IBS and Me

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Dear big sister,

IBS has been a really big part of my life recently. Bigger than I would like it to be. Still, I don't think I have been giving it the attention it needs. Does that make any sense? Let me explain. My symptoms have been worse recently and I have been beating myself up about it. I haven't actually dealt with anything productively, though. Lots of stress, not enough care. I firmly believe, that looking back helps to go forward, so here is my IBS-story: 

I have had IBS for a long time, but I thought it was normal. I thought everyone had stomach troubles all the time. I think the first time I noticed, that I was different was when I went to Italy for an exchange semester. I was 16. One day, I had a horrible stomach ache and I asked my host-mother to stay home from school. My own mother usually let me make the decision, whether I was well enough to go to school. My host mother had a different philosophy though: She took my temperature and told me I was fine and sent me to school. She was a lovely women and didn't mean anything bad, this was just what she knew. That was miserable day. 

Even though I have had these problems for longer, during my late teens everything just got so much worse. I never really focused on it. I did try leaving out different foods, like gluten or lactose, but there was no system. Some things made it better, but since the symptoms were never gone, I didn't bother to stick with anything. Whenever I restarted to eat something, I didn't immediately go back to feeling bad. I gradually got worse until I got a full blown flare up. I did try to figure out what it was once. I went to a doctor and asked if it was possible I had celiac disease, but I didn't. The doctor made me feel bad for self-diagnosing with such a serious illness and sent me home. So I didn't bother another doctor about it for a couple of years.

The stomach issues just got worse and worse though. More cramps, more diarrhea, a near constant exhaustion and lots of neausea. I got myself together and decided to finally find out what was wrong with me. I went to a new doctor, she was very understanding and did every test under the sun. Blood tests, urin tests, stool samples, ultra sounds and finally even a colonoscopy. None of them showed anything out of the ordinary, it was the most frustrating process I have ever endured. But last summer, at the age of 21, I finally got a diagnonsis: Irritable Bowel Syndrome.

While it was a relief, to finally name the beast, doctors still didn't know what was wrong with me. They don't know the cause and they can't cure it. I thought I could anyway, if I only tried hard enough. I started the lowFODMAP diet, I exercised more and I organised my life better, to deal with this. The problem was: I still got flare ups. And somehow, since I now felt better in general, the flare ups felt worse. Slowly I started to realize, that I can't cure it. With this came quite a long period of trying to ignore it. If it doesn't go away, why bother doing anything, right? Well, I want to bother now. It is still infinitely better to go from "really good" to "bad occasionally" , than to hover in limbo between "bad" and "worse". 

I realize now, that it is going to be a long process, until I get to where I want to be. So I will take baby steps. Set myself small goals. The first goal is to go back to a strict lowFODMAP diet for two weeks and keep a food and symptom journal throughout it. While I have somewhat followed the lowFODMAP diet since September, I have been making too many exceptions lately. So I want to do two weeks with no exceptions. Then, in two weeks, I will set myself the next goal. 

All the best, 

Henrike

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