IBS-M: Fear of the Unknown
When you have IBS-M and deal with bouts of both IBS-C and IBS-D, you never know which reaction you will get when you eat. That fear of the unknown is a relentless worry over the consequences of eating. Will you need to rush to the restroom, or will you be struggling to go? The uncertainty can cause a great deal of anxiety.
I have tried very hard to learn to predict the unpredictable, and in most instances, it is not possible. I have a few clues that sometimes signal the possibility of a switch in flare types, but these signs are not definitive and can be misleading. This causes quite a bit of stress, and stress only makes a flare worse.
IBS-M means frequent changes in flare types
IBS-M means you can switch between bouts of constipation and diarrhea at any time. Sometimes the flare type can change the same day, and that induces fear and anxiety. You never know what you are going to get, and this means every meal is a crapshoot (no pun intended). You might end up running to the bathroom, and you might have relentless pain from being unable to go.
Not knowing what to expect makes it difficult to plan, and sometimes planning on IBS-C to stick around can result in disaster. Eating out is particularly stressful when you do not know what to expect. In the past, when we planned to go out I made sure we went to eat last and were heading home as soon as the meal was done. Sometimes we had to rush home. Sometimes I could have waited and got a bit more done.
Constant changes increase fear associated with IBS
My fear of the unknown is complicated by my absolute refusal to use a public restroom during a flare. I just cannot make myself do it no matter how bad things are. This means I must try to anticipate how quickly I need to return home, and this is not a fool-proof system. As a result, I have often fasted before leaving home and avoided eating until I returned home. As I get older, it is much harder to refrain from eating for hours on end.
Now that fasting is becoming harder and harder, my fear is growing. What if I cannot make it home fast enough after a meal? What if I have an accident? I am very easily embarrassed, and the mere thought of an accident leaves me mortified. As my stress levels increase, so does the possibility of a flare. It is a vicious cycle that has no end.
Coping with the constant changes of IBS-M
At the end of the day, I am stuck trying to figure out which type of flare is next. No matter how hard I try to look for signs of an impending change, I still struggle with unexpected outcomes. Eating is necessary, but it is incredibly stressful. It is all too easy to fall into the trap of feeling sorry for myself and binge eating, and that makes matters worse.
I am constantly searching for ways to cope with irritable bowel syndrome, predict flares, and minimize stress. It would be so much easier to manage it all if it were not for the fear of the unknown. Predictability would be such a huge weight off my shoulders. Alas, it is only a dream.
Do you live with any sleep disorders (eg. insomnia, RLS, sleep apnea) in addition to IBS?