Why I Live Alone

Last updated: April 2019

When I first started showing symptoms of IBS, I was in college and living in a dorm building. We had a communal bathroom on our girls' floor with four or five toilet stalls. In other words, it was one of the most embarrassing and traumatic ways to first become symptomatic with IBS. I had just transferred to the college--a state school--from a private university. At my last college, I lived in a suite--that is, almost like a mini (and I mean, really mini) apt with a common room and a private bathroom. But because I was transferring late to the state school, I wasn't given preference for a suite and had to make do with what I was offered.

Sharing a bathroom when you have IBS

Getting an IBS flare in a public bathroom is a terrible experience because you lack any real privacy. It's also a cold and sterile way to deal with an illness, going into a large public bathroom to get sick multiple times a day and then having to go all the way back down the hallway to the room. I have no doubt the stress and anxiety about getting sick in a public toilet actually contributed to increased flares. My IBS became so bad that semester, I lost over 20 pounds and had to take off the following semester to recover (and get a proper diagnosis--at the time I even suspected IBD).

When I returned to school the following fall, I was adamant that I needed to live in a suite so I could have access to a private bathroom. I also put in for a medical single, so I didn't have to deal with sharing my room (while I have had several roommates I've forged long-lasting friendships with that remain to this day, at the time, I needed privacy to better cope and manage my disorder). I had to get a doctor's letter, but I was granted both a medical single and admission into a small suite with a private bathroom, both of which helped enormously in relieving anxiety regarding my illness and therefore helped decrease the frequency and severity of my symptoms (though of course, did not rid me of them by any means).

However, over the better part of the next decade, even access to a private bathroom often was not always enough to adequately accommodate my IBS (and later on my IC and endo complications) and I still had to share that bathroom with others. This inevitably meant there would be times when our times needing a bathroom would coincide, and conflict. Unfortunately, there were many times I couldn't access a bathroom when I desperately needed it. This meant I either had to suffer in pain trying to "hold things in" or nearly had an accident. I knew I eventually needed to live someplace where I either had my very own private bathroom I did not have to share with anyone else, or better yet--my own apartment altogether.

Living alone

And so, for the most part since my late 20s I have been living on my own (except for a brief stint of a couple of years with a boyfriend) in a private 1 bedroom apartment. And my personal experience has confirmed what I had suspected since before I lived like this: that it is better for my IBS and better for my health overall. I don't ever have to worry about being able to access a bathroom when I need to (well, except for that one time the bathroom door locked itself and me out of it). I don't ever have to worry about parties in my apartment or guests I do not want, adding to my anxiety about competition for the bathroom. I can eat how and when I want (and even though I follow a fairly strict diet, I can know that if I cheat to risk a flare, I can deal with the fallout privately), and go to bed when I want, and the schedule suits me and my health.

I know financially or for other reasons, it's not always possible to live alone. I am fortunate in that I currently live in rent-controlled housing where my monthly rent is several hundred dollars below market rate. Otherwise, I could not afford to live alone. Even with rent stability, my rent is a bit high for me. I pay it though because of the benefits to my health. And when my health is at its best, I can work more and do other things.

Having done the roommate thing for nearly ten years, I know the risks and how it adversely impacted my health and anxiety. And it's much better for me this way.

Do you live alone or have your own private bathroom where you live? Have you noticed any difference in how it helps you manage your IBS or in your anxiety levels regarding bathroom access and privacy? Share in the comments below!

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