Before I start telling you the not-so-pretty details of my IBS story, I want you to know that I did find a way to manage it. It always freaks me out to read people’s IBS horror stories. Especially when they don’t contain any kind of positive message. So I wanted to start by saying that yes, it is a crappy condition that makes life more difficult. But it doesn’t have to dominate your life. And it especially doesn’t have to keep you from doing everything you want to do. I want to tell you about my story so you can get to know me better. Maybe you’ll relate to the way I felt and even get some tips if you’re at the beginning of your journey. Just know that I am a strong believer in making the best of every situation!
Like a lot of IBS sufferers, I always had a sensitive tummy. In school, I was constantly nauseous in the morning. I have never been able to have breakfast before 10 am, which means that I only had breakfast on the weekends. Weirdly enough, this particularity reflects in my IBS. It is really bad in the morning and only occurs during the rest of the day if a have a particularly bad flare up.
But let’s start at the beginning, a little more than two years ago. I had just gotten a new job with a ton of responsibilities, which I was equally stressed and excited about.
It all began with tomato soup. I had eaten it the night before, and when I got to work the next morning, my stomach started making some really nasty noises, causing me to disappear into the bathroom multiple times. Needless to say, I was super embarrassed, but I thought that I had just eaten bad soup.
You can imagine my despair when these symptoms didn’t go away in the next couple of days. Every morning when I got to work, I started feeling absolutely terrible, like you do when you’re coming down with a stomach bug, and had to go to the bathroom multiple times. I tried taking Imodium, but I had to take up to 6 tablets each time for it to start working.
Naturally, I thought that I had caught said stomach bug. My suspicion was seemingly confirmed when I had to call in sick due to what I now identify as my first really bad IBS flare up. I was so stressed about getting sick during my first month at a new job that I only took one day off and then basically stopped eating for the rest of the week.
A difficult time
After this flare up, my symptoms didn’t go away. No matter what I did, whether I ate at night or not, my stomach would go crazy in the morning. I could only hope that no one would notice how often I had to use the bathroom, and that I didn’t work because I was feeling dreadful. Around 10 or 11 am it would then get better, leaving me the rest of the day to be productive.
After a couple of months, I was exhausted. I was scared of going to work, scared of going out in general, embarrassed about my condition, and generally very miserable.
I did go to multiple doctors and had a bunch of tests done, all coming back negative. Every possible condition ruled out, they diagnosed me with IBS. I tried various medications, but none of them made it better. I even went to an osteopath because I had heard that it helped, but it didn’t do much for me either. In the end, my life was consumed by worrying about the next morning at work, which was especially hard on my boyfriend with whom I lived.
The turning point
After a couple of months where nothing would help my situation, I took matters into my own hands.
I started doing research online and came across the Low FODMAP diet that everyone was talking about. It caught my eye because it supposedly helped a lot of IBS sufferers. Willing to try anything to get my life back, I cut out all high FODMAP foods overnight as best as I could and hoped for relief.
Now I have to say that I didn’t manage to do it perfectly. I am terrible at cooking and I was eating out every day, so that I sometimes did eat things that I wasn’t supposed to eat.
After a couple of weeks on the Low FODMAP diet, my symptoms slowly started to get better. They didn’t go away – I still had to go to the bathroom multiple times every morning – but I didn’t feel as bad anymore and I had less diarrhoea, too.
Doing tests on myself, I realised that some of the foods were fine for me to eat, while others were the worst I could do to my stomach.
A new routine
I also started a new routine in the mornings. I would get up at 6 am, get ready until 7 am, and then leave myself one and a half hours to take care of my IBS before I had to leave.
Sometimes it worked perfectly and I didn’t have to use the bathroom at all at work. Sometimes I had bad days and couldn’t leave the house before 9 am, making me late for work. I always blamed it on the trains that admittedly had a lot of delays,. I made it a habit to complain about public transportation as often as possible. But the truth is, I just couldn’t leave the house due to my IBS. I just didn’t want to get into details about that.
During particularly bad flare ups that resembled a stomach virus I just called in sick. Thankfully, it happened only a couple of times a year. At that point I had realised that I shouldn’t force myself to do anything when my body just wasn’t capable of doing it.
I did tell my co-workers that I had a digestive condition. It becomes sort of impossible to hide it when you barely eat anything. And it honestly made me feel a lot more comfortable at work, too. I didn’t go into details, so most of them just thought that I had a sensitive stomach. But one girl had a friend who had IBS and recognised the way I was eating, so she knew what was going on.
Getting my life back
I’ve now been okay for a little over a year. I still have a lot of anxiety due to my IBS and bad days once in a while. But I’m able to go out without stressing about it too much, meeting friends, travelling with my boyfriend. I now have my IBS more or less under control.
I’m going to end my IBS story here. I will go into detail about everything that helped me get better in separate posts. Otherwise I would accidentally write a whole novel on this page and nobody has time to read that!
At this point, I would like you to take away that having IBS is not the end of the world. It is absolutely possible to live a happy life with it, even if it doesn’t always seem like it!