IBS, Anxiety and The Middle Way
When you're a kid no one sits you down and tells you that someday you will be sitting in a doctor's office answering questions about your bowel movements. How is one to be prepared for such a thing? I mean Jesus.. 'Well, yes, Doctor, the, umm, movements are, uhh, IRREGULAR'. The face flushes, the palms are wet and you are looking for anything that resembles an exit. Why are we talking about THIS? I already feel crappy (pun absolutely intended) and now we have to have a discussion about it. But this is what responsible adults do, yes? Our bodies are sensitive to what we put in them, where we take them and what we do to them. When IBS becomes the result of nature, nurture and the Battle of the Gut, we have to take action or suffer the consequences. For some of us the consequences are uncomfortable and for others; absolutely debilitating.
As for me, I guess I’m what you would call a newbie to the IBS conversation. I was diagnosed with IBS just about a month ago. Stomach cramps…check. Stomach pain…check. Diarrhea...double check. I also experience fatigue and muscle aches that last for days. In two words; this sucks. I am intrigued by the ‘which came first the stress/anxiety or the stress/anxiety’ concept. I have suffered with extreme anxiety over the course of 20 odd years and work in the mental health field. I have also consumed fast food, alcohol, cigarettes and spicy, spicy, spicy food, like they’re going out of style. I suppose, at this point, I feel as though I have a kind of debt to pay.
Now, I’m sure that there are many of you who suffer without having abused yourself to the point that I have. I am also sure that many of you had never experienced chronic anxiety before the onset of IBS symptoms. What I am curious about is what factor stress and anxiety plays in the onset and then concurrently with the management of IBS. Management is, for me, a key word. Whereas, there are many afflictions, illnesses and maladies that can be cured with a singular potion or elixir; IBS is not cured. I can relate this to my struggles with anxiety and mental illness. You can manage symptoms, you can live in a way to alleviate pain and you can recognize and avoid stressors and triggers. IBS is, in my humble opinion, not dissimilar. We can take medications to ease some of the trouble, we can acknowledge what triggers an episode and we advocate for ourselves by living the healthiest and most positive life we can. For me, this is the base around the philosophy of The Middle Way.
Without delving into a philosophic or spiritual discourse, the idea of The Middle Way can be a simple mantra for those seeking solace in the life of turmoil that IBS can cause. The Middle Way simply states that we acknowledge those acts that benefit ourselves and those around us in a healthful manner. We are to avoid thinking in terms of black and white, we are not to attach ourselves to notions of the way we believe things are supposed to be and, of course, we are not to put things into our bodies that we know will cause us harm. There is a way to live moderately and humbly that many of us in this modern age have forgotten. I will speak more about these ideas in my next article. Until then, be as well as you can be.
Have you tried eating smaller portions to manage symptoms?