Commonalities Across the IBS Community
For years I’ve been active with many online IBS communities across different social media platforms, and I’ve realized that even though there are different severity levels and triggers to our IBS, many of us are struggling with similar obstacles in life. After reading and listening to so many of your stories, I started putting together a list of things I believe many of us with IBS can relate to. I hope this list can help some of us become more self-aware about our condition and how it impacts our life. My hope in sharing this list is that together we can come up with strategies to live happier and better manage our overall health. So without further ado, and in no particular order, here is my list of IBS commonalities across our patient community:
The hardships of IBS
- IBS sometimes holds us back from achieving our goals.
- Low self-esteem is a product of IBS, and it affects our relationships with others.
- We don’t go out as much as we’d like.
- We constantly think about the limitations IBS causes us.
- Many of us are not financially stable due to IBS.
- Most of us have a hard time getting on disability.
- At times we feel helpless and hopeless, especially when we don’t have a medical doctor who supports us or believes what we’re going through is real.
- Many of us have family members and friends who don’t fully (or at all) understand our condition, which can be hurtful and isolating.
- We often push ourselves to appear “normal” at times when we don’t feel well at all.
- We compare ourselves to others who can do simple things with ease that we cannot.
- We try to live by other people’s standards and get disappointed with ourselves when we can’t meet them.
- We get upset when other people belittle our condition.
- We don’t always know what food will trigger our symptoms.
- We find it hard to be intimate with IBS.
- It’s difficult for some of us to begin a romantic relationship with IBS.
- We make up excuses to not go out with friends.
- We experience pain in places that is very hard to talk about without embarrassment.
- We find it hard to be on time to anything.
- IBS causes another level of anxiety that we hate dealing with.
- We’re afraid of letting people down when our condition gets in the way.
- IBS forces us to put our health first, which can also force some of us to adjust to a new balance of life between our health, careers, or even social life.
Solutions to IBS hardships
I personally believe the solution to many of these obstacles is to try our best to live our lives on our own terms, define what our own standards are, and accept some of the limitations we may have. That is what has gradually helped me over the years of dealing with IBS, actually accepting my condition for what it is and not blaming myself for my shortcomings. Don’t get me wrong, I definitely still do have bad days where many of the things on this list start to get to me, but I do everything I can to find a way to examine my situation just a little harder and find the strength to appreciate the things I do have control over. The realization that I had limitations did, at one point, affect my self-esteem, and it was all because I wasn’t accepting my condition for what it was. I didn’t want to accept or adjust to an illness that makes it hard for me to function in life. I later realized that to fight depression I had to change my perspective about my IBS. One of the best quotes I’ve ever heard was “Change your mindset. Change your life.” Once I changed my mindset, I became more self-aware and decided to find happiness no matter what amount of pain I’m dealing with. I’ve learned to readjust my lifestyle to practice better health, and also make things easier for me. For instance, if I can’t go out as often as I used to, then I invite people over to my place for dinner or game-night. I still try to be social and not let IBS take away things that make me happy. I also talk about my condition to my family and friends often so that they take it seriously, and I no longer have any shame about it. I refuse to let IBS or the depression it causes dictate my life.
I’ve also learned to have a different perspective about those who belittle my condition or who just don’t understand the seriousness of what I have to deal with on a daily basis. I can’t expect everyone to get what my daily obstacles are because not everyone suffers from IBS. And for those who do, many do not suffer the same way that I do, so I still can’t expect everyone in the IBS community to fully understand what I deal with either. Regardless, I think it’s best to live life with no expectations of others because then we’ll have less disappointments to deal with. And instead, I much rather focus on what really matters, which is truly accepting and learning to live life and with my condition on my own terms.
How will you strategize to overcome some of these common obstacles of having IBS? Comment below so that we can all help and support one another.