How Friends and Family Can Help During a Flare
Last updated: February 2022
An IBS flare feels just like a stomach bug: there's not much you can do to make it better. At least for me, there is no medication or miracle remedy to make it go away. All I can do is wait it out and not stress about it since stress makes everything worse.
Whenever my IBS flares around other people, I usually run into 2 problems. Firstly, I start feeling guilty and/or embarrassed about being sick. Secondly, I cannot concentrate on getting better since I feel like I have to explain myself to someone else.
I sometimes wish that I could just hand out a list to my friends and family so they knew exactly what to do (and not to do) whenever I have a flare. Here's what it would say:
Leave me to myself
It's nice to try to distract me, but it just doesn't work. I need to be by myself when I'm feeling ill. I need to watch random YouTube videos and listen to calming music to take my mind off my flare.
During a flare, it's no use to talk to me about anything. I can't pay attention when I'm ill, and any attempted conversation just worsens my guilt and my anxiety. I know people mean well, but I just wish that they would leave me alone so I can recover.
Say that it’s going to be alright
Oftentimes, when I'm feeling very sick, people start pitying me. And for some reason, this really doesn't help. I know that IBS is tough, and reminding me of it makes me feel anxious and hopeless.
Flare-ups aren’t easy on my mental state as is. The last thing I need is someone accentuating how difficult they are. Instead, I would prefer reassuring words telling me that it's alright. That it's going to be over soon and that I'll feel much better in a couple of hours.
Let me rest
The quickest way to get it over with when IBS hits is to rest – at least for me. My mind needs rest, so my anxiety doesn't spiral. My body needs to recover from being sick. Therefore, it's never a good idea to remind me of my to-do list in the middle of a flare, even when people talk about fun plans, like shopping or going for a walk.
Thinking about everything that I’m missing out on only makes me feel worse. And since I'm ill right now, I can't even imagine leaving the house ever again. Of course, this feeling subsides when the flare is over. But this just isn't the right time to make plans.
Bring me tea and a heating pad
As I said before, medication doesn't usually help me in the middle of a flare unless the flare is due to stress and has been going on for a while. Usually, Imodium helps. But that is a story for another time.
However, herbal tea and a heating pad can do wonders for both my physical and my mental state. The heating pad helps with bloating, and cramping, the tea can calm down my stomach a bit. Both just feel like a warm hug to my digestive system.
So, instead of talking to me, I wish people would just bring me some hot tea and a heating pad!
Stay far away from the bathroom
The worst thing anyone can do to an IBS sufferer experiencing a flare is staying close to the bathroom. At least that's my opinion. I don't need anyone keeping count of how many times I've been in there. So please, give me some privacy and retire to another room.
Are there any things you wish people did to help you through a flare?
Do you suffer from IBS-C, IBS-D, or IBS-Mixed/Alternating?