Thursday, August 26, 2010

New post!

**Please forgive my grammar/spelling/form...I haven't written for a LONG time**

Something happened a couple of weeks ago that was so exciting...a reader emailed me! I don't have the typical IBS blog. I don't offer you guys very much advice or give you awesome recipes to use like this blog. I mostly just blog about my life and experiences in the hope that someone out there reads it and thinks, "Holy crap! I thought I was the only one who felt that way!" I try to be extremely open & not hold anything back. Anyway, my point is that I'm happy that someone finally read this thing and found they could relate. I really like hearing from readers and other people with IBS.

There are so many of us out there, but very few of us are comfortable enough to really share what's going on with our health. Even though we all have different symptoms, we can all relate.  We're like the depression of GI diseases. Get what I mean? A lot of people didn't used to believe that depression was a legit disease. They thought it was all in their head- that there wasn't a physiological cause for it. Since researchers haven't found a physiological cause for IBS, a lot of people think it's just in our head also or that we're just using it as an excuse.

In my case, I've had a hard time getting my family and acquaintances to believe me. Up until about a year ago I think they actually believed I was anorexic. Because they can't imagine food affecting someone the way it affects me, I had to be anorexic. Why else would anyone avoid food? As for people that are pretty much strangers to me- they feel like they can say whatever they want. (If you haven't read the long version of my skinny rant, click here.) Over the summer I had an internship at a hospital and had one of the craziest things said to me. One of the techs at the hospital actually asked me how I make myself vomit. I just stood there for a second trying to piece together some type of response. All I could get out was, "WHAT?!" His response, "Well you're bulimic, so how do you do it?" I told him I was NOT bulimic, and he said, "Ok, well anorexic then. Whatever." I was fuming mad...I mean so.freaking.mad. Even after I explained why I'm so skinny, he still acted like he didn't believe me.

Now I know that IBS is not as serious as, say, cancer. From what I know, it's not life threatening. However, that does not mean that it's not life altering or that it doesn't seriously decrease my quality of life. A teacher of mine recently suggested that I get in touch with the Service for Students with Disabilities. He suggested this because I had to miss a couple of in class assignment due to being sick and stuck in the bathroom. At first I was completely stunned. Disabled? Me?

When I think of a disabled person, I think of someone without a leg, or someone with a speech disability. I definitely don't think of able-bodied me. But when I started reading through the information on their website, I realized something...and I'm not sure how I feel about it. I am disabled. I have a disease that holds me back from doing things that normal, healthy people can do. Things like getting out of bed the morning after having a slice of pizza and being able to get to class for a test. Or something fun like going on a class float trip.

Having IBS is not having the occasional upset stomach. That happens to normal, healthy people. What happens to us is not normal. We have a disease. I used to back down and say, "Well I have a syndrome...they don't really know what it is." You know what would happen after that? People would respond with, "Oh yeah, that happens to me all the time. It's the fast food curse." While I don't want to sound uppity and respond with, "You have no idea what this is like," that's what I feel like saying. People without IBS don't go around with constant cramps in their stomach, don't get trapped in the bathroom when even loperamide doesn't work, and they don't have to avoid over 1/2 of the foods that make up a normal diet just to feel somewhat like a normal person. They don't avoid going to restaurants. They go out and drink on the weekends. They definitely don't sit around thinking about how they're going to make the word "diarrhea" as socially acceptable as vomit. They eat salad. They eat nuts. They don't have to plan out trips depending on where bathrooms are. What I have is a disease, and I won't deny that ever again.

Scientists haven't figured out what causes IBS (yet), but I'm positive that they will someday. They will find a physiological cause. I even think that IBS will lose it's name and be defined as a set of more descriptive diseases with some common thread. My hope (goal, even) is that people will recognize it as a serious illness even before they find the cause. Hell, if I can make 100 more people realize that it's not ok to laugh and ask, "Your bowels are irritable?!" when I tell them I have Irritable Bowel Syndrome, I will feel like I've accomplished something.

What I ask of you, reader(s?), is to not be afraid to tell people what having IBS is like. Maybe some of you don't feel as strongly as I do, and you're not sure it's a disease. That's fine. But try to help others understand what we have to go through. Don't take the easy way out and say, "I have a tummy ache." You don't have to tell them that you had uncontrollable, raging diarrhea last night, but at least try to explain it in a slightly more detailed manner so that they can see that's it's something real and something that seriously affects your life. No one else is going to stand up for us and get the ball rolling with IBS research if we're not going to stand behind them. I can't be the only one who thinks it's crazy that after all these years they still have no idea what IBS really is...


  1. Hey Rachel,

    I believe I was your mystery e-mailer. Just wanted to say glad to see you're blogging again at the moment and that you've been feeling well! I thought you may have stopped writing your blog but I'll be checking it regularly again.


  2. My sister has been dealing with this for the past 2 years and people really have no idea just how much of an issue it really is. It totally changes your life! She has had to deal with kids in high school saying she is anorexic as well. She is on cross country and track and it has GREATLY inhibited that experience for her. I really hope they figure it out sooner then later so they can then work on a way to help your guys' symptoms a lot better!