What Does the ‘New You’ Look Like?
Living with IBS often requires that all kinds of changes be made in order to manage the painful symptoms of the disorder. I remember looking at the list of things I needed to do in order to avoid living in discomfort and thinking, ‘I NEED TO CHANGE.’ I mean the guy I was before the diagnosis was obviously not eating right. He wasn’t exercising. He smoked and drank way too much coffee. HE NEEDED TO GO. I mean, how could I manage to accomplish the undertaking with ‘that guy’ hanging around? So, I embarked on my journey of change, believing all the while, that I would somehow become a new person or some completely altered version of myself. I think many of us believe that if we have to change a lot of our behaviors, habits, relationships etc. that WE must become someone else. I think I have realized that this is not altogether true.
We associate so many of our behaviors with our sense of self that when those behaviors must change, we feel a little lost. We may say things like ‘I just can’t do that’ or ‘if I’m going to have to do that, I will have to change all these other things, too.’ I came to believe that if I stopped smoking and drinking coffee that I would have to become someone different. Literally. While it seems a little ridiculous, I believed that somehow the way I dressed would change, the music I liked would change, my personality would somehow change… This is not true. The changes in diet, exercise, medication and everything else we do to keep us well, is simply that; changes to keep us well. The changes are for something particular, whether it be to manage the symptoms and flare ups that come along with IBS or the anxiety, stress and psychological issues that surround the disorder. Change is about wellness, not about personality or your sense of self. You will still be you, perhaps just a better you.
Focus on the positive
I thought I would say something about the identity crisis I experienced when faced with the IBS diagnosis because I think that it might be rather common. We tend to focus on all the things we CAN’T do anymore, but don’t think about all the things we might be able to do and feel if the appropriate course of action is taken. Your laugh will not change, in fact, you may laugh more if you have taken action to feel better. Your face will not change, in fact, your face may look brighter and happier with the greatly improved diet and exercise. Most importantly, you, the person that your family and friends all love, will not change. You are still the same soul as when you were born. You can change the way you dress, the car you drive, the job you do and the way you live, but I guarantee you that by simply practicing self-awareness and staying true to the person you know you are, the only things that will change are behaviors and habits. I know that I don’t want to be defined by these and I’m sure you don’t either. So here’s to the new and improved you. But it’s still you…