The Struggles of an Introvert with IBS

Being an introvert with IBS can be difficult. Especially around extroverts whose opinions are so much louder than mine - even if they are opinions about what I can and can’t do with IBS.

After living with IBS for over 3 years, I sort of get along with it. Not every day, and certainly not in every situation, but often enough. But while most people close to me have accepted what IBS means for me, I do still have trouble with some extroverted friends. No matter what I do, there are certain things that I can’t seem to make them understand!

Stop telling everyone about my IBS

"This is Karina, she has IBS." I mean, really? Does it have to be the first thing people know about me? I don’t usually tell anyone unless it comes up naturally. And I’d really love to be seen as me, not just someone with IBS! But even though I made it a habit to reply very sarcastically to these kinds of things, they don’t change.

If I didn’t hate confrontation so much, I would sit my extroverted friends down and explain why they should stop telling everyone about my IBS. But then again, I could also just avoid meeting new people altogether.

Don’t I know best what triggers my IBS?

Another information I can’t seem to pass on is that IBS is not the same as lactose intolerance. Or gluten intolerance, for that matter. Actually, I can have both, just not in all forms.

Don’t get me wrong, I know that no one will ever remember all that I can and can’t eat. And I really don’t expect them to! But I’d appreciate if my extroverted friends wouldn’t constantly suggest that I can eat any meal as long as they replace butter with sunflower oil.

I’ve spent so many times explaining my trigger foods. Yet all I hear, time and time again, is: "but why won’t you have tomato sauce, there’s no milk in it!" and "don’t eat that cake, there’s butter in it!".

Does it matter that tomato sauce is a major trigger food for me, while butter (and cheese, and cake) are absolutely fine? It does to me, but apparently not to them…

I will never go out for brunch

One of my best (extroverted) friends is obsessed with brunch. She goes out for brunch all the time, and it’s all she ever wants us to do whenever we’re together.

The first couple of times I explained to her that eating in the morning makes me feel really sick. After a while, I started telling her that I don’t have time. Of course, this isn’t great - but how many times can I explain the same thing over and over again?

The truth is, I don’t want to use IBS as an excuse all the time. Even if it’s for the exact same thing (brunch). But it seems that there are some things that my friend will never understand. Unfortunately, this also means that I see her less, because the thought of another brunch invitation makes me feel anxious already.

In an extrovert-introvert friendship, the introvert often follows. I honestly don’t mind that, but in this particular case, I can’t follow. And as much as I wish that this wasn’t the case, it definitely started impacting our friendship.

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