A white page full of nothing… here goes me talking about the most embarassing thing that plagues my life. My IBS. My Irritable Bowel Syndrome. The annoying disorder I have which means I can spend hours on the toilet (hopefully ensuite, lololol), or hours rolling around in my bed hugging my fluffy white hot water bottle (thanks Primark) with a peppermint tea (ok Twinings is the best LBR) by my side. Call it what you want, Irritable Bowel Syndrome is what it is. It’s the most common GI disorder in the world. 1 in 5 girls have it. 10-15% of the UK population have it. 1 in 3 sufferers are men. Yet there is still a lack of research and understanding surrounding it. IBS is characterised through having any of the following symptoms for six months or more: abdominal pain, constipation, diarrhoea, stomach cramps and a few more. It has a difficult diagnosis process (which I am going through for about the 100th time in 6 years), where you must first be tested for other ailments and rule more serious conditions out like Coeliac Disease, Crohn’s or Collitis. The lack of research means doctors can often treat it with lesser concern than these more serious GI disorders. Luckily this has not happened to me, but it has happened with people I know – often people I have met don’t understand the debilitating effects that IBS can have. I want to contribute to breaking the taboo and the stigma that surrounds talking about our tummies. Let’s strive for HAPPIER TUMMIES!!!
Where am I going with this first blog post then? Well, I want to talk a little more about my experience with IBS in general, and in future blog posts I will probably look at things like IBS at school/uni, IBS and dating, IBS and diet, and whatever else comes to mind. I also want to document my journey to hopefully feeling better, and I aim to keep this up as positively as possible.
I have had IBS for around 6 years now, and am only just getting around to taking it more seriously. I have recently seen a gastroenterologist, who completely took me seriously and when I said to her it has started to have a massive impact on my daily life, she said “I completely understand”. Those are probably three of the most comforting words for someone like me with IBS. This gives me hope I will be able to recover and learn how to manage my symptoms properly, not just using medication, or leave missing out on having a social life due to the effects, in the dark shadows of the past.
I haven’t made life easy for myself recently, and neither has my IBS. I am only just coming around to admitting that, and admitting that I have been struggling with my IBS. And further to this, even admitting to people who have known me for ages that I actually have IBS and going into the disgusting and embarassing symptoms. For the past two months of the summer holiday, or around that, every day I have woken up with a swollen stomach which has got progressively worse throughout the day, and everything I eat causes me to look about maybe two months pregnant. On top of this, the fabulous constipation is absolutely bloody amazing when you want to go out with friends. I am so lucky to have understanding close friends, and an amazing family, who all try their very best to help me and understand what it’s like.
I like to look at my IBS with a lighthearted attitude, i.e. poo talk doesn’t phase me anymore, neither does anyone else when they talk about something they regard as embarassing. (It’s still embarassing though, it’s just about how you choose to deal with that embarassment.) However, recently I have struggled to do this, since I have just felt so sluggish, and ill. It is not the usual illness we would categorize as illness though, since it’s not a one-week-in-bed-then-feel-better thing. What it actually is, is feeling unwell even when I’m doing every day activities, even just going to Sainsburys or going out for a run. This is due to the IBS. And I think summer is so problematic for IBS. There’s absolutely no routine unless you make one for yourself. What student doesn’t miss those do-nothing days, when you can just watch multiple episodes of The Big Bang Theory (I wish I had a toilet routine so strict as Sheldon’s routine) in bed. This is bad bad bad bad for IBS and I can’t stress that enough. IBS stomachs suffer as a result of this. But this is what I have done a lot of this summer, because IBS is just one big circle. You don’t want to do anything, so you lie in bed doing nothing, then your stomach gets bad, you don’t want to do anything or go out because it’s bad and there you have it. One big circular cycle. Hence why this summer has been a little tricky. I will probably go into this a bit more in a further blog post, about exercise and IBS, but first I want to start my yoga classes, and start getting out more and becoming more active.
This is becoming a very long first blog post. Oh well. I think what I want to portray is that IBS sufferers, if you are reading this, you are not alone. I really would like to try and find a community, where we could meet perhaps once a month, and share our experiences, our tips, perhaps even go out for IBS friendly meals. Whether I try to do this at uni, or within the London community, I think it’s so important for IBS sufferers not to feel alone. But, no one else I know has IBS. So I can understand what it’s like to feel isolated, even though you have so many fab people around you. And that part sucks. However, there is a lot of support out there for you, in the form of friends, family and also places like the IBS network. People will try their hardest to understand, and if they laugh AT you rather than WITH you on the subject of your IBS and poo, toilets etc, then they’re obvs not werth it innit.
To sum up, although IBS is a functional disorder, its effects can be so disabling. In fact, my gastro doc told me that IBS can be more debilitating than something like diabetes or a stroke, mainly due to its everyday and long lasting effects that can start from when you\re very young. For this reason, I think IBS should be talked about more, just as much as other health conditions. If so many people have it, why are we so quiet about it? Let’s talk about it. It’s not easy. But you can manage it. This summer has been hard for me, but I want to turn that into a positive and think, look Lena, things are going to get better, you’re on the right track, it’s now just about finding what works and what doesn’t. And within the next year I hope to be able to be blogging about my journey to becoming better. There is so much more to say about IBS and my personal experience that cannot be written in one first blog post. But I hope I have conveyed enough of what I mean in this first installment. To end on a positive note, your IBS shouldn’t rule you, you should rule it. And that’s easier said than done, but oh so possible and attainable. Thanks so much for reading. See ya next time for more happy tummy talk.
(Side note: I want to use this blog for other things, not just talking about the above. Travels to Germany, my gluten free life and travels, my interest in photography are some of the other things I hope to cover.)