The Blame Game
How often do we blame ourselves for our symptoms of IBS (or other conditions) that may or may not have anything to do with our actions? I’ve been realizing how my chronic symptoms from IBS and fibromyalgia have made me so much more aware of my health and self-care, and in most ways, that’s a good thing. I have overhauled my diet and strictly avoid those things which cause me more pain, bloating, and more frequent trips to the bathroom. I take supplements my naturopath has recommended that seem to be helping. I employ a variety of stress management techniques to keep from getting overwhelmed, and I engage in exercise as much as my body allows.
And every once in a while, I have a normal – seemingly perfect – bowel movement. I mentally give myself a high-five and am as pleased with my achievement as a toddler who is learning to master potty-training!
However, an hour (or less) later, all perfection is forgotten as my usual IBS-D returns for a repeat visit. Cue the interrogator in my head:
- What did you eat in the last 24 hours?
- Did you eat anything you’re not supposed to?
- If you ate out or at someone else’s house: could there have been some ingredient you’re not aware of? Did you tell them of your diet restrictions (or were you too embarrassed to mention it)?
- Are you under more-than-usual stress? How are you managing your stress?
- Where are you in your menstrual cycle? Could this be related to PMS?
Do you do this too?
While these questions can be helpful when led from curiosity, the interrogator in my head isn’t so kind. It’s almost looking for where I’ve screwed up. It’s like the presence of IBS-D symptoms are foolproof evidence that I am inevitably guilty. This blaming can cause additional stress, and as we who live with IBS know, stress can be a trigger for our symptoms.
I can even start to feel guilty for having blaming thoughts about myself. So, my mind is looking for fault, I’m feeling like I must have done something wrong, and I’m also feeling bad for feeling bad. It’s a no-win situation for sure.
Letting myself off the hook
I’m a big proponent for taking responsibility for my health. There are many things that are under our control, including diet, exercise, working with healthcare professionals, getting enough sleep, and maintaining our relationships with others. It’s helpful to also realize that there are many things we can’t control, and while we can increase our resiliency to stress through our health practices and stress management techniques, there are going to be bad days. For those of us with sensitivities and/or conditions like IBS, bad days can often mean a flare of our symptoms. It helps me to remember that the bad days don’t last forever. (Even if a flare lasts several days or a week, they have always ended.)
I also found a self-compassion meditation that I’ve modified to fit my IBS experience. It’s quick and easy to do, and it helps me switch from being critical of myself to more compassionate. Here’s how to do it:
- Find a comfortable location where you can sit up straight.
- Close your eyes and bring your attention to the inflow and outflow of your breath.
- Follow your breath for at least 3 inhalations and 3 exhalations. Notice how your chest gently expands and contracts.
- Place your hand on your heart and begin to send compassion to yourself.
- Repeat to yourself: “I’m having a bad day today. Everyone has bad days sometimes. May I be kind to myself in this moment. May I give myself the compassion I need.”
What do you do to manage flares and the negative thoughts? Share your experiences in the comments below.
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