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An anxious man sits inside with a cooler, beach towel, and sunglasses sit in front of him as he looks out the window to his friends preparing to load up a truck and head to a lakeside BBQ.

Public Fears with IBS

Living with IBS is a constant and daily battle, especially during times when I’m in public. In fact, because of my condition, I don’t go out as often as I used to due to fear of having a major flare up while I’m out. Plus, on the rare occasions that I do go out, I tend to overindulge, whether by consuming tempting trigger foods, alcoholic drinks, or doing some sort of strenuous physical activity (like dancing or walking for long distances). Needless to say, IBS doesn’t make it easy for me to enjoy myself much in public without suffering some major consequences either during or after any occasion. For this reason, I’ve developed a few fears of being in public places that I wanted to share because I’m sure many of you can relate.

Fear #1: Can’t find the restroom

Whenever I go to any public place, the first thing I make sure I spot is where the restroom is. Knowing that the urge to run to a toilet can happen at any moment, the location and proximity of the nearest bathroom is so crucial to me being able to enjoy myself. For example, when I go to the movie theater, I make sure to always sit at a seat on the aisle, so I can easily get up to relieve myself without climbing across a sea of legs to get to the exit. The movie theater always has a restroom, but there are other places where the public restroom is not so easy to find. When my wife and I head to New Hampshire to walk the trails, I always have anxiety because there aren’t always accessible portable restrooms there. During our walks, I find myself looking into the wooded areas for potential places that I could “go” if an emergency happened. This fear of not being able to find or make it to the restroom in time while in public really makes it difficult to enjoy what would be a peaceful stroll through the park.

Fear #2 – The restroom is disgusting

Speaking of going to the park, many outdoor public areas only offer portable restrooms for people to use, which is not always an option for me. The public restrooms are often disgusting, smelly, hot cesspools, making it difficult for me to stand in there for more than 5 seconds, let alone use the darn thing. Sometimes I’m so turned off by the look of the restroom inside that I can’t possibly go at all, and if I need to have a BM, that’s an issue. I end up having to hold it, well, try to hold it, leaving me in such uncomfortable pain that I have to leave for home immediately. This brings me to my third fear of being in public…

Fear #3 – Having an accident while in public

I think everyone with IBS-D has had this fear at least once, the fear that we won’t make it to the restroom in time and will soil our clothes. The worst part of it is that you may be far from home and will have to wait until you can change or shower. This fear usually creeps up on me when it comes to attending summer barbeques or parties in general. At any moment, I could eat or drink something that doesn’t agree with me, and if there isn’t a restroom nearby, who knows what could happen. The thought of having an accident in front of all my friends is traumatizing enough, and I’m sure they would never forget about it after.

What are your biggest fears when it comes to being in public with IBS? Drop a comment so that we can all relate.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The IrritableBowelSyndrome.net team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

Comments

  • JudyStaed
    2 months ago

    I’m so glad you’re better today! Live in this day. Suck up every minute of it. Have a good weekend!

  • toilet.punisher
    2 months ago

    You literally described all my fears to the T. It’s completely changed my social life, and the fears I have going out with my own family. So I totally understand your frustrations with IBS. Anxiety that comes with it is definitely one of the worst “side effects”. It’s a mental battle just to head out to work every morning while carrying the fear of having an accident along the way, with you. But I do take solace in the fact that I’m not alone and there are people out there who know what I’m going through, and I can understand their situation too.

  • HessP moderator author
    2 months ago

    I’m so glad my article resonated with you, @toilet-punisher! By the way, cool name! =) Definitely describes what many of us go through on a daily basis with IBS, lol. Nonetheless, it certainly feels less lonely when others understand and can relate. Thanks so much for sharing and being a part of this community! Keep fighting the great fight and stay positive! – Hess, IrritableBowelSyndrome.net Team member

  • JudyStaed
    2 months ago

    Todd, I’m so very sorry you’re having a bad day. I wish I didn’t know all too well what they are like. One day rolls into the next. With each new dawn there’s hope for a better day. Today…well…think of yourself as a football player. It’s a big game. That ball is tucked tightly under your arm. You are running and dodging…the goal post in your vision. You will make it. Tomorrow will come. Feel better.

  • tmholland moderator
    2 months ago

    @JudyStaed,

    Thank you for your kind words. Today is actually much better…it’s Friday after all :-). I enjoyed the football player metaphor…very inspirational. I hope that you have a wonderful weekend and thank you again. -Todd, IrritableBowelSyndrome.net Team

  • @Roxzilla_
    2 months ago

    Lawd this is my life too lol. Gotta laugh to keep from crying right? The dirty bathrooms are definitely the worst! Is it just me or have they gotten even nastier over the years? I have become somewhat of a recluse and I hate it. I dread going out. It takes so much effort to get ready to leave, being in pain and exhausted all the time… and then yes the fear of everything you said makes it feel like it’s not worth it. The anxiety about all of this seems to make my pain worse and upset my stomach before I even leave. Thanks for posting! Hope you and the wife and baby are doing well today 🙂

  • HessP moderator author
    2 months ago

    Yes, indeed, @roxilla! Gotta let the positive outdo the negative, lol. And I agree – finding a decent and/or “clean enough” public restroom is hard to come by nowadays. Happy that others understand where I’m coming from. Thank you so much for always showing support! I hope you and yours are doing well also! Stay positive. =) – Hess, IrritableBowelSyndrome.net Team member

  • JudyVan
    2 months ago

    I can relate completely to the big D part of IBS. For years I wore panty liners, now I wear full diapers. I carry slacks and other diapers with me. Two days ago I quit carrying the slacks, because the gathers on the diapers always catches it.

    Yes, it’s humiliating! This is sort of funny but not really. We now have a 5th wheel camper instead of a motor home. I made my husband pull over lots of times on a recent vacation. Because I can’t pull the heavy steps down, he has to get out, too.

  • tmholland moderator
    2 months ago

    Hi @judyvan,

    Yes, humiliation does seem to go hand in hand with IBS. I think you have a good attitude about it though. It sounds like your husband is a good guy. It’s always good to have a bit of support. Thank you so much for sharing. -Todd, IrritableBowelSyndrome.net Team

  • JudyVan
    2 months ago

    This is a P.S. Diapers are around 50 cents a piece. You can put panty liners inside them and if you don’t have a big mess you can wear the diaper more than one day with a new liner. This is hard for me to talk about, but to whom else can I say this. Perhaps it will help you, too.

    I carry a porta potty in our mini van, unless I know we’ll be close to bathrooms, like on the interstate. Trying to figure out how to make it work in the pickup when we’re

  • ExplodingGuts
    2 months ago

    That is so very hard, Judy. You’re a boss for finding solutions. Life is messy enough without IBS.

  • ExplodingGuts
    2 months ago

    Ditto! Can’t undertake long drives w/o assurance of rest stop availability. A prisoner of a Third World hell hole with few public washroom b/c they are too cheap to maintain them despite some of the highest taxes in the world. Nothing but money for bike lanes maybe two people use once every three months but no money for public washrooms.

  • tmholland moderator
    2 months ago

    Hey @explodingguts,

    As usual, you have my sympathies for having to deal with the area you are forced to live in at the moment. I did chuckle at the ‘money for bike lanes’ comment though. Thank you for sharing and I hope you are well today. -Todd, IrritableBowelSyndrome.net Team

  • Roni
    2 months ago

    Hess, WOW I can relate to this. I envy people who are “normal” and can hold it until the time is right to go. For me it is immediately so I understand being out in public and knowing where the bathroom is. I work full time and have about a 45 min drive to and from. I can not tell you the days I have had accidents on the way (my issues are more morning related) and I had to go home call in late and go through all the DRAMA just to get back to work. Not to mention I am embarrassed and no one knew but ME…yet it is almost degrading. I generally do not go out anymore except work or family gathering. When I MUST go out I will wait till late in day or I get up about 5 hours before I need to leave the house …just in case I am having a bad day. Also I will say that its not just having a bad day that is the issue, to me it is everyday mentally I may be doing really good and did my thing that morning and had great day BUT mentally it is a constant battle of paranoia. IBS-D changes your life entirely and not in a good way. Others that do not have the same issues have no clue how MENTALLY draining it is living like this every day…I often say. I MISS my OLD SELF… ((HUGS)) to everyone who deals with this awful disease.

  • HessP moderator author
    2 months ago

    Tell me about it, @roni! The feeling of urgency is no joke with my IBS either. When I have to go, I HAVE TO GO, lol. I totally understand – it definitely feels degrading when you have to act “normal” simply because you feel like no one would believe or understand your condition. And, the mental toll it takes on you because of never knowing what IBS may have in store for you that day. It can certainly be a constant and daily struggle. However, I believe in the power of perspective, and I much rather see these struggles with IBS as challenges to overcome and opportunities to evolve. So, with that being said, I think you’re a super human for facing these obstacles and still being able to fight another day over and over again . Keep fighting the great fight and please know you’ll always have support here. Thanks so much for sharing and being able to relate to my article. Sending positive vibes your way! Best – Hess, IrritableBowelSyndrome.net Team member

  • JudyStaed
    2 months ago

    Hess, I can relate only too clearly to all you have written here. I am so sorry that you have to deal with this monster. I always have fear of making plans with my friends. Fear of leaving the house. What will my day bring? Will I have one of my uncontrollable times of just having to go and go and go? With my situation I refer to this phase as being like a dripping faucet. I will go a little. I will wipe. I will go a little more. I will wipe again and so it goes. How does on handle this situation in a public bathroom? I do continually wear pantie liners and, yes, I have gone in them. Sometimes it hits so fast…and just starts to come out where it seems that I have no control. A couple of years ago I had to go to a very upscale wedding. I was all gussied up in all new attire…and I feared that day like the plague. I hardly ate anything. I pictured myself trapped in the bathroom, pain, other people around, and just so much fear. To make matters worse the reception was held a good distance from where I live. Oh, the anxiety of that day. I did make it home and at 1:30 in the morning the pain hit. I sat on the toilet just thanking God that I was home again and in the privacy of my own bathroom. Making plans is always the hardest thing for me. That little voice in my mind never stops talking about all the what ifs. What I do try to do in life to combat this beast is that when I am enjoying myself…when I really am not feeling bad…I suck in the pleasure of it much more than the average person who doesn’t deal with this. My motto in life is to always reach for the good. Live in the good when it comes. Try to survive the bad times when they come. My heart goes out to everyone who suffers with this condition. It is so hard to explain to others and also embarrassing.

  • HessP moderator author
    2 months ago

    I’m so glad you understand and can relate, @judystaed! Dealing with the difficulties of IBS in public can certainly be a challenge and also embarrassing at times. However, I’m glad to hear your experience at the wedding was a lot better than you expected it to be. Sometimes, I think we just let our fears get the best of us, and we don’t realize that we’re a lot stronger than we think. I love your motto because mine is very similar, which is always push through darkness and never stop seeking the light of positivity. Thanks so much for sharing and being so supportive. We certainly appreciate you being a part of this community! Stay strong and positive! Best – Hess, IrritableBowelSyndrome.net Team member

  • JudyStaed
    2 months ago

    I wrote the following during a bad and difficult time of coping with my IBS. Wanted to share it.

    REACH FOR THE GOOD

    Life is not an easy road
    We have our ups and downs
    Some days a smile fills our lips
    but other days it’s frowns
    We’re not unique, we’re all the same
    When the problems come along
    How to deal and how to cope
    becomes our soul felt song
    But take the time when darkness dwells and
    be sure they’ll be a way
    That leads you to that one good thing
    in every single day
    So when the day is somewhat down
    and darkness fills your path
    The days that sadness rules your heart
    no happiness…no laugh
    You want more in this great life and
    you want it understood
    So always search the path to peace and
    Reach for the…Reach For The Good.

  • tmholland moderator
    2 months ago

    Oh @JudyStaed, love it, love it, love it. Thank you so much for sharing this. I was a bit of a rough day today and it made me feel very hopeful and so much better. I hope you are well today. -Todd, IrritableBowelSyndrome.net Team

  • cajcdavis
    2 months ago

    I mostly get nervous about traveling. I’ve been traveling with coworkers or friends and have had an IBS-D flare up and we have to stop every 15 minutes or so, so I can use the restroom. It’s very embarrassing and frustrating to deal with, when it effects other people. I also quit my job because of all the travel, and I now work from home, which makes my IBS much easier to deal with. I also always look for the restroom right away when I go somewhere, just in case.

  • tmholland moderator
    2 months ago

    @cajcdavis,

    Traveling is one of the worst things we have to deal with. Your comment about how frustrating it is when our problems effect other people was right on. Thank you sharing and hope you are well today. -Todd, IrritableBowelSyndrome.net Team

  • ldonne
    3 months ago

    My IBS fears when being in public:
    im usually ibs-C but depending on my choices I do sometimes get ibs-D. I can recall back to 2014 when I didn’t know I was lactose intolerant. Sitting at coffee shop having coffee, bagel with a friend. Out of nowhere, stomach churn. I know it wasn’t the coffee or bagel, something lactose related I had ate previously. We were seated on opposite end of restrooms, gladly I made it there on time. Quickly left after that and went straight home.
    Definetly need to know where every rest room is when I go somewhere. Can definetly relate to you @hessp.

  • HessP moderator author
    3 months ago

    So glad you can relate, @ldonne! That’s the unfortunate part about having IBS – you don’t always know what’s a trigger until you consume something and end up facing some painful consequences. That’s why I think it is so important to us to make sure we’re always aware of where the public restrooms are located. Thanks again for relating and sharing your experience! Stay strong and positive. Best – Hess, IrritableBowelSyndrome.net Team member

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