How I Choose To React To IBS
Last updated: June 2018
“Your problem isn’t the problem. Your reaction is the problem.” –Anonymous
When I first read this quote, it made me extremely upset. How could the way I react to my IBS be a problem, as opposed to IBS itself being the problem? I didn’t see how it made any sense. IBS could attack almost at any moment, and I have no control over that. Initially, my reaction was, of course, to be upset and depressed about that. Who wouldn’t be miserable if on a regular basis, you’re using the toilet more than 5 times a day, or your stomach hurts anytime you eat something or stress over anything? So, my feelings towards the inevitable and uncontrollable, isn’t the problem - or so I thought.
Forgot how to be happy
I have lived with IBS for about 8 years now, and for the first 4-5 years, I was extremely miserable. I couldn’t understand why I was feeling the way I was, and, on top of that, it was hard even trying to adjust to (or accept) living with a debilitating condition. How do you get used to something like that? Why would you even want to? Well…eventually I created my ‘why’, and here it is: Because no matter what I’m going through in life, there’s always something else to look forward to. I don’t just believe this, I know this by experience. For example, as a kid, I could fall off my bike, scrape my knee, and of course I’ll start to cry. However, if you give me a Popsicle or a lollipop while patching me up, then I’ll be A-Okay as if nothing ever happened. I use this childish example because it seems as adults we can’t remember how to flip the switch like we did when we were kids. We forgot how to be happy, or optimistic, even while suffering through pain. At least that’s how it is for many of us, so I decided to retrain myself how to do that. Thus, making me no longer upset at the quote that I began this article with.
I can’t be in denial any more: I’m stuck with IBS for the rest of my life. I’m not giving up hope; I’m just being practical. With that being said, I know that from here on out I must be prepared to face discomfort and pain on a regular basis. I cannot control that, even when I do my best to manage IBS. However, what I can control is my reaction, a.k.a. my mental state, when IBS attacks. I can sulk and be miserable, or I can be optimistic and positive. Now, I’m not implying that depression isn’t real, and that it’s easy to get out of misery. I’m suggesting that why not at least fight for happiness, even though the pain will inevitably be there? Why not teach yourself to live and enjoy life, no matter how annoying the pain? What I wish for all sufferers, is that they have the strength to live each day with a sense of positivity regardless of any obstacle.
Which of the following symptoms of IBS do you experience most frequently?