Finding the Humor: Dealing with IBS and Pain
As some of you may or may not know, I create cartoons for IrritableBowelSyndrome.net called IBSgirl that portray funny, awkward and annoying encounters I've had living with IBS. These doodles have become a form of therapy for me, wherein I can share my experiences and even laugh about how silly some of them seem.
Art therapy and coping mechanisms
One of the recent doodles I was working on displayed how one deals with pain from IBS and fibromyalgia. I drew a girl bent over in pain immediately followed by the same girl now grabbing her lower back, and later grabbing a new area of her body. Though pain is usually not a funny topic, I found it therapeutic to find the humor in how silly it might look to be bending in all different directions due to pain that is in constant flux. A sort-of Twister game of pain.
Ultimately, I see no point in drawing cartoons that only depict depressing instances of pain and negativity. Rather, I find solace in creating funny depictions of life with an invisible illness. Even now I can imagine a new cartoon wherein IBSgirl is dealing with her afflictions through discussion with her imaginary friends, Fibromyalgia and IBS (try to imagine them as a cute, impish little devil/angel on her shoulders) and giggle to myself. Fibromyalgia is depicted as a cute, dilapidated old man with a crooked cane and one good eye, while IBS is portrayed by an overweight cupid-like creature with a utility belt filled with things such as a roll of toilet paper and laxatives.
Find your fun
It's easy to dwell on the pain and see only darkness in the future. It's easy to fall into the hole of despair and loathing. What's more challenging, and ultimately more rewarding, is finding ways to cope. Though it might not always be successful, I've often found that this ability to imagine humor in a rather humorless situation helps me cope. I share my experiences with my friends and loved ones. I publish cartoons with strangers so that they know they are not alone. I feel comfort in the knowledge that my silly little doodles might help someone smile and declare, "hey, I feel that way too!"
It might not be art for you. Maybe you'll find your fun in just talking about your silly stories. Sharing that time you almost lost control of your bowels in a public setting with others can help you see the humor, rather than constantly feeling sorry for yourself. You might have fun listening to podcasts about people dealing with similar circumstances. In any case, you can find your fun, you can see the humor in life with IBS. I know it can be difficult, or seem impossible---especially during a flare-up. But, ultimately, we are on this planet to enjoy life, so if we can't find the funny side of things why are we here?
What are your adventures in IBS land?
IBSgirl helps me cope. She helps me laugh at myself and at my disabilities. She allows me to share my experiences with others while sharing smiles at the same time. She is me, but she is also you. She depicts your experiences, and your struggles, too. This is why I would like to take this opportunity to ask for ideas for IBSgirl. What experiences have you had? When has IBS, pain, or other physical ailments caused you to endure annoying or awkward encounters? What kinds of anecdotes can IBSgirl help you cope with?
In the future I will take your suggestions to the paper. I would love nothing more than to depict your stories through my pen and, if possible, help you to find the humor in your Adventures in IBS Land.
Life with IBS can be frustrating. Will you help others understand by taking our survey (US only)?
Join the conversation