How to Support Someone with IBS?
I was discussing my issues with IBS with my sister the other day. I was complaining about the fact that I felt very alone in my struggle and that I wished I had more support. Granted, I was having a bad day and was quite cranky. My sister asked me candidly, ‘How would you like to be supported?' As clear as I was about the fact that I felt UNSUPPORTED, I was slow to answer the question regarding what my ideal support looked like. So, I started to think about it. There are some obvious things, but this is a more complicated question than it seems. What I came up with was…uh…convoluted. I will share with you all in the hopes that perhaps you find some humor in it and possibly some similarities to your own answer to this all too important question.
Awareness and empathy
So, how do I want people to support me while I deal with my IBS existence? Well, I want people to listen without cringing. Mostly, I want the people I care about to just listen. I don’t need lot’s of ‘YOU CAN DO IT!!’. I just want an ear and some empathy. Not SYMPATHY. ‘Oh, I’m so sorry your tummy hurts…’. Uh…no. Next on the list is the need to be left completely alone when I don’t feel good. This is a demand and not a request. When I am in the throes of an angry IBS episode, I don’t want to be touched, interrogated or expected to behave as if everything is normal. Things are not normal during a bad flare up. It is not something I need a nurse for, it is not something that I need counseling for…I just want to be left alone until it passes. Maybe you are different and require some coddling. Not I, my friends. Not…I.
I want my friends and family to care that I can’t eat and drink this or that and provide me with a healthier option when I dine at their houses. However, when I say this…I feel selfish that I would ask people to go out of their way to cook or shop separately for me. Decision…I will bring my own food and drink. Right…so not supported per se…hmm. I think what I realized trying to figure this whole support thing out, is that I actually have a problem asking for help or ‘support.' But, I think, therein lies the answer. It is not HELP that I want from family and friends. I simply want them to be aware that I am dealing with a significant health issue and to lend some time when I want to talk about it. Perhaps, I would like for them to read a little bit about it, so they are more informed. And so…I think I’ve got it. I would like AWARENESS and EMPATHY. Is that is too much to ask for? I don’t feel as though it is. I find this to be a reasonable request. NOW…if they would stock there refrigerators with my special diet and lots of water and herbal tea…that would be cool, too J. I will continue to work on this one.
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