2-Day Trip On the Road with IBS
The January 20, 2021 road trip south had finally arrived. Feeling a mix of excitement and dread, I climbed into my sister’s SUV with my little case of medications and strapped myself in. It would be a two-day, 950-mile drive from Adrian, Michigan to Orange Beach, Alabama. Months before, I had devised a strategy to get myself through a day on the road, a night in a motel sharing a room (and a bathroom!) with my sis and her husband, then a second day on the road, all without having a bowel incident. Here is how it went.
First, some context. I suffer from IBS-M, meaning I fluctuate between diarrhea and constipation. If I only suffered from constipation I would have little cause for worry. But diarrhea can be unpredictable. The dreaded gurgle followed by abdominal pressure and an urge to void can send me into near panic. Whether at home or in public, the prospect of emptying my bowel onto a floor or carpet is the worst thing I can imagine. So, what did I do to quell that fear? My strategy was elegant and simple. The night before we left, I took two Imodium tablets.
The possibility of a breakthrough episode
Why two? For insurance. I learned from experience that one tablet alone came with considerable risk. I could not allow the possibility of even one breakthrough episode. Not in my sister’s pristine Toyota RAV4, not in the Baymont Inn in Franklin, Tennessee, nor in a rest stop bathroom near Clanton, Alabama. Not ANYWHERE, ANYTIME, near ANYONE. I could not do that to myself and relive the shame and horror each time I recall the experience. I also could not do that to strangers, who would likely recoil with disgust at the spectacle, then forever cast me as the woman who crapped her pants right in front of them on their 2021 vacation, telling and retelling the story to their friends while plying them with gin and tonics and projecting pictures of their travels onto a wall of their finished basement. Heck, they might even have surreptitiously snapped a photo of me standing in my own filth, thereby putting a face on the dirty deed. I would rather chew ground glass than risk this all-too-credible outcome.
My IBS and MS
Fortunately, I also learned from experience that swallowing two Imodium tablets guarantees 2 full days of constipation, after which my bowel always empties itself on day three. This, I reasoned, should work just as well on the trip. I was right. When we arrived at our beach condo in the evening of the second day, I had not felt even the mildest gas pain or heard the faintest gurgle. I did experience discomfort, but it came from another chronic medical condition, multiple sclerosis (MS).
Muscle spasticity is one of many MS symptoms I manage every day. I take three separate doses of baclofen, a muscle relaxant each day to keep my legs from stiffening and cramping. It best worked at home when I medicated at the same times every day with stretches as needed. I also got up every 30 minutes and took short walks. This warded off most of the pain and stiffness. But in the car, I experienced what felt like sciatica pain down my left hamstring and extending all the way down to my toes. Although we did stop a couple of times to stretch our legs, and doing so instantly relieved the pain and numbness, it was not enough to keep me comfortable. Once we got settled into our condo, those problems disappeared.
Confidence to travel with IBS
The trip down was such a success that I will take two Imodium tablets on the trip back home, too. This experience has given me the confidence to travel again!
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