This is a question I get a lot. When people hear about my diet restrictions or my flares, this is usually the response I get. More often than not, I shrug my shoulders and say “I just do. I don’t have a choice.” and that’s the end of it. There aren’t a lot of people who care to learn more about what’s going on with my body. And I don’t force the conversation.
But, I thought about it. Maybe some advice would help other people who are going through the same thing. After all, that was the point of my blog. After I became symptomatic and then was diagnosed, I couldn’t find information that helped me. This might be advice that can help someone or spark a conversation with their support system. And that makes me happy to think about. 🙂
First of all, I have been going through this for twelve years. By now, I know my body. I know what I can eat when my body is going to flare, what my flares are like and when I can push myself. I don’t cross those lines. It can be tempting, but I can’t take that chance. Over exerting when you’re in a flare or recovering from one can make it harder for your body to heal or it might take longer. Eating something you shouldn’t isn’t just about the flare you have to go through. It’s about what you’re doing to your body, the flare it endures and the recovery afterward. If you have depleted energy, working out can put you through a flare. But, now your body is recovering from the workout and the flare. Resist the temptations. Listen to your body.
Accept it. I learned to accept that the problem with my digestive system is that it doesn’t know how to function. This isn’t something that can be fixed with surgery, a pill or a tonic. It’s something that I just have to deal with. It’s something I’ve learned to accept. There is no cure for me. And that’s fine. Because I’m not dying. There are times it feels like I will and a couple of times I almost did. But, I’m here. And if that means a restricted diet and dealing with a few flares here and there, I’m ok with that. It’s more than some people get. I stopped looking for cures. I stopped thinking there was something that would fix me. I just realized that holding out for something that wasn’t coming took up too much of my life. I let it go and hoped for other things. I focused on living life the best that I can, within my confinements. And suddenly life felt a little easier. I don’t need bread or rice to survive, so why should I be upset about not having it? I eat healthier and better than a lot of people. And that’s enough for me.
Also, I talk about it. There is such a stigma to IBS. Everyone thinks they know what it is. But, so many people are wrong. Talk about your experience. Express your pain and your emotions. IBS isn’t just about bloating and diarrhea. It’s about suffering and stigma, too. Some people don’t want to tell other people about what they are going through. Usually, these same people have problems asking for help. Whether it’s because they don’t want to appear weak or they are embarrassed, that can be a problem. Talking about what you’re going through can make you feel a bit more comfortable reaching out when you need it most. Talk to family or friends. If they aren’t supportive, find a group. I joined a couple of Facebook Groups, and there are a lot of people who don’t have an understanding support group. This would be a good place for you to find people who have similar experiences to yours.
But, the biggest help? Enjoying what I can! I don’t think about the foods I can’t eat. Instead, I enjoy the foods I love and can have. Cheese, tomatoes, quinoa, chocolate; you get the picture. I also read comics or play video games. This gives me something to enjoy when I can’t even leave the bed, or I’m trying to save up energy. I love teas and drink them, all the time. There are few things in the world that make me as happy as eating chocolate cake or cheese while reading comics and having tea.
Remember that these are all the ways that I cope. But, I hope they can help you find the ways that work best for you. Finding support can be hard, finding ways to deal without it is possible. You just have to know what makes you happy and what you can manage. Know that it will get better, you just have to make the most of it.