For the first time in what feels like forever, I actually have the time to sit down and to write a blog post without rushing around trying to churn out content without actually thinking about what I’m writing.
Being a blogger can be hard at times as whilst I would love to be open, honest and to share anything and everything with my readers, there are some aspects of my life which I prefer to keep private, that and I have the integrity of my family and friends to consider.
There is however a topic which may seem taboo, but I feel may be worth sharing to spread awareness and understanding of a particular condition termed as ‘IBS’ which thousands of people including myself unfortunately suffer with.
What Is IBS?
Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is a common, long term condition which affects the digestive system, it causes symptoms such as stomach cramps, bloating, diarrhoea and constipation which may come and go, lasting for days, weeks or months at a time.
According to statistics, IBS affects approximately twice as many women as men, IBS also tends to be more common in individuals under the age of forty-five.
IBS is usually a long-term, life long issue which can be extremely frustrating to deal with, I myself find that IBS impacts upon my everyday life and whilst there is no cure at present I have found that dietary changes can at times ease my symptoms.
The exact cause of IBS is currently unknown but it has apparently been linked to stress/ anxiety, diet, food passing through the gut too quickly/ too slowly and according to research this condition may be hereditary.
I clearly remember struggling with my stomach whilst I was studying at University. I’d wake first thing in the morning with incredible stomach pain and would find myself tooing and froing from the bathroom most of the morning until my stomach finally settled.
Whether it was nerves, stress, a new routine, unfamiliar surroundings, the blues or all of the afore mentioned issues I’m unsure but it became an everyday battle which I learnt to accept. Thankfully my symptoms waned over time and after completing my degree and becoming a Teacher I seemed to crack on without the condition affecting me.
Everything seemed to be just fine until the day that I was made redundant from my Teaching post, this had a huge impact upon my life and also upon my gut as my IBS returned. Mornings became next to impossible as I struggled to leave the bathroom never mind to leave the house, my stomach was forever in knots and I’d find myself struggling with a range of symptoms for the first few hours of each day.
Over time I began struggling not only in the morning but also of an evening and often during the middle of the night. IBS was now affecting my sleep patterns and in turn was making day-to-day living rather awkward as I felt exhausted by the symptoms.
IBS can be a rather vicious circle as I’d often spend a lot of time needlessly worrying about my need to use the toilet; What if I need the toilet at work? What if I’m late for work as I need the toilet? What if I go somewhere where there are no toilets? ‘What if’ became the trigger for my anxiety and in turn further IBS related issues.
After being made redundant I spent the majority of my time at home with my then eighteen month old son J. Being at home offered me comfort, as I was no longer worried about when and if I might need the toilet. Sure, I will still anxious about finding a new job and paying the bills whilst unemployed, this would at times stir my stomach a little but nothing in comparison to whilst I had been working in a place in which I knew my time there was soon to end.
Over time J and I settled into a routine of sorts and it was at this point that I finally identified a pattern within my IBS attacks. I was absolutely fine until asked or required to do something off the schedule; whether this was something I wanted to do or something I wasn’t entirely keen on didn’t seem to matter, any slight change to my routine and IBS suddenly seemed to strike. As you can imagine this was an utter nightmare when it came to travel!
I then found a job within the prison service, this was all great until I realised it meant me being literally locked in a room unable to use a toilet without asking for someone to come along and to stand by the door during my absence. As you can imagine this heightened my anxiety somewhat and once again I started struggling with my daily dose of IBS related issues.
Following my time within ‘the nick’ I then worked in the pub which was far more laid back, which as a result I felt far more relaxed and was able to regain control over my IBS. There have been times throughout the past couple of years when IBS has reigned its head, usually during times of excitement or upset or when our routine altered without warning, mostly however the condition was manageable.
Having recently started a new role, I found that my IBS made an unwelcome return. Don’t get me wrong, I’m loving every minute, every second in fact of my new job but for some unknown reason my body seemed to battle against my brain as mornings and sometimes evenings become a little tricky at times.
It was probably nerves, perhaps a little apprehension and certainly excitement all rolled into one which stirred my stomach and despite desperately trying to convince my body otherwise I’ve spent the past week or so bearing the brunt of IBS.
A Settled Mind Makes For A Settled Stomach
Thankfully things seemed far better this morning and I managed to make my way into work without so much as a single stomach cramp. Now that I’m settling into my new role and finding a routine of sorts my body seems to be following suit.
I’ve tried all kinds of medication to combat this condition, that along with relaxation exercises and techniques. IBS may affect my stomach and at times my toilet habits but I refuse to let it affect my family life, working life or anything else for that matter.
I find planning ahead and making time for myself each morning really helps the situation, that and switching my diet to suit my digestive system a little better. I should really cut my caffeine levels and look at drinking less carbonated drinks than I do at present but then I’d be letting this condition ‘condition me’ and as far as I’m concerned that simply isn’t going to happen.
I’m almost certain that getting back into a steady, day-to-day routine has made massive improvements in terms of my tummy, I’ve already noticed things getting a little easier and that’s purely due to practicing Yoga, upping my vegetable intake and being sure to keep myself cool, calm and collected.
IBS can be massively debilitating at times, that said I refuse to let it take control. I have too much to do and too much to experience to allow a few toilet trips to rule my rota. I may run back and forth to the loo a little more often than I’d like, but I try to go with the flow (pardon the pun) and to keep the upper hand over my condition, which is precisely what I plan to continue doing in the future.
I was once incredibly embarrassed about having IBS but found by talking to others and sharing my situation with them that they were more able to understand, that and to come forward with their own experiences of this or similar conditions.
Further Information & My Final Thoughts Upon IBS
‘Invisible issues’ such as IBS are often far more challenging to deal with than those that are visible, which brings me to the point of why I’m writing this post- You may have never known that I suffer with this condition nor that I have an allergy to peanuts or that I’m quite partial to jam and cheese sandwiches every now and then, my point being that I am still me, I’m no different to anyone else and I wouldn’t ever wish to be treated as so.
I do however hope that by sharing my story I may have raised awareness and understanding of such conditions, that and given you a little perspective upon IBS and how to manage the condition effectively.
Should you be interested in reading further information or advice upon conditions such as IBS, you can do so by clicking here.
Thanks for reading, if you should suffer with IBS or similar issues or have any advice, tips or suggestions then please comment below.