Thursday, March 9, 2017

Big big changes!

As always, it has been quite a while since I blogged here last. I can't say I realized it was almost a whole year ago, but life gets in the way and blogging falls to the very bottom of the list. Life slowed down a bit in the fall, and I started thinking about a topic for a new post. Since I've been doing well, it's getting harder and harder for me to come up with topics that will be relevant to the people that end up here and read my posts. I know you guys are struggling to make sense of what your body is doing to your life. I don't want to write over and over again about how well I'm doing or how it's almost like I don't have IBS anymore. I can remember how hard that would've been for me to read during all those years where I was so sick.

But the truth is, my IBS was backing down. Around the time I started thinking about blogging again, I had been off the daily Imodium for almost 8 months with hardly any relapse in symptoms. My gut had started spasming again with certain foods, and I was having some loose stools, but I very rarely had any urgency. I had my scheduled poop every morning and it was always tolerable. I still don't know what changed that caused this stretch of amazingness for me. I had another stretch like this during high school when I got to live a completely carefree life- I got to eat whatever I wanted and not worry about where I was going to go to the bathroom if my stomach started acting up. I never made it to that point in this last year when I was feeling good, but it was still a similarly spontaneous remission.

This time was especially strange because I was going through an emotional time in my life. We had made some very big decisions and started to put some stressful plans in place. Usually when I'm stressed out, my gut gets very unhappy, but it was smooth sailing up until mid October. Then I started getting urgency again and almost every stool was very loose. Suddenly things I was able to eat the week before were major triggers for my IBS. Soon enough, my GI issues weren't the only symptoms and it hit me that this might be bigger than IBS.

Has anyone guessed it yet? Yep, I'm preggers.

I can't remember if I've talked about it much on here in the past, but holy cow was I adamantly opposed to having kids in the past. I went through a short period when I was 19 when I needed a child right then and there. I remember going home and telling my now husband we needed to get married that weekend so we could start having kids. Looking back, I cannot believe how extreme that need was, and I'm so happy we didn't act on it! Over the years between then and now, that definitely calmed down and we started to logic out having kids. We made a pros and cons list, I researched how it could affect IBS, and we had many, many discussions about it. We would check back in with each other about every 6 months about it and make sure each of us still didn't want kids, look over our pros and cons list, and plan to talk about it 6 months later. To us, it was always a decision that had to be thought through as carefully as buying a house or changing a career. It never seemed like the right plan for us. And I was absolutely terrified of pregnancy since there was a high probability of me throwing up at some point and it making my IBS worse.

Enter our pseudo-nephew. He just turned a year old a couple of months ago. When we found out our best friends were expecting, the first thing out of my mouth and in my husband's head was, "We have to start soon so they're close in age!" We looked at each other with crazy eyes like, "WTF? When did we both suddenly start wanting kids?" I thought it was another crazy hormonal rush and that it would pass. So we went back to what we knew- our pros and cons list and our long talks. We decided that this had to have come from somewhere, so I started reading blogs people had written about having kids instead of ones people wrote about deciding not to have kids. I also bought a book called All Joy And No Fun. After reading that book, I realized that all the cons on our list didn't mean much. If I looked at all of the annoying things our furbabies do day in and day out and didn't take into account how much joy they bring us, I would've never adopted them. We decided to start thinking about maybe having kids for a while and see how that felt. Well, it felt really good, pretty scary, and definitely like it was the right idea for us at the time.

Over the course of a year, we slowly came around to the idea and decided to take the plunge. Well, it worked lol. I found out I was pregnant in October, so I'm just over halfway through my pregnancy. When I found out I was pregnant, I just screamed, "What the fuck?!" over and over and over. I was terrified. It took me a couple of days to be excited about it because I couldn't stop worrying about how nauseous I might get and what if I puked and what was going to happen with my IBS??

I promise I meant to get to the part most of you guys care about a lot faster, but I feel like this is enough text for one blog post! I'll talk about how pregnancy has been for me so far in the next one. If I don't post soon, please hold me to it! Life has gotten pretty crazy around here, so I might need the reminder.

Saturday, April 30, 2016

IBSer on YouTube

It's inevitable that the number of comments on my posts and emails from you guys starts to go up when I start posting more, so I've been slowly getting through what I've received lately. I love hearing from you guys, so keep it coming!

I get a lot of requests to share links to others' blogs and websites, but I don't often do it. Honestly, I'm just here to blog about poop and help other IBSers not feel so alone. It's not that I don't want to link people to you guys, I just don't want to get too spammy or have too many posts dedicated to that. Make sense? However, I HAVE to tell you about the one I was linked to earlier this month. This guy posts up videos on YouTube about his IBS, and they're very well done, hilarious, and easy to relate to! And, let's face it, the written word is kind of being phased out while videos are all the rage... Anyway, watch the video below then give him a follow!

Thursday, April 14, 2016

My current meal plan

I sure do have some tidying up to do on my blog...all of my links at the top of my page are pretty outdated. A reader recently asked about my current meal plan, and that's when I realized I haven't been following the one I have posted at all!

When we moved, the meal plan in my pantry was removed along with everything else, and I didn't think to put it back up in the new place. Since then, there have been so many changes to my condition and in my life that I'm not sure that meal plan would work right now. You might be wondering, "It's food. How difficult is it to make food fit into your life?" if you haven't ever had very severe IBS. When I was super sick, I ate dry Rice Krispies for breakfast, nothing for lunch, and plain, steamed rice for dinner. Trying to work in anything besides that was fecal suicide. (Please cite me if you ever use this term 😜)

Before I dive into what I'm eating right now, I feel like I have to tell/remind you of why it's especially hard for me to find things to eat. Along with IBS, I also have a fair amount of mental comorbidities. Many of you may suffer from these as well since IBS and mental illness tend to go hand in hand. (Because we obviously need more shit to complicate our lives...) I go in and out of depression and have had 3 major depressive episodes that I know of so far. I feel like I would be able to hike that number up had mental illness not been so stigmatized when I was little and my parents had taken me to see a psychologist. Part of me is glad they didn't, but the other part thinks I would have learned coping mechanisms much earlier in life and wouldn't have struggled so hard through much of it emotionally. I also have a lot of phobias, and that is where my issue with food originates.

The most severe phobia is my phobia of vomit (emetophobia). I grew up with this one, and I have memories of being terrified of puke that date back as early as my kindergarten year. As I grew up, this phobia started to affect my life more and more. After my bout with food poisoning almost 10 years ago, it intensified into something that ruled my daily life. I basically did not leave the house during norovirus season- which usually lasts from late October to April- and wouldn't allow anyone to come into my house unless they confirmed they weren't sick (to their stomach) first. I would literally ask people that. Then, I took a Microbiology class and learned all about bacteria. After that class, I got to tack on "germophobe" to my list of issues. Now I am incredibly cautious about germs that could possibly lead to me vomiting. It's very specific. Same as everyone else, I don't enjoy being coughed on, sneezed on, etc as long as it only leads to a respiratory illness. If someone coughs on me, I go to pretty much any length to find out exactly what their symptoms are so I know if I can relax or if the waiting period begins to see if I'm going to get sick to my stomach. Keep in mind I haven't puked since I had food poisoning 10 years ago, so there is a LOT of built up anxiety over that; so much so that we're putting off having kids because pregnancy might make me sick to my stomach. (That's a whole other post in and of itself...)

Oh lord. I'm getting back to my old ways by starting to write a book here when I should be answering a simple question. Let me pull in the reins and sum this up for you- I don't feel comfortable touching my food unless I've washed my hands right before eating. At home. I don't feel comfortable going into public restrooms, washing my hands, and eating after that. Therefore, what I can eat when I'm away from the home is limited to things I can eat straight from the package or with a utensil (from home that I've transported in a baggie). And then add to that the fear that I'm going to eat something that will trigger my IBS and cause me to have to use a restroom in public or the fear that I'm going to eat something prepared by someone else that's under cooked or contaminated, and there's very little I can eat outside the house. When I'm at home, it's much easier, but I still have to worry somewhat about how it will affect me the next day. Nowadays, it's very unlikely that any food I'd choose would cause any sort of long-lasting issues the next day, but the mental damage of 8 or so years of having diarrhea 10+ times a day and feeling sick all the time apparently can't be reversed.

Ok, now that I'm done bearing the deepest of my insecurities to you, let's talk about what I'm eating.
Work day: 
  • Breakfast: two spoonfuls of applesauce (for the fiber) and cereal (usually knockoff Cheerios, Apple Jacks, or Cocoa Krispies) with milk
  • Snacks: Rice Krispies. I usually have two of these a day depending on how hungry I get at work
  • Lunch: two Nature Valley Peanut bars (chewed very, very well so the nuts don't kill me) and a Luna bar (I really like the Chocolate Peppermint Stick, White Chocolate Macadamia, and Honey Salted Peanut flavors)
  • Dinner: my husband is the best and really loves cooking for me, especially now that I can eat a wider variety of food. We usually have chicken (yes, I check the thermometer every time) with either rice, pasta, or potatoes, and then a veggie like green beans, steamed broccoli, or corn (ugh, I know...I always say, "See ya tomorrow morning!" when I eat it, but it's so good). I'll occasionally eat fish, mac & cheese, and a veggie, or a grilled cheese with tomato soup (cramps and gassy poo the next morning), or pizza (2 slices of a certain kind only and a surefire 6 or 7 the next morning), or oatmeal (tons of gas and a super fluffy 6 the next morning) or Chinese (white rice with shrimp and broccoli). 
Day off:
  • Breakfast: honestly, I eat like crap on my days off. I feel like a rebel being able to eat however I want, but I usually just end up eating junk all day. I rarely have cereal for breakfast on my days off. I'll have a cookie or two, a slice of banana bread, a Poptart, nothing at all, a packet of peanut butter crackers, buttered (and sugared) toast, or whatever else I can scrounge up.
  • Lunch: almost always popcorn or nothing
  • Dinner: hubs is home by then and snaps me back into reality, luckily, because then I have work the next morning and, while my mistakes from earlier in the day have already caught up to me by then, my dinner mistakes would rear their ugly heads the next morning. We eat the same as above. 
We rarely go out because of my ever-changing triggers and the phobias. If we do, I pick the simplest thing on the menu like pasta and red sauce or a grilled cheese. In a restaurant setting, these things tend to upset my stomach more than when I eat them at home. I'm not sure if it's the anxiety of eating out that still gets to me- even though I don't often feel the need to rush home to my bathroom anymore- or if we've just perfected the ingredients since we only use certain brands at home that have been certified trigger-free.  As far as snacks, I eat those Austin cheese crackers with peanut butter, popcorn, (a certain brand of) cookies (that don't give me that awful feeling in my small intestines), trail mix (vigorously chewed), Rice Krispies, Special K pastry crisps, or yogurt.

When people (my family) see me eating snacks they always say, "Looks like you can eat anything you want now," like just because it's junk I'm cured. What they don't understand is that I eat it because I can. Because at some point it has entered my house, entered my mouth, and not exited my body, noisily and violently, in 30 minutes or less. I can't explain why certain foods that bothered me 10 years ago don't bother me today and vice versa. I just eat what I can and don't eat what I can't. So, while this definitely answers the question of what I'm eating now, it may be worthless to you. Every food I eat may be a trigger for you. It may be a trigger for me next week. Who knows? But, if that happens, I'll just cut it out and try something else because I refuse to go back to having a severely limited diet.

Saturday, March 5, 2016

I'm baaaaack

How embarrassing. The other week, my husband (yes, we're married now...and have been for over a year) mentioned that he couldn't believe I hadn't posted on here since August of 2014. I had no idea it had been that long!! It was somewhat of a planned hiatus, though, I just didn't mean for it to go on this long.

See, I had been feeling guilty each time I posted here. My daily half Imodium had me feeling so good and regular I felt like I couldn't say I had IBS anymore. And, because of that, I felt like a fake when I'd blog. Well, good news- I stopped my Imodium and definitely feel like I have the right to post again! 😩 I decided to stop it because A) there are no long-term studies to tell me whether it's safe or not, B) we are considering perhaps maybe possibly having kids and it's a pregnancy category C drug, C) my neck has been doing this weird stiff thing lately and occasionally twitches and D) I was hoping I didn't have IBS symptoms anymore.

I took my last tablet 30 days ago, and the loose stools came back immediately. I didn't even get a day to think, "Hmm maybe I'm going to stay normal!" And, let me tell ya, it is REALLY hard to hold myself back from going to get an Imodium when I have a particularly bad stool or when I'm about to go out/to work and I feel like I need to run back to the bathroom but can't. I've become so dependent on that stupid half tablet that I have no idea how I made it to the 30 day mark. Especially with the type 7 stools (Bristol stool scale) I was having day after day after day the first week or two.

However, I'm not back up to the 10+ stools a day that used to be my norm. Thank god for that. I'm still only having one stool a day, although it is definitely loose and unpleasant.  But the good thing is I'm not watching what I'm eating. Wait- that's a complete lie- I'm 100% positive I will watch what I eat for the rest of my life after the hell I've been through. What I meant to say is that I'm still having some fun foods. Like I can still eat (a slice or two) of pizza (with the grease dabbed off), the occasional cheese stick, and nuts (as long as I chew them well), among other tasty things without really paying for it. I do still get urgency after most meals, but I can usually wait it out. I feel like superwoman when I make it through that burning urge to sprint to the bathroom. I've decided I will not take Imodium again until I start to feel like I can't leave the house without getting nervous. I refuse to go back to that life. I'm still recovering from it socially and emotionally.

You're probably wondering how I went from 10+ stools a day pre-Imodium to only 1 stool a day post-Imodium, right? I sort of am too. But here's what I'm doing now: 1) fiber, 2) proper toileting techniques, and 3) exercise, yoga, and meditation.

For breakfast, I eat a bowl of Cheerios with a spoonful of wheat bran buds in it. Then I have a spoonful of applesauce. My doctor suggested these additions of fiber and also wanted me to drink a little prune juice as well, but I could not tolerate the taste. I was afraid of fiber in the past because I had tried it in the beginning and did not have a good experience with it. But this time it seems to be helping keep me regular. Hopefully, I can make some tweaks and it can help me have more formed stools.

As far as proper toileting techniques, I'm "forcing" myself to go every morning after I eat breakfast. In the past, I spent a lot of time in the bathroom. I was spending 30+ minutes in the bathroom every single time I'd go, and often times running right back in a second time if I didn't feel like I'd emptied completely. I'd have to get up painfully early just to give myself enough time to go to the bathroom. I'm down to 5 minutes, and I only give myself one try. Did you know there is a specific position you're supposed to poop in? I sure as hell didn't. Again, my doctor let me in on this secret. You're supposed to raise up your heels off the floor and lean slightly forward. Then you're supposed to do deep belly breaths to get going. Even though I have diarrhea-predominant IBS, I have always found it hard to go. I don't struggle to go now that I know how to go. As soon as I assume the position and start the belly breaths, boom- I'm going. I continue with the belly breaths until I feel like I've emptied enough and I'm good to go for the day. I do have some urgency throughout the day, especially after lunch, but I just push through it using the techniques I've learned now that I'm trying yoga/meditation out.

In addition to the weight training and elliptical running I'm doing, I also added yoga and meditation into my routine. I try to do the meditation every night before bed and a time or two during work. I find that I'm super tense all.the.time. I'll come home from work, go into the bathroom to wash my hands, look in the mirror and see how high my shoulders are. I lower them literally 3 inches when I force myself to relax. I'm just naturally wound super tight, which means I can get pretty worked up when I start to feel the urgent need to run to the bathroom. If this happens at work, I close my eyes and go to my happy place while taking deep belly breaths. If you've been reading my blog very long, you probably know (but have maybe forgotten since I've been MIA) that I'm a pretty bad germaphobe. Not wanting to use public bathrooms is also a huge motivator, but I often find that after that brief moment of meditation I don't feel the need to go anymore. A side note: I tried this in the past as a relaxation technique and found it hardly ever worked for me. I understand why now- meditation is pretty difficult and takes a lot of practice. If it doesn't work for you right away, don't give up. Make it a habit and keep working at it. I took me a good two weeks before I could do it well. If you need a hand to hold like I did in the beginning, try the "Stop, Breathe & Think" app. It rocks.

Ok, I don't wanna pull something by going too hard now that I'm trying to make a come back, so I'll stop here. I'm happy people are still finding my (very old) posts day after day and hope they're finding them helpful, but I will try to start posting regularly again. Hopefully there are still some of you out there reading this regularly that can help me stick to this goal because I really miss blogging!