I am a Parent and I Have IBS
I don’t think I really thought that my IBS would have a direct affect on my kids. Some of you with kids, might be thinking, ‘why would you think that? It’s obvious that it would affect your kids.’ I think the main reason, for me, is that I am a divorced father. I have my kids about 35-40% of the time and thought maybe I could just hide it. I also have twin twelve year old boys, one with Autism, that I can happily say are very smart, very calm and well adjusted kids (says their Dad :-)). As my illness progressed, however, I started realizing that I could not hide it. This disorder had become part of my life, and correspondingly and unfortunately, part of theirs.
I have mentioned before that I tend to suffer some extreme malaise and muscular issues following a really bad flare. Before I learned to manage the IBS a bit, I was sick a lot. By a lot, I mean two or three times a month, for about a year. My sons started to say things like, ‘are you sick this week?’ ‘are you sick again?’ ‘how is your stomach?’ and the like. This bothered me so much. As a parent, you want your children to believe that you are strong and able to handle anything. The last thing you want them to worry about is...YOU. I brushed it off and blamed my days on the couch as a nasty stomach virus. I mentioned before that my kids are smart, right? Well, of course they knew that people didn’t get stomach viruses two or three times a month. I believe this is part of the reason I became so involved with my own recovery with IBS. I knew I could not make it go away, but that if I learned about the illness and made serious efforts to help myself feel better, then perhaps I could get it under control enough to avoid worrying my kids. This was stressful, actually, because then I felt as though that I needed to BEAT the IBS in a certain amount of time, which led to more problems. When my one son suggested maybe I see a doctor or go to the hospital about my stomach, it hurt me pretty bad, but also motivated me to persevere.
Your children's concern
Your children’s concern is just one aspect of the difficulties of parenting with IBS. You have responsibilities as a parent, that a lot of times, the IBS is simply not willing to comply with. I think the conclusion that I’ve come to is a pretty basic one. In order to be as strong and available as we can for our kids, we do have to spend some quality time caring for ourselves. This is not a new idea. If I am no good to myself, then I won’t be any good for them. That’s why I exercise, that’s why I work on my diet, my stress levels, my mental health... That’s why, at very least, I am managing my IBS better than I was a year ago, being fully aware that IBS is very sneaky and can stop responding to a routine at a moment’s notice. Realizing that IBS does concern your kids is important, if only to realize that you need to care for yourself the best you can.
Do you have a good understanding of what triggers your flares?