My Shrunken Social Life
I first was diagnosed with IBS in college, which is usually a peak time in one's life for social opportunities. Though I am mostly an introvert, I was very social in college. But IBS made me pull back.
The impact of IBS on romantic relationships
I didn't date as much as my peers, because I was embarrassed by my body and sometimes the boyfriends I did have during my college years would become frustrated and even resentful when I had to bow out of joining them for certain things, especially at the last minute.
I was young and less bold in terms of disclosing the medical details of what I was dealing with. Because who wants to discuss bathroom habits or issues--especially with a romantic partner? Not me. So I was vague with them instead, which I think left them sometimes questioning whether I was making excuses. I was not, but it sometimes contributed to rifts as I was defensive and resentful of my situation. It made me feel lonelier.
The impact of IBS on social relationships
Fast forward to today. While my IBS is much more manageable than it was back then, it can still become a problem with little or no notice and so most of the time it is still in the back of my mind when considering social commitments. When I do make a social commitment, especially for something far from home that isn't easy to make, I have to be extra careful about what food I eat the day or two leading up to the event and especially the day of, as well as be careful to avoid stress (physical or emotional).
I don't only deal with IBS, but now chronic pain in general. As a result, my social life has shrunken...however, it has not disappeared.
Quality over quantity
While I may not be able to travel often, and even events a couple of towns away can be a big deal, I have learned to make the most of the events occurring locally and close to my home. This works well for me because I live in a walkable neighborhood with several social hubs and events going on every week (I realize it may be difficult for those living in more isolated areas). I take advantage of free or cheap events that I can easily leave if I don't feel well or have a flare coming on without worrying about wasted money. I've surrounded myself with a supportive partner and caring friends who know about my limitations and accept them, which takes off some of the stress about disappointing others (which in turn allows me to better care for myself).
Ultimately, it's about quality instead of quantity--so maybe I do not socialize as much as I used to or as often, but I make sure it's rewarding to me and something that works well for me without aggravating my IBS or pain issue.
Have you taken our IBS In America Survey yet?