Thoughts Before An IBS Flare

My biggest feelings of regret fall into the time period right after a meal, when the familiar sensation of an upcoming IBS flare starts creeping in. When the damage is already done, and there’s nothing I can do but know that the worst is yet to come.

The appearance of pre-flare symptoms

I know those pre-flare symptoms all too well. My stomach gets all bloated and starts making strange noises. My entire digestive system begins to feel uneasy and uncomfortable. Sometimes, I get terrible cramps: other times, slight nausea. I can no longer concentrate, and all I’m thinking is, "oh no, what have I done?"

Immediate regret

As soon as these indicators of an upcoming IBS flare start hitting, I’m filled with regret. Why did I eat that particular food? What was I thinking about eating so much? Why didn’t I just fast today?

The problem with IBS is that you never know if you’re going to experience a flare or not. There are times when I can eat even slightly risky foods and be perfectly fine. Sometimes, I can feel a flare coming along, yet it never gets extremely bad. Other times, I’m playing it perfectly safe, and I still, somehow, end up miserably sick.

Instant worry and anxiety

Waiting for an IBS flare to happen is almost as bad as it actually happening. Almost. Anticipating something bad makes my anxiety spiral until I feel nauseous and dizzy. What will become of me today? How long will this misery last? Will I be able to sleep/work/take care of my family at all?

Once the flare has begun, I usually know that I should be getting at least a little bit better within a couple of hours. But the pre-flare cramps and other symptoms can last for quite some time. It’s like waiting for a difficult exam to start but not knowing when or if it will happen. This waiting period takes a toll on my mental state.

Acceptance: the only solution?

The only way to deal with the time period right before an IBS flare is to accept it. At least it’s the only way I have found. It doesn’t do anything for the severity of the symptoms, but it does help from a psychological perspective.

I have noticed 2 things happening when I finally give in and acknowledge that I’ll have to live through this new episode of IBS. Firstly, it helps calm my anxiety, meaning that some of the symptoms (like the dizziness) start easing off. There’s something about the act of resignation that can’t coexist with an anxiety attack. Thankfully.

Secondly, I usually start feeling better a bit faster once the flare then begins. As for a lot of people, anxiety is a powerful IBS trigger for me. Probably my biggest one. Letting go of the stress and feelings of regret helps my body calm down and end the flare more quickly.

Do you struggle with pre-flare symptoms as much as I do? Or have you found ways to cope?

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