My Struggle to Manage My Mental Health and My IBS
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My GI nightmare, as I call it, began in March 2016 when I had my gall bladder removed. While many people feel better after their gall bladder was removed, that wasn’t the case with me. I started struggling with unrelenting nausea. It was really hard for me to find a trigger because I would go to bed feeling fine and wake up so nauseous that I didn’t want to get out of bed. The nausea would be intermittent for several days and then it would go away. I had a EDG done in the summer of 2016 and my GI Dr. said he couldn’t find a cause for my nausea and referred me back to my primary care doctor. My primary care Dr. felt my nausea was due to having my gallbladder removed and started me on cholestyramine before meals. I continued to feel worse. In Sep of 2017 I had another EDG done, along with a colonoscopy. That revealed I had gastritis. Over the past 4 months I’ve been put on Protonix twice a day, Carafate four times a day and increased amounts of cholestyramine. I was finally referred to a GI Dr. who diagnosed me with IBS and C-Diff (I have talked about that on another forum so won’t repeat that here). I had started a low FODMAP diet which was helping before I started the antibiotic for C-Diff.

My struggle

What I struggle with is trying to manage my anxiety about my GI issues. I’ve had several adverse reactions to medications over the past 5 years. And because, my symptoms of C-Diff weren’t any more serious than my IBS symptoms, the worry about having another serious C-Diff infection keeps me on edge. As soon as I wake up nauseous in the morning my mind starts going “Am I ever going to feel better? Am I going to feel this sick for the rest of my life? Why can’t I feel better?” During the day I have a never ending internal dialogue about every GI symptom I experience. “Is it my IBS, Is it heartburn? What if it isn’t heartburn, what if it’s something more serious? This abdominal pain is new. Is this also a symptom of IBS? What if it’s something more serious, like C-Diff and by ignoring it, I’m just getting sicker.” Or I go in the other direction “It’s probably nothing, I need to stop worrying, it’s just making it worse.” The internal dialogue does on and on.

I feel like my GI issues have taken over my ability to enjoy life. Where I once was self-confident and excited to travel, now it seems I’ve lost my confidence and am always struggling with the “what if.” For example, instead of being excited about traveling, I keep thinking “What if I get sick, what if I’m too nauseous to do anything, what if it’s not IBS and it’s something more serious?”

The vicious cycle

I also feel like I’m in this vicious cycle. My anxiety contributes to my IBS symptoms, yet I feel sick which makes me more anxious which just makes the IBS symptoms worse……It seems to never end. I know that there’s a link between anxiety and IBS. I’m in therapy and on SSRI’s. Ironically, I’m a retired LCSW, so I have a lot of background in mindfulness and cognitive behavioral therapy. Intellectually, I know what I need to do, managing my emotions is more challenging.

I’m fortunate in that my spouse and kids are very supportive. My daughter even researched low-FODMAP diets and bought me a great cookbook for Christmas. I just want to to feel “normal” again. I guess the best analogy I can think of is with my asthma/arthritis. Both of those are well controlled and no longer cause me any emotional distress. When I experience neck pain, I don’t have the same “what if” internal dialogue. I know it’s due to my arthritis and so I don’t worry about it. I know what lotions and exercises to do to help relieve the pain. And because I’m not worried about it, it doesn’t affect my life as much. With my asthma, I have an asthma response plan and know when to use my albuterol. I also know when I need to go to the ER. So concern over my asthma and arthritis don’t prevent me from traveling like my IBS does.

I’m hoping that by joining this forum and sharing my story, I can learn how others have managed to prevent IBS from taking over their life. I’m also interested in learning what people do to help manage the impact living with IBS has on their mental health.

Thank you for reading my story. I look forward to your helpful comments.

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