Wakey, Wakey, Tummy Achy
Last updated: April 2022
"WAKEY, WAKEY! TUMMY ACHY!" is what my IBS shouts at me every single morning, startling me awake from my not-so-sound sleep. Well, there's not actually any screaming involved, but by the way, I jolt out of bed due to a sharp jab of pain in my stomach. You would think a drill sergeant just busted through my door. And my attitude every time is, "Yup, so, I guess it is that time again like it is every other day."
IBS symptoms like clockwork
It's just before the crack of dawn, and my inconvenient IBS symptoms are kicking in like clockwork. The most annoying symptom of my IBS is the visceral hypersensitivity I feel from the need to pass gas or have a bowel movement. This is what causes the extremely intense and painful sensations throughout my body at times like this. It's almost like being woken up by quick and random stabs and jabs to the gut. The crazy part is over the 10 years of having IBS, I've grown accustomed to this pain becoming my alarm clock. I've somehow accepted that I have no choice but to get used to this kind of pain and somewhat slow torture. It's become my new normal, whether I like it or not.
Morning with IBS
Almost every morning, without an inkling of doubt or surprise, I can always expect my IBS symptoms to wake me up at nearly the same time – 4 AM. At this time, the wife and kids are still fast asleep, but my infant daughter can still wake up at any moment for a bottle or diaper change. While I wish these trips to the bathroom were those quick "in-and-out" kind, allowing me to fall back asleep quickly and without my absence being noticed – they are never quick. Some mornings I can spend anywhere up to 3 hours sitting on the toilet pushing. Yes, 3 hours! I remember once looking at the time and being shocked that I had been sitting there so long. "Today, I set a record," I thought. One of the unfortunate parts of these long bathroom sessions is that sometimes both the kids and my wife wake up before I'm out of the bathroom. This inconveniences my wife because then she's left with 2 babies to care for while also trying to get herself ready for work with no one to help.
Meanwhile, I'm literally stuck in the next room, glued to the toilet. Yes, this has happened many times, and I'm thankful to my wife for holding down the fort while I suffer in pain. Needless to say, IBS is the most inconvenient part of our lives, but we've grown to adapt and sometimes plan ahead for the setbacks.
IBS with kids
So, there I am, on the toilet, suffering from both mental and physical agony while trying to distract myself either with entertainment from my phone or trying to visualize art in the floor tiles. I start to hear my kids terrorizing my wife in the other room, which makes me try and rush the process. 'Just one big push will help,' I think to myself. I place a footstool under my feet and bare down while tensing up my abdomen. Nothing.
Suddenly, I feel an intense cramp "down there," and I wince in pain. 'Okay, so pushing makes the pain worse, got it, I think, disappointed at myself for even attempting. I begin feeling very tired and try to remember how many hours of sleep I actually got last night and the previous nights this week, and it makes sense how tired I feel. The additional fatigue from pushing is also set in, and my day hasn't even really started yet. "Great," I sigh under my breath as I begin to wipe even though my body is telling me I'm not done yet. I wrap up my unfinished session and right away tag myself into helping with the kids so my wife can go to work. Recovery time, although much needed after hours on the toilet, is not an option for me anymore, not these days.
I dream of a restful night of sleep with IBS
I want nothing more than just to get at least 1 night where I can sleep all the way through without a painful or disruptive interruption. But that hasn't been the case for me for as long as I can remember. As I'm writing this, it's surprising to me that I'm just now registering how long it has been since I have gotten any sense of the phrase "a good night's rest." It seems like a concept as unattainable to me as the "American Dream." Even when I get the privilege to take short naps throughout the day, IBS will still interrupt me (or my kids will) and force me to get up and rush to the toilet. There's something about laying down for too long that my IBS doesn't seem to like. In other words, there's no such thing as getting 8 hours of sleep for me, let alone a complete 4.
My new mindset on IBS pain
I know all of this may sound super depressing, and to be honest, at times, it can be. However, I don't know how to describe my reality without being blunt about the harshest parts. We all know, and some of us accept that life isn't always "rainbows and sunshine." Sometimes, it's "dark clouds and thunderstorms."
It's how we manage our perception of life after experiencing those dark moments, no matter how consistent it may seem, that can truly either make or break us. So, each time my IBS wakes me up in the middle of the night with intense stomach pain and urgency to rush to the toilet, I try little by little to shift my perspective from feeling like such a victim to feeling something more empowering. Instead of feeling depressed and upset about my current condition and how it affects me daily, I try to think of ways to improve my lifestyle so that I'll have a better chance of fighting back against my illness. Why sulk in misery when I can continue to fight for myself and ensure that my future gets brighter, not dimmer? All in all, I mustn't give up on myself, and neither should you. Hang in there, my fellow IBS survivors.
Have you ever tried acupuncture to relieve IBS symptoms?