The Positive Impact of IBS on My Social Life
Yes, you read the title right. I’m talking about the positive impacts of IBS.
We always focus so much on the negative consequences of the illness, and we tend to forget that it can make us stronger. Positive things often come from negative experiences, and I wanted to remind us of that. So I decided to share the positive impact that IBS has had on my social life.
I’ve noticed that a lot of people really do care about me
It takes some effort to deal with me on an everyday basis. I’m trying to be as low maintenance as I can, but I can’t deny that I’m not. For instance, I’m very specific about what I eat. “Normal” situations can make me really anxious. Sometimes, I want to be by myself and not talk to anyone.
At the beginning of my IBS journey, I was so afraid of losing my relationship, my friends, and make my family annoyed with me. But that didn’t happen.
Instead, my boyfriend became my greatest ally in coping with my illness. He looks out for my trigger foods, knows how to calm my anxiety attacks, and never gets mad when I want to be by myself.
And my family and friends, with whom I don’t live on a daily basis, have made it a habit to have lactose free milk in the fridge whenever I come over. It might seem like such a little thing, but it shows me that they care. And they never, not once, got annoyed with the high-maintenance me after being diagnosed with IBS.
I’ve learned to value true friends
Social interactions definitely have become more difficult with IBS. I can’t lightly agree to go out with people anymore, mostly because of my anxiety.
At first, it was a negative thing. But after a while, I noticed that I started making a clear distinction between people I truly love and everyone else. In some way, IBS has set my priorities straight.
Now, I spend much more effort on people whose friendship I value most. Acquaintances have become much less important to me, and I’m glad about that. As an introvert, I don’t like to socialize too much anyway, and I prefer to spend my energy on true friends.
I’ve learned to stand up for myself
I’ve always been a bit of a push-over in friendships. Not that my friends exploited me or anything! But I always let them decide what they wanted to do, where they wanted to eat, etc. I didn’t mind tagging along, and I never saw the need to emphasize what I wanted to do.
However, this wasn’t sustainable anymore with my IBS. It forced me to communicate my own needs more than I was used to doing. Especially at first, I was really uncomfortable with that change. I don’t like imposing my point of view on other people. I can’t tell you how many times I ended up in impossible situations that just didn’t work for me!
But I’m getting better at standing up for myself. In the past year, everyone has switched to take-out food or cooking at home instead of restaurants when they’re with me because I get incredibly anxious about eating out. Maybe that seems like a bad thing, but to me, it’s an opportunity to actually enjoy hanging out with people instead of being in a constant state of panic.
I’ve learned to be more open
As an introvert, I have never liked sharing really personal things. Don’t get me wrong, I can babble about my life for hours. But not about the negative parts – those I’ve always kept to myself.
With IBS, I didn’t have that choice anymore. I had to share what I was going through if I wanted people to understand.
It wasn’t easy, and it still isn’t. I feel like talking about a chronic illness you have, especially one like IBS that can be quite embarrassing, will always be a struggle. But it has taught me that people actually do care about me, and they don’t walk away when I share my problems.
It has also taught me the benefits of being vulnerable. I’ve learned that other people I know are dealing with the same thing. And I’ve found this community of people that help me cope on an everyday basis. None of that would have happened if I had kept everything to myself, and I’m glad that IBS taught me to be more open about my struggles.
Have you taken our Person Before Patient Survey?