For a long time I have had a stomach ache 😦 It was when I realised that it had been this way for over two years that I thought (the lightbulb switches on) I should probably do something about it! The problem with this sort of issue is that over time you just get used to it, the pain just becomes part of daily life and before you realise it, it has taken over you life, and you begin to plan around the symptoms of this on going problem.
It is difficult to talk frankly about this subject because a) it’s not the most comfortable listening, and b) in the grand scheme of things irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and food allergies are small fodder in comparison to the pain and suffering that other people are experiencing. But because this is an issue that affects my life everyday, I though I would share my experience.
Irritable Bowel Syndrome is one of those problems that effects different people in different ways. Some simply have a level of discomfort, abdominal pain or bloating, and others can experience cramping, loss of control of their bowels, diahorrea or all of these at once.
For me my IBS is intrinsically linked to food allergies also, so this heavily affects my diet. (For me this is lactose) and I would say that the level to which I am affected by this condition is from the middle to to high end of the scale.
I have talked about nerves in past blogposts, but singularly IBS has been the biggest factor on my nerves, because it has changed the person that I am. In the past I have considered not going to events because they were outdoors, and didn’t have easy access to loos at short notice. I only eat a limited diet because so many foods affect me adversely and I find I can rarely venture into the unknown, just in case. I am a pain in the arse for my friends to cook for, because usually it means a completely different meal, or indeed a separately made version of the same thing.
Eating out, is something I fear. Firstly, half of the time people have absolutely no idea if the ingredients contain lactose! Indeed in some restaurants I have been offered a cheese platter in stead of dessert because cheese doesn’t contain milk!
Worse than that though, is the standard of the facilities. All over the capital I find that the toilets are in a disgusting state, broken, unclean, no locks on the door… The list goes on. This turned me into a bit of a recluse, and alongside that I would only go to pubs or restaurants that I knew had decent enough facilities.
But I want to tell you that if you suffer with any of these issues, don’t let them take over your life, because the more you worry, the worse it will get. Live your life as normally as possible and don’t be afraid to talk about it either. It’s not a wholly comfortable conversation to have, but I felt much better, knowing that I wasn’t being judged for ducking out of a meeting, or only joining for drinks after a meal. Millions of people know exactly what it is that you are feeling, to whatever degree and there is nothing to be ashamed of. In fact it’s very common for anxiety levels to be high in sufferers of IBS. And for some people it can be a trigger for depression if they don’t take control of it.
There are some things that psychologically help me feel better about certain situations, and so mean I can relax! I go to the theatre a lot, so I try to get an aisle seat in case I should need to dash out. I carry super lactase pills with me so that If a waiter approaches my table (this has happened to several of my friends) and says oh sorry I thought there was no milk in that but actually it’s cooked in butter, I have them on hand to help digest the lactose. I talk to my friends so that they know (and quite often I don’t need to mention it to restaurant staff because my friends (who are amazing) have already sorted it out.
I never thought I would be able to run a marathon, partly because I am over weight, and partly that if I needed to go, what would I do? But this was not something that I was willing to give in to. My uncle suffers from a debilitating condition called Lupus, and 50% of the money that I raised was going to help the hospital that he was treated at. It helped put my life in perspective and helped with the determination to persevere. I completed the marathon and that is one of the main achievements in my life.
Whilst it’s important to get checked out by your GP, my experience has taught me there is little they can do – please go and speak to them anyway as it could easily be a) fixable or b) signs of something else. Never feel you are wasting their time.
So whilst I go about my merry way wondering where the nearest toilet is or buying the one sandwich that I can eat from TESCO! – promise me that you will BE YOU, and don’t be ashamed or embarassed. You are you, and you are great.