Why Is It So Hard to Explain IBS to Others?
When I go somewhere, I have often been fasting and continue to fast until I get home. I often have to give some sort of explanation to others as to why I am not eating. Telling others that I have irritable bowel syndrome often creates more problems. People tell me reasons why I can eat and continue to try to push food on me. People who do not know what IBS requires a more detailed explanation.
I am not comfortable freely discussing my bathroom habits. I do not want to tell others that I cannot eat because I fear I might have an accident. Regardless of my feelings on the matter, some sort of explanation is always needed to stop someone from pushing food on me.
IBS is more than diarrhea or constipation
I have found that telling people I have IBS is not enough to stop the pushing. I have had people tell me they have bathrooms as if I thought any home was without a working toilet. Others have suggested I just eat a little bit. Then there are people who act offended that I will not eat.
The problem with telling people I have IBS is they do indeed think it is “just diarrhea” or “just constipation.” They do not understand IBS is more than stomach pain, diarrhea, or constipation. They think as long as there is a bathroom nearby that it should be okay. Eating something does not require one trip to the bathroom. It requires many, and that requires me to stay in one place for hours.
Trying to explain IBS to others
Sometimes people do not know what IBS is and they need an explanation. I do not like having detailed discussions on the ins and outs of IBS. I certainly do not wish to share the dirty details while others are eating. Honestly, I feel it is extremely rude to discuss anything bathroom-related at the table. Apparently, some people do not share that belief.
Still, these people press for an explanation until they are given one. Usually, that results in them pointing out the nearby bathroom. It is absolutely maddening trying to explain why that is not a solution that works for me.
An IBS flare is more than just a trip to the bathroom
An IBS flare is not a one-time deal that is resolved with a single trip to the bathroom. As an example, I fasted yesterday so I could leave the house. After about 24 hours of not eating, I had a small meal as soon as I got home. I spent the next several hours running back and forth to the bathroom.
If I had eaten while I was away from home, I would have had two choices. I would have had to stay where I was or have an accident on the way home. I do not see either of those options as acceptable. Most people who do not have IBS fail to see the consequences of eating even just a little bit. That causes problems.
How I explain IBS flares to other people
I have found a simple solution that usually works well. After realizing that telling others that I have IBS either leads to dismissive statements or demands for further explanation, I often avoid disclosing it. I tell people I have a digestive disorder. Everyone understands what digestive means, and they all know a disorder means something is not working right. Most need no further explanation and make no further demands.
Do you have trouble telling others that you have IBS? How do you handle the situation? I would love to hear how you explain to others why you are fasting or cannot eat certain foods.
Do you live with any sleep disorders (eg. insomnia, RLS, sleep apnea) in addition to IBS?