Thursday, November 19, 2009

Rough Week So Far

Like the title says, it's been a rough week so far. I've become so used to gliding through my weeks, that I wasn't really prepared for a hiccup. I hadn't had a bad episode in a long time, and when it happened on Monday, I was really surprised. When I would have episodes regularly before, I'd be incredibly prepared. I'd have all my drugs ready and waiting, placed at different spots around the house so I could act no matter where I happened to be when it hit. Even thought I still carry Pepto, GasX and Immodium around with me everywhere I go, I haven't used them in months (knock on wood).

Well, I guess that's not true- I do use GasX on a regular basis. That seems to be the one symptom I can't get to go away for more than a day. I just mean that I haven't had to depend on my drugs for a while. It used to be that if I ever found myself away from the house without my bag, I'd freak. Now I calm myself and realize that I'm fine without them.

When it happened this time, I was luckily at home. All of my drugs were at my fingertips, should I need to use them. But I learned in the past that using any of them usually meant a vicious cycle. I'd have diarrhea and instantly take Immodium. The result? I'd end up with slight constipation for a week. I'm slower to grab for that one now because then I'd start to bounce back and forth from diarrhea to constipation and that does not make for a happy Rachel.

Even though wasn't really ready for an episode to strike again, I think I was almost expecting it. I have just been feeling a little run down lately and have been really stressed thanks to a few test grades. That combination always meant an episode would be on its way, ready to take advantage of me in my already run down state. I just wish that this one had been a little bit nicer. I think my IBS was mad at me for forgetting about it. ;)

In addition to the IBS, I also have had a migraine all week. It just went away earlier today. I don't know how many of you IBS'ers have migraines along with your IBS, but it is not fun at all. The migraines are a pretty recent development for me- I started getting them about a year ago and they have become pretty regular. Since I'm a little put off by doctors, I haven't had it checked out. I think it could be related to hormones since they come with my period's beginning and again when it ends, but they also seem to be correlated to IBS episodes. If I ever have an episode, I usually get a migraine. My guess is that it's probably because when I have an episode, I tend to avoid food for a bit while my body resets itself. No food=headache, and in my case, a migraine.

Whatever the cause, it has made for one miserable, painful week and I can't wait for it to end!

Monday, November 16, 2009

A Flashback to the Past

I have been so lucky in the past year or so. Too lucky. So lucky I almost feel like I'm running out of luck. About a year ago, my symptoms quickly started to vanish. As I would try new foods, I found that almost none of them brought on symptoms that they had days or weeks before. I found myself spending less time in the bathroom or bed, and more time out doing things I actually wanted to be doing. I felt guilty for that. I still do.

When I say, "I have IBS" now, I feel like I'm a bad person. The IBS I have now is nothing compared to what I had over a year ago. This is a joke compared to that. I still experience flashbacks, or relapses, to those horrible days and exhausting symptoms, but I hardly ever have the urgency, my stools are perfect now, I go weeks without the pain, and I am eating closer to a normal diet. I have PIZZA about two times a week. PIZZA! Two years ago, I never thought I'd taste it again. Granted, it's the freezer kind which is much more predictable in terms of ingredients and fat content, but I still never believed I'd be to this point.

With that said, something happened today. At lunchtime, I was making a turkey sandwich, but when I pulled the turkey out of the package, I noticed there was something that looked like a fingernail in the middle of each of the slices. I'm sure it was just a piece of cartilage or bone from the turkey, but I couldn't determine exactly what it was or be ok with eating it. So I threw the sandwich away. I was upset after that because I had been looking forward to having it. When I get upset about a meal going awry, I tend to console myself by eating junk food. I know this makes absolutely no sense whatsoever, but it's what I do. When I get stressed, I turn to food. When I'm stressed and eat the wrong food, I get sick. My logic defies me. Anyway, when I say junk food remember- I mean junk food that has received the "Rachel Seal of Approval." These are foods I've tested out and made sure that they don't make me sick.

But tonight, I picked two things that had been sitting in my pantry for a while. And I also went a little overboard. I had a stressful day today between school and Koopa acting like a nut, so I believe that contributed to it quite a bit. So now I'm laying in bed, unable to do anything except blog and try to focus on computer-based homework. Koopa is downstairs and his chain is jingling a ton which means he is probably causing even more of a headache. Alexey is at work, so I'm the only one who can deal with it. But I can't.

I feel absolutely worthless, but I can't do a damn thing to fix it. I have to sit here with my heating pad and be ready to run to the bathroom. No matter how guilty I have felt lately for having an "easier" form of IBS for the past year, I would never want to revert to my days being spent in bed next to the bathroom. This is torture. As I lay here, all I can think about is how much I want to be out of bed doing this or that. And it leaves me no choice but to think about things I don't want to think about. Like, "what if I never get rid of this? What if it sticks around for my whole life?" Or "this is going to keep me from having kids."

I'll have to save expanding that last thought for a later post because this one is already getting pretty long. I just know that I do not miss feeling like this at all.

Here's to heating pads that make it "bearable" and kitties that lounge in bed with you. :)

Saturday, November 14, 2009

For My Non-IBS'er Readers

Before I really get started on this blog, I want to give you all a fair warning. We IBS'ers don't mind talking about our poop. Most of us have absolutely no problem talking openly about our symptoms. I am not going to hold back on this blog since it's only about IBS. If you read this blog and don't have IBS, you will most likely be grossed out or think I've crossed the line many times.

That's all I wanted to say- you all have been warned! :)

Thursday, November 12, 2009

My Life with IBS

A friend was helping me think of blog ideas, and he asked me to write this one. He wanted to know how my perspective on life has changed with IBS.

I'll start out by giving you a little background info. I was diagnosed in 2nd grade with IBS after undergoing months and months of tests. I visited doctor after doctor, but none of them could figure out why I was having stomach cramps, intense gut pain, and abnormal stools. I also couldn't eat what my sisters could without having problems. This was when my view of the world began to change.

With IBS, it is very common to have what I call an "episode" when I get nervous or stressed. I remember, on multiple occasions, being at an amusement park about to get on a scary ride and I had to drag my mom to the bathroom with me. Having two younger sisters, I got a ton of crap for this because when I didn't feel good, they had to leave. I felt absolutely horrible causing them to miss out, but they didn't know that. They usually would tell me they thought I was making it up. When I was only 7 years old, I began to realize that you can't count on family for everything.

I also realized that no matter how good of a person you are, you will always have to prove yourself. In 2nd grade, my stomach pains got so bad that I couldn't stand it. I would literally have to go to the nurse every day and lay down until it passed. After a few weeks of this my 2nd grade teacher BANNED me from going to the nurse's office. Most of you don't know me personally, but I would never do something like skipping class by going to the nurse's office. I pride myself on my morals, even way back then I did. I was heartbroken when Mrs. Marshall didn't believe that I actually needed to be in the nurse's office.

When I think back to that first wave of IBS, I think it's odd that my episodes never caused me to be afraid of food. Back then, my symptoms were mostly pain and the cramping, so I never quite associated the food with the problem. I should explain something- for a lot of people IBS comes in waves. They will have symptoms for a while, it will fade away, something will trigger another wave, and the IBS symptoms come back. For me, the incident that triggered my second wave was Buffalo Wild Wings. I had been eating it weekly (every Tuesday) for a really long time. One night after eating out with a bunch of friends, I spent the most miserable night of my life dealing with food poisoning.

After that night, I never thought it would lead to what it did. I thought that I would regain my strength and fill back up with fluids and I would be fine. But in the following week, I started to notice that things were very, very different before. The question that I was most asked in the period between the two waves was, "How the heck to you eat like that and stay so skinny?!" My family is blessed with skinny genes. Well, until a certain age. My metabolism was crazy fast and I could literally (and did) eat absolutely anything I wanted. So imagine my surprise when I ate a piece of pizza and felt sick. I don't want to make this a gross post, so when I say "I felt sick" just know that it was not pleasant and it caused me to have to spend whole days in bed/the bathroom. Side note: I have a phobia of vomit, so I have been so very lucky to not have that be one of my symptoms.

Anyway, my health has really gone downhill since that night at BWW. But I'm not talking about my health in this one, I'm talking about how it changed my perspective on life. Since this one started I have devolved into a messed up person (in my opinion). I look at labels of almost all the new food I buy to make sure it's not expired. I eat a small selection of foods that I know for sure don't make me sick. If a new food makes me sick, I avoid it for weeks or months. I hate doctors with a passion. Luckily, I have been able to salvage my professional relationship with them as a future pharmacist, but as a patient I avoid them. I think that they are too busy and don't spend enough time really working with their patients to figure out what's wrong.

When I say "I have IBS," I say that because all the doctors I went to couldn't figure out what was wrong with me. I went through test after test (even woke up halfway through my endoscopy), but they never could find anything too out of the ordinary with me. I do not expect doctors to be God. They don't know they answers to every problem, but I've had so many doctors do a test or two and say, "Well, we didn't find anything wrong, so it's probably just IBS." JUST IBS?!?! Do you know what it's like to live day to day wondering if what you put in your body is going to make you land in bed or the bathroom for the rest of the day. Do you know what it's like to dread 6pm because you'll have to decide yet again which one you want- spaghetti, cereal, oatmeal, spaghettios, rice or a turkey sandwich??? I can, and have many times, written down a list of what foods I can eat with 100% knowledge that I will not have a reaction to them. I HATE food now. I hate that I have to worry about what I'm eating, I hate that people see how thin I am and automatically assume I'm anorexic (luckily my weight is shooting back up so I don't have to deal with this as much), I hate that my boyfriend and I have stopped our weekly dinner dates because of this, I hate that my family constantly offers me food they know I can't have, and most of all I hate feeling like a freak.

Think of how much of your life revolves around food. When you go out with friends, where do you go? To the movies ("why can't you have popcorn?"), to a restaurant ("why can't you eat?"), to a bar ("why aren't you drinking?"- yes, I have to avoid alcohol, yet another thing I'm not amused by), to hang out at there house ("what do you want to eat?"). People give me funny looks when a teacher sends around a bag of candy and I pass it up. At work, people bring brownies and cookies they made all the time. "Hey there are cookies in the back, go get one." Once again, I get funny looks when I say, "Oh, no thanks." My point here is that almost everything we do involves food. When you are constantly turning down food, people start to assume. And they always assume the worst. They don't even try to understand that when someone offers me food, I don't see something yummy- I see a potential day wasted away laying in bed sick.

I haven't only changed into someone who is afraid of food, it has also affected my social life. Not only do I avoid any type of social gathering that involves food, I avoid pretty much everything. Now that this wave of IBS is going on almost 3 years now, it has seemed to started fading away, so I'm not as bad as I used to be. I used to refuse to ride in a car with anyone. No matter how far away we were going, I'd always drive separately. I wanted to ensure that if I started feeling sick (food isn't the only trigger), I'd be able to leave without dragging others with me or letting them know what was happening. Wherever I went, I had to make sure there was a bathroom I'd be able to use. If I didn't know where the bathroom was at a place, I wouldn't go. I usually just wouldn't go anyway. I spent so much of my time after that incident at BWW sick. It affected my study time, my relationship, my health, my everything.

IBS has morphed my life into something I don't like. I've spent the last 3 years researching, trying to figure out the right foods to eat to minimize symptoms, how to destress, I even read books detailing apparent IBS "cures." I'm doing better now, and trying to relearn how to be social. I try to slowly introduce new foods into my diet to see if I'm still sensitive to them. I relapse every now and then, but not near as often. The hardest part now seems to be teaching myself how to not be afraid of so many things- food is not as much of an enemy anymore, I can go out into public and make it back home just fine, I'm even trying to convince myself that doctors do want to help you. I don't know how much of a glimpse of the "IBS perspective" I've given you, but I hope that you'll realize that when people say they have IBS, it means so much more than that. They are fighting a silent battle and they are most likely alone.

Even though about 15% of the population has IBS, each of us experiences a different form of it. I've met many people in my life with IBS, but none of them have the same symptoms I do. That does not mean it's worse than having diabetes or something where there are very defined and common symptoms, it just means that no one really quite gets what I deal with. To some people, I may just look like a freak that needs a lot of help, but just like someone with cancer- I can't help that this happened to me nor can I change how my body reacts to the food I put in it. I can only try to avoid the symptoms and rejoice when I go without them for a while.

If you know anyone with IBS, I hope that you see them in a different light after this. And please, PLEASE no jokes about irritable bowel?

Want to know a little more about IBS? Here's the Wikipedia link.