Two people with suitcases are poised to knock on the door of a woman who is standing with her back against the door on the other side of the wall.

Do I Really Need Friends?

So, I’ve done a stupid thing. In one of my social, let’s-ignore-that-I-have-IBS kind of moments, I invited some friends to come to stay with us for a weekend. And when they suggested that instead of one weekend, they would probably stay a couple of days, I just said: “Great! That’ll give us a chance to catch up!”.

I honestly don’t know what I was thinking. For just a moment, I imagined what my life could be like if I didn’t have this annoying illness that keeps me from doing “normal” stuff, like inviting friends to my house. I somehow thought that I was doing well enough to manage the situation. Even though I’m not close with said friends and they don’t even know about my illness.

The overnight guest situation

I’m not doing fine. I’m currently sitting in my office at 9 a.m., pretending to work just to get my mind off the next days that I have to live through. It didn’t start very well.

As soon as my friends got here, they suggested going grocery shopping. You know, to cook us food, as a thank you for the invitation. As sweet as that is, there is nothing scarier than having someone else make food for you when they don’t know about your IBS.

I survived last night, only to be greeted by a nice little flare-up at 6 a.m. this morning. Thankfully, my guests were still asleep!

The IBS and friends paradox

Now, I’m not writing this to complain about my friends (none of this is their fault). Nor do I really believe that I don’t need friends. But IBS makes it so damned hard to keep them!

Maybe other people are blessed with super accepting friends who don’t give them a hard time for not being “normal.” Maybe I’m just not open enough about how I’m feeling. All I know is that every social interaction in the past couple of years has been punctuated by feelings of guilt, fear of being judged, and shame about the condition that controls my everyday routine.

Would people understand if I told them that they just have to deal with me – food intolerance and flare-ups included? Or would they simply forget 5 minutes later and go on as if nothing happened?

Would honesty make the relationships better, or would it just overcomplicate everything and leave me with no friends at all?

Boyfriend vs. friends

I didn’t think that I was ever going to be the kind of person who preferred spending time with their boyfriend rather than going out with friends. But I am.

Of course, it’s easier to be with my boyfriend – a fellow introvert – compared to my exclusively extroverted friends. (How did that happen?) But that didn’t stop me before. Even though I always needed breaks from meeting friends, I still loved seeing them.

The problems really started when I got IBS. It took my boyfriend an awfully long time to understand and accept my condition and the inconvenience that comes with it. And we were living together all along! But now, he’s the most supportive person ever and I never have to worry about my IBS when I’m with him.

My friends, however, do not get it. Or barely get it. Which is probably my fault for not wanting to talk about it enough. But who wants to be THAT friend who always goes on and on about that one problem they have? No matter how comfortable I think I got with my condition: my first reflex is still to hide it. And I’ll probably never be okay with having a flare-up around people.

So, no friends it is?

Well, of course not. I love my friends. And maybe it would be easier if they lived nearby and didn’t have to stay overnight to come to see me.

But as long as I haven’t found a viable solution to deal with my IBS around them, I’ll probably never enjoy hanging out with them as much as I used to.

Do you have any tips for these situations?

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