Pain Avoidance Is A Problem
How far would you go to avoid pain?
That might sound like a strange question to ask, particularly since anyone with IBS has lots of experience with pain. And really, it’s only natural to want to avoid pain, because well… it hurts.
The catch though is that when you experience pain all the time, you start going out of your way to avoid anything that makes it worse. The same happens if you’ve experienced lots of pain in the past but have been able to get it to ease or stop, because you don’t want the pain to return.
Avoiding IBS pain
As someone who’s lived with the pain of IBS for a long time, this is something I understand. For the longest time, all I wanted was for the pain to go away. Then when I managed to get my IBS under control, all I wanted was to make sure the pain never returned.
But it wasn’t just the abdominal pain that I wanted to avoid. It was all pain. Because living with pain all of the time changes you. It’s hard to push through pain all of the time. It takes so much effort, it’s incredibly draining, and it makes life very hard. So it’s completely understandable to want to do anything you can to avoid living with pain again.
Pain is part of life
The problem though is that pain is part of life. We feel physical pain every time we push our body harder than it’s used to being pushed. I’m not talking about pushing to the point of injury here though, just enough to your muscles work harder. This pain is actually good for you, even if it doesn’t always feel like it at the time, because it indicates that your muscles are strengthening. But when you’ve got into the habit of avoiding pain, this ‘good pain’ seems as bad as the other pain that you’re trying to avoid.
If you let this continue, you can get to the point where you’ll do anything to avoid pain. To the point where you almost stop living out of fear of feeling pain again. And because you don’t want to feel pain from your IBS, you’ll do anything to avoid triggering your symptoms, even if that means restricting your choices more than necessary. But because you don’t want to feel other pain either, you’ll do whatever you can to avoid activities that cause any sort of pain or discomfort.
But that fear stops you from living. A pain-free life might sound like a good thing, but a completely pain-free life is one that’s not lived.
So it’s important to find a balance that works for you. Where you can prevent triggering your IBS symptoms as much as possible, but where you still get to experience your life. This means accepting that small amounts of pain aren’t the end of the world.
So how far should you go to avoid pain? Only as much as it lets you have a good quality of life, but not so much that it stops you from truly living.
Do you have a good understanding of what triggers your flares?