Learning to Talk About IBS: Breaking the Stigma
When I first started talking about IBS, I was very ashamed and embarrassed. It was hard for me to talk about the subject as I was very squeamish about any kind of potty talk. I have found that the more I talk about it, the easier it is to talk about IBS. I am slowly but surely shedding the stigma that has dogged me throughout my life.
Not being able to talk about IBS caused several different problems, and each one was a big problem. I needed to learn to speak up in order to improve my quality of life. Being able to tell people what I need is much better than backing down to avoid talking about IBS. This is how talking about IBS has helped me.
Not being able to explain why I couldn’t eat
When I attended dinner parties, various functions, or simply went out to dinner with friends, it was uncomfortable trying to explain why I could not eat or why I could only eat certain things. Some people took offense when I would not eat the food they prepared. I am sure plenty of people thought I was odd.
I live in an area where food is how many people express love for one another. Declining a dish is often seen as offensive. I often hurt someone’s feelings when I told them I could not eat. It would have been so much easier (and less hurtful) if I had simply explained the issue. I am able to do that more freely now. Hopefully, this will keep me from hurting people’s feelings.
Not being able to explain why I was in pain
If you have IBS, you know how being in pain can make you want to avoid socializing. You also know how pain makes a person grumpy and less-than-fun to be around. When I get like this, I prefer to avoid people rather than explain why I am in pain. People either do not understand when I say I do not feel good or they want further explanation.
Since I did not wish to dive into a discussion of IBS, I found myself making excuses. Of course, this also led to hurt feelings. The times where I forced myself to go and knew I was grouchy also caused problems. Saying I was in pain was not enough. People wanted an explanation, and I did not want to explain IBS. It is much easier now, and I have found that most people understand.
Being pushed into eating trigger foods and suffering
There were plenty of times when I did not want to eat something because I knew the consequences. In order to spare someone’s feelings, I would often give in and eat. I suffered when I did not have to. My inability to speak up caused me a lot of grief. I worried more about hurting someone’s feelings than I did my own well-being. I could not say, "I cannot eat that."
Some people did not know they were causing me pain. That was my fault. Perhaps if I had simply explained why I did not wish to eat I could have spared myself a lot of flares over the years. Unfortunately, I was unable to do that. Now that I can, I anticipate the number of flares I experience to decrease.
Something as simple as being able to talk about IBS helps increase your quality of life in a number of ways. If you are having trouble talking about it, know that you are not alone. It has taken me over 2 decades to learn how to talk to others about IBS. If you need tips for avoiding the conversation, I have plenty. How do you handle these conversations? I would love to hear your ideas for helping others who have trouble telling others about IBS.
Do you live with any sleep disorders (eg. insomnia, RLS, sleep apnea) in addition to IBS?