Alone with IBS
I recently wrote an article titled, ‘Do You Ever Feel Alone: Even When You’re Not.’ This piece focused on the feelings of isolation and being different that many people with IBS experience. It was not my intention to follow that article with another about being alone…I mean really alone. But, I tend to write about my experiences, my struggles, successes and many failures. I recently found myself alone…I mean really alone, probably for the first time in my life. I have always lived with family, roommates, girlfriends, a wife…but never by myself. I am 43 years old and have mental illness. I am an alcoholic and yes…I have IBS. I knew that my new living arrangement was going to cause me some trouble, but due to a series of unforeseen events, I found myself very, very isolated. As you can imagine this poses all sorts of problems with regards to caring for our health. I would like to talk about my experience today in the hopes that it may help someone out there who might be experiencing the same type of struggle.
The need for connection
Many of us come to depend on our family, friends,significant other to provide us with support, especially when we are sick. Based on my first experience living alone, I’ve realized that I DEPEND way too much on others. Without going into the gritty details, a series of relationship issues left me without particular supports that I was used to having. Along with the pain of the loss of those relationships, I was left to deal with my new, very lonely environment. Ever hear the phrase, ‘An idle mind is the Devil’s plaything?' Yeah, well, the Devil was having a helluva good time with me. COMFORT…we go looking for something to comfort us during these times of stress and confusion. What is it you look for? Food? Drink? Like gambling, shopping, online flirtations…other? Well, whatever it is, it most probably ain’t good for you. I found myself pacing the place, waiting for someone to call, checking my email and doing whatever I thought would make me feel better. Guess what? It didn’t. It made it worse. Of course, you all know that…I knew, too…but I was in pain. I’ve come to realize that this phenomenon is caused because we have not learned to trust or love ourselves completely. Some folks may be able to deal with being alone ok…but in my experience, we need connection…we need support and we absolutely need people in our lives.
So, what to do? Action is what. Take a hard look at your triggers and how you respond to them and make a change, knowing that it may be difficult, but will ultimately make you feel better. One of my co-workers at the social services agency I work for suggested what he called a ‘life of service.’ He said that in order to keep his demons on a leash, that he was busy from the time he woke up until just an hour before bed, when he would allow himself some time for prayer, reflection and relaxation. Sounded like a tall order to me, but made a lot of sense. So now, instead of going straight home after work I go to the gym. I have returned to actually putting some pride and work into my meals while listening to music. After dinner, I’m back out again. I’ve joined a local talk therapy group and am volunteering at a church nearby. The more I add to my day, the better I feel. The better I feel, the less likely I am to mess up all the work I’ve done learning to manage my various illnesses, including IBS. Recognizing triggers and an understanding of your own special identity is very important in maintaining your wellness and sanity. This feeling won’t last forever and remember…it’s ok to be your own best friend…and most likely, with an active life, that won’t last forever either. Good luck.
Do you have difficulties with setting boundaries and saying no?