS, to people who aren’t suffering from this condition.
IBS affects as many as 1 in 5 people worldwide, many people suffer in silence due to the stigma around this condition. However, I like to go with the motto “a problem shared, is a problem halved”. IBS Awareness Month is a great idea to encourage people to open up about their suffering and also for others to have a better understanding of what it’s like to live with it.
I have a severe case of IBS – I’m not bragging, I’d much rather have a mild case but unfortunately this is the hand I’ve been dealt. My main symptom is IBS-D, meaning running to the loo lots and lots! But it’s more than just a case of an upset stomach. Everyone’s case is different and triggers can differ from person to person, but here’s a little insight to what life can be like for me.
- My day starts a lot earlier than most people’s. my IBS affects me mostly in the morning and it can take quite sometime to settle down, meaning I like to give myself plenty time in the morning. Sleeping in and rushing around within an hour would not sit well with me and would lead to a pretty unpleasant commute to wherever I’m going. I like to ensure I give myself plenty time to relax as much as I can before I have to leave the house.
- I’m tired ALOT. Sometimes no matter how much sleep I get I still don’t feel refreshed. I’m affected with my IBS on a daily basis (no, I never get a day off) and dealing with the physical and mental aspect of not being in control of my own body can be exhausting at times. I try to give myself one day at the weekend to get some R&R.
- No matter where I go, I NEED to know where the nearest bathroom is. I like to know it’s there if I need it and it gives me peace of mind.
- I probably can’t do any job I want. I am quite a career minded person and like to challenge myself, however often my body says otherwise. Stress contributes towards my symptoms in turn affecting my working life. Put it this way, I could probably never be a lorry driver or a bus driver (long haul journeys with no loo close by is definitely not ideal for me), I also used to want to be a teacher but I’d probably be rubbish at that as the pupils would barely see me, you get the gist…
- Eating out is really tricky. I love socialising and I love food however, it’s very difficult finding a restaurant that suits my needs. I try and check the menu ahead of going anywhere or call ahead and it helps that most of my friends are aware of my condition when choosing somewhere to eat.
- I often have to cancel. This is probably one of the hardest ones for me. I’m not very good at sitting still and like to be out and about and I absolutely hate having to cancel on a friend or an event. I don’t get to pick and choose when my IBS decides to flare up, but I am getting better at resting when my body is telling me to rest.
- Pain. When I was referred to a specialist a while back he described a great analogy to me. If you had to slightly blow up a balloon and put it in the gut of a “normal” person they most likely wouldn’t be able to tell you where the balloon is. However, if you had to do this to a patient with IBS there’s a high chance they would be doubled over in pain and would be able to point directly to where the balloon is. This is due to the highly sensitive nature of IBS, the nerve endings in our gut are super sensitive. Bloating for a “normal” person probably isn’t half as bad as it is for someone with IBS, actually I know it isn’t, I used to be “normal”.
- Anxiety. Spending the past 10 years of my life worrying about all these things has, as a result, increased my anxiety levels. No matter what anyone else says I know I push myself, I try as much as I can to live a fulfilled social life and I think I do quite well with it. However, without a doubt, this doesn’t come without worry. It’s simply not sociably acceptable to have an upset stomach in public and I simply can’t help but stress over that.
- I’m the go-to person when my friends have tummy issues. I guess because I’m so open about it now, it’s easy for others to open up about it to me. I honestly have no qualms talking about it. I’m always happy to help others, after all I have lots of tips when it comes to gut health!
- I’m determined not to let this IBS get the better of me and I will do everything in my power to stop it!
There are a lot of negatives around IBS, and if I had the choice I would of course live without it. It has however taught me a lot about myself and the people around me. I have come to realise I have a very strong family unit and group of friends who help me get through it everyday. I have also made a great network of people through social media that realise what it feels like to go through this. For anyone that hasn’t got time for it, ditch them, they’re not worth it. Thankfully for me there’s not many of them out there!
It isn’t ideal, it’s a total pain in the ass (quite literally). But it’s part of what makes me who I am.