Shame and IBS
Last updated: April 2022
Like all of us, I began having stomach/bowel problems long before I was diagnosed with IBS. It was embarrassing to spend hours in the bathroom, clutching my stomach when I could be spending that time with friends or literally doing anything else.
Embarrassing times with IBS
I have flashbacks all the time to near-misses, especially when it involves a social situation, and live through the embarrassment of myself in that situation. I mentioned in a previous article about the time that I didn't make it to the bathroom in time on my way to my (now-ex) boyfriend's friends' apartment, who I was only meeting for the second time; I was mortified that I was sitting in their apartment washroom trying to clean myself and my pants and underwear up instead of being in the living room interacting with them.
I was reminded by both my boyfriend at the time and by the girl whose apartment it was, and who I am now very lucky to call a friend still, that *poop* happens, and it truly doesn't matter. I was mortified because of my age (again, it does not matter) and the social situation where I was stepping into a fairly new environment of people I wasn't familiar with and who wasn't familiar with me. But people are humans, and humans poo, and sometimes they just don't make it to the washroom, or they spend hours in the bathroom and "miss out," and that's OKAY.
Combatting feelings of shame from IBS
I have come to a point now that I bring up my IBS unashamedly to my friends or even acquaintances if the context fits. I'll tell my friend if I'm meeting them after a bad night and bad morning on the toilet that I can't really eat anything that will not be safe food for me. I'll tell a friend if I have to delay the time we have to meet because I simply don't feel "safe" enough to stray too far from a toilet for too long a period (i.e., traveling on public transit or even traveling in a car to meet them somewhere).
Pushing myself to talk about IBS with people openly normalizes its concept. Yes, of course, diarrhea, flare-ups, bowel issues, constipation, etc., are all things people tend to label as "gross," but they are things that happen and will continue to happen. As we know, while we can obviously manage our symptoms and lower our flare-ups with different remedies like digestive bitters, peppermint pills (and other supplements), good-for-gut drinks, food moderation, and IBS-friendly foods, probiotics, etc., we cannot get rid of IBS forever.
It is important to keep talking about IBS with those that do not experience it. It is important to normalize the pain, annoyance, and exhaustion we go through with IBS. We must make people who don't have IBS comfortable with the environment we live in so that WE can become more comfortable in the non-IBS existence they live in. Advocacy for IBS is important.
Which of the following symptoms of IBS do you experience most frequently?