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IBS Stigma at Work

Last updated: October 2022

Lately, it feels like my world has fallen apart, mostly due to huge life changes that have happened over the last year or so. Along with moving, and going through a breakup, comes looking for a new job. I don't mind this too much, actually. My problem is, how do you address having IBS when interviewing for a new job with a new company?

Talking about IBS at work

For many years I wouldn't bring it up. It's always been a topic that is so taboo to talk about in public. I mean, who wants to talk about your gut issues with new people that you may work for soon? It's definitely not on my list of things I enjoy talking about.

While thinking on this subject, I realized all the stigma that can be attached to IBS. Not necessarily that we, as those with IBS, are doing anything wrong to cause it. But why is it a subject we are so keen to keep quiet about and deal with silently? Why do we feel the need to stay silent?

IBS stigma in general

I have always done whatever I can in my workplace to make things as easy as possible for those around me. Maybe that is just how I was raised. Swapping shifts, doing extra work, and taking on the projects no one else wants is just something I don't mind and enjoy doing. My thinking is if you and your coworkers can work well together, it makes the day go by easier, and it can also impact your customers (in my case, patients) that are around and see your interactions.

So, for those of us who are like me, who go above and beyond to help those around us, shouldn't we be able to ask for help if we need it? Even if it is just to be able to vent about IBS or have someone cover the phones in case of an IBS emergency. Over my 18 years of working, I honestly can't remember a time when I didn't feel embarrassed or even worried about asking someone to watch my desk or answer the phone for me due to needing to run to the bathroom.

It shouldn't be this way. In a world where we are so accepting and supportive of everyone and their choices, why can't we accept that some people need others to talk to, even about IBS? I know this is a life we didn't choose or want. It's not something we enjoy or want to have to deal with all day, every day, but we still do. We don't have a choice in the matter.

Start IBS talk at home

Work may not be the place to just walk up to someone and ask them about their gut, but we can start at home. We can show our family and loved ones that no, poop isn't fun to talk about, but the symptoms we experience are real and can be debilitating. I have been pretty transparent with my daughter. She knows of the issues I have, and this has made her a much more accepting girl. She has even realized some of her school friends have IBS as well.

Some days are easy. But bad days are when we need others just to be able to say, "I know I don't get it, but I am here for you."

Have you talked to your children about IBS and how it can affect even young ones with it?

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