alt=a woman holding her stomach in pain sits in a doctor's office waiting room, leaning against a wall with question marks above her.

Is This Another Illness Or "Just" IBS?

For so many years, I got incredibly mad when doctors told me (or other people) that it was "just IBS." "Just IBS" can make your life miserable sometimes. It prevents you from doing things you want to do. It turns your whole world upside down. How could they say that it was "just IBS?"

Well, I’ve gotten to a point where I was, for the first time in my life, hoping to have "just IBS." Because things got kind of out of hand.

A new level of symptoms

A couple of weeks ago, I suddenly got a really, really bad flare. Or so I thought. I was nauseous, my stomach was cramping like crazy, and I went to the bathroom so many times that I thought I was going to pass out. To be fair, my flares aren’t usually this bad. But I thought, what else could it be?

The symptoms didn’t stop there. I got sick over and over again, even if I hadn’t eaten anything at all. My stomach cramped up as soon as I started to eat. I did have some days where it was better, but it just kept coming back. At one point, I even noticed that it seemed to get better when I ate, not worse.

I started panicking. What was that? Did I now have another illness, like IBD? Had I ingested some sort of bacteria? Or did my IBS suddenly develop superpowers?

Just IBS is enough, thank you

For some time, I kept hoping that it would just go away. Like a virus or something. But it didn’t. I noticed that I was losing weight very fast, even though I was eating. This never, ever happened with IBS, even when it was at its worst.

At this point, I decided to see a doctor. For the first time since my diagnosis, at least regarding my digestive problems. And I started hoping that I still had "just IBS" (or maybe a virus) and not another chronic illness I’d have to deal with for the rest of my life.

I am not just stressed!

Going back to the doctor about something like this brought back all the memories surrounding my initial diagnosis. How everyone kept dismissing me because it was all just in my head. How doctors half-heartedly prescribed me medication that didn’t work and then left me completely on my own. No one ever told me about the Low FODMAP Diet or anything else. I’m just so thankful for the internet for helping me regain some control over my IBS in the past years.

I’m not going to lie; I was extremely anxious before my appointment. In my head, I already heard my doctor telling me that I was probably just stressed. Which I wasn’t, except about this new sickness I had! I prepared a whole speech to convince him that this was different from my regular IBS. Much, much worse.

I gave that speech, too, although I didn’t actually need to. My doctor didn’t once suggest that it was just IBS, or due to stress. I simply couldn’t stop being defensive because doctors never took me seriously in the past.

Can I still hope?

I went into my appointment thinking that I would be doing tons of tests again. Just like the last time. But that’s not what happened. I did ask for the tests, but my doctor insisted that it sounded a lot like a bacterial infection. He prescribed me antibiotics and told me that we’d do the tests if those didn’t work.

Maybe I spent too much time going over this in my head, but a bacterial infection sounded a bit too easy. Something like that could just be treated. Could the solution really be so simple?

I was very skeptical. I had no intention of getting my hopes up, although I did realize that I got carried away by my anxiety and the doctor probably knew better than me. However, I somehow feel like everything related to my (digestive) health has to be complicated. During my IBS diagnosis, I had so hoped for a simple solution, only to be bitterly disappointed. And I’m not letting this happen again.

And yet, the unexpected happened. The antibiotics helped. My symptoms got better and felt like normal IBS again. It’s been around 3 weeks, and I’m finally allowing myself to hope that it’s all over. I never thought I would be so happy to have "just IBS!"

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