I’m not lazy, I have IBS…
When I first started dealing with the symptoms of IBS, people used to think I was lazy because I called out of work frequently and on the weekends all I wanted to do was relax. I just couldn’t help but relax more than anything, and by relax I mean lying down or even better, sleeping. At first, even I myself didn’t understand why I enjoyed relaxing so much. However, if I knew back then what I know now, then explaining why I seemed so “lazy” would’ve been very easy. Just imagine: I have bowel movements more than 6 times a day, and some of those times are in the middle of the night and disturb my sleep. I have consistent pain on the lower left side of my belly and almost anything I eat can trigger my symptoms. I also deal with back pain every day because it’s hard to manage good posture when I’m on the toilet for so long. Oh and by the way, the morning nausea doesn’t help either. Think about it, I’m in constant war with my body, and I get beat up and worn down daily. Of course it gets tiring. How can I not become “lazy” as a result?
Throughout the years of trying to lead a ‘normal’ life in society, I have come to the realization that I am no longer who I used to be. For example, I can no longer work a regular job – I have to work from home. By ‘regular’, I mean I cannot go to a place of business and expect to feel fine from 9-5, or for a long period of time. Most of the jobs that I’ve had required a lot of standing/walking, heavy-lifting, and lots of focusing on the task at hand. I cannot do that anymore, at least not without eventually feeling a lot of anxiety, pain, and discomfort. Sure these things seem simple and easy, and to not do what is required by most makes you look like a lazy person to someone who knows nothing about your condition. IBS is not an easy topic to discuss with just anyone, so not everyone I worked with knew or understood what I was dealing with on a daily basis. The common misconception about people who suffer from a debilitating condition is that their illness must be visible to the eye. Let me be clear, just because you don’t see me in a wheel chair doesn’t mean I’m not suffering. I have to work from home, not because I’m lazy, but because I’m in a better state mentally and physically when I do.
Another thing my condition requires sometimes is that I do nothing BUT stay home. Whenever I get invited to go out, half of the times I have to cancel because I’d rather (of course) just relax. Some of my friends and family know that I suffer from IBS, but they don’t understand the extent to how debilitating and limiting it can be. Why do I need to relax so much? Well, despite food and alcohol triggering my symptoms, stress and anxiety also play a big role in how I feel physically. Let’s say I do go out with my friends to a bar… what is constantly on my mind is how bad the beer or cocktails might affect me (because, let’s be honest, who goes to a bar and doesn’t drink?). Then I also worry about where the restrooms are and how clean they are because I get anxiety whenever I can’t use the toilet comfortably. Then I have a constant reminder about my condition because I feel that pain in my stomach that is unfailingly there. So, to answer the question, ‘why do I need to relax so much’, it’s because anything other than feeling stress-free brings upon more pain that I literally can’t stand to deal with.
The best way I can explain my ‘laziness’ is by referencing an article I read a while ago written by Christine Miserandino that talked about the ‘Spoon Theory’. To give you a gist, the ‘Spoon Theory’ means that someone suffering from a chronic condition only has so much energy to utilize throughout each day, so they use their energy sparingly. Each task they complete represents a spoon, and they are only given so many spoons a day before their energy runs out. Then resting is all he or she can do to harvest enough spoons for the next day. Therefore, whatever that person decides to use their energy on, must be for a necessary, and possibly special, reason. So if I’m acting ‘lazy’, it’s because I’m using my energy wisely, and to do anything but that would mean I would be causing myself great suffering in the future.
Let’s be real folks, not everyone is going to understand our type of ‘laziness’. In my opinion, the reason why a lot of us feel the need or want to have those we care about understand our suffering is because we want to feel validated in our pain. The only validation we need is the constant reminder of what we deal with physically and mentally on a daily basis. No one has a right to tell us how we feel and to what extent we feel the pain. So sure, they can call us lazy all they want. But what they can’t do is dictate how we feel. We are a lot stronger than they think we are because daily we deal with an invisible illness, so use that as your right to be ‘lazy’.