Imagine being terrified to eat because you don’t know how your body is going to react. Imagine having to turn down parties, concerts, and dates because you ate something that might make you feel sick. Imagine having to explain to someone that, although you’re starving, you can’t eat the delicious looking baked goods they’ve made because you don’t know if you’ll be sick ten minutes after eating it.
This has been my life since I was fifteen years old.
I’ve been to this doctor and that specialist. I’ve been tested for everything and then some. Every result has come back negative or inconclusive. The label “Irritable Bowel Syndrome” has been slapped upon my medical charts as my diagnosis.
I have accepted that there is no “cure” and now I have to live my life tiptoeing around my triggers.
People can give you all the advice in the world but when you live with IBS the only advice you should really take is your own. You are the only person who understands what your body can handle, which is something that took me a long time to learn. The best advice I can give those who are also living with IBS is to block out the deafening buzz that will be thrown your way and focus on what you know about your own body.
I used to be so embarrassed about having IBS. It stinks – literally. I live in fear that I will have an IBS episode somewhere that won’t have a bathroom. That is my reality; when I have to go I REALLY have to go. It’s life or death for me, there’s no “holding it in”. How embarrassing is that? I have very little control over my bowels when an IBS episode strikes. How are you supposed to explain that to someone, especially when you don’t know them well?
I don’t go places unless I know that there will be a bathroom. I don’t eat certain foods I know will give me an IBS episode. Sometimes I don’t eat at all knowing that I won’t be able to access a bathroom easily. That sounds unhealthy, and it really is, but I would rather be starving than have an emergency number two happen in the middle of a two-hour car ride.
Stress makes it even worse. Exam season is my worst enemy because not only am I stressed about studying but also I’m constantly nursing what I call a “stomach-ache”. That’s what it feels like. It’s like my stomach has had acid poured inside of it and my insides are on fire but nothing will put out the flames.
Imagine feeling that way and having no way to make it stop.
I live off Pepto Bismol and Tums. I’ve learned that bananas, plain rice, and toast are my saviours. People always joke that I’m a walking pharmacy but I never want to be unprepared in case I have an IBS attack. It’s exhausting to think so cautiously all the time but I’ve learned so much about my body that I know how to feed it and do not take any risks with that.
I have also learned to not be embarrassed about my IBS. Millions of people suffer from it and it’s nothing I should be ashamed of. It’s something that is a part of who I am and I’ve learned to manage it. I won’t let people make me feel bad or embarrassed about something I have no control over because that will only make me weak.
All I can say to anybody else who is suffering from a chronic illness or chronic pain is that it does get better. You will have your bad days but you will also have plenty of amazing ones. Your illness does not define you or limit you. Most importantly, don’t ever be embarrassed. Being embarrassed will only make it worse, trust me.
Just like the books says: everyone poops!!
Feature Image via Urban Outfitters.