Dealing With Family and Friends Who Just Don’t Understand

Growing up as a child with IBS was difficult. At times I felt like my parents did not believe me, and the fact that my pediatrician very much made it out to be a functional disorder did not help my case at all. I specifically remember her telling my mom, “she’s full of crap, literally” and laughing. How awful is that? The answer was always “take more fiber, drink more water.” It’s always easier said than done, and as a child I didn’t have much of a choice or voice in the matter. At school, I was terrified to eat lunch. I knew what the repercussions would be afterwards. My stomach would start making horrible noises while in a quiet class, people staring, I was scared to use the restroom while at school and I would make myself sick trying to hold it and prayed it would pass.

Coping with family who don't understand IBS

Family didn’t seem to truly understand my condition. I grew up with two sisters, who were always able to eat what they wanted, so I was the odd one out. I still had to eat what everyone else ate at home; there were no substitutions. I remember the day I finally broke down. I was in the 8th grade, and I told my dad I couldn’t handle it anymore. I was miserable. I had gained weight, was extremely insecure. I was put on a diet plan and my symptoms were less severe. I still battle with my IBS, and there are still friends and family members, especially my mom, who do not understand WHY I can’t eat certain foods. Don’t get me wrong, my mom can cook. Delicious is an understatement, but sometimes I feel stuck between hurting her feelings or hurting my stomach. I feel pressured into eating her foods saturated in butter and heavy whipping cream, mainly because I don’t want to feel the guilt or be asked all the questions.

This past Thanksgiving, mom cooked all the family favorites. I barely had a spoonful of each dish on my plate. I was maybe 50% done before I started feeling sick. I didn’t want mom to know and hid it as best as I could, however she noticed. Comments were made about how she cooked all that food and I barely ate. I truly did feel bad, but at some point we have to take a stand for ourselves.

Just say no

I know it's easier said than done, but we need to create healthy boundaries for ourselves, especially when it comes to our health. There is a polite and tactful way to say no thank you, and if whomever does not understand, then we need to realize that sometimes it's simply not for them to understand. I've had to decline friends and family's food on numerous occasions, and now that I have my own child with IBS, it's double the "no thank yous", even when choosing a restaurant to have family dinners. While it's difficult, it does get easier saying "no." Remember: You need to do what's best for YOU!

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