Sunday, October 27, 2013

Wedding Series: Snagging the guy...or more like keeping the guy around after you start talking about poop

I'm not sure whether or not I've talked much about my guy on here, but I figured it was the most logical place to start the wedding series. I get a lot of comments and emails about dating and finding a partner from my readers. I'd say you, as a group, are most worried first about how IBS is affecting your life negatively and second about finding someone who will love you and accept your condition.

Everyone always asks me what I recommend for finding the love of their life, and my answer is always the same. Um, just let it happen? It would be the same whether or not you had IBS because love is not something you can script; it really does just happen. The part I can talk about is how you keep your partner around after all the poop talk starts :)

I got lucky in many, many ways. I had been sick for as long as I could remember, but for some reason it all stopped in high school. When I met my guy, I was completely well. I was as normal as normal could be, and obviously that made things a lot easier in the beginning. We became best friends, eventually started dating, and then suddenly fell deeply in love. About 3 years after that, I got very, very sick. At that point there really was no turning back. He couldn't just be like, "Ew, you poop all the time and talk about it, so I'm leaving you." However, I feel like the same things we had to go through in the beginning apply to everyone, so I'm going to tell you how we were able to transform as a couple after IBS struck again, get over the awkward phase, and live happily ever after.

Poop is awkward. No one is born being comfortable talking about it because that's not how our society is built. Pooping is a very personal and private thing, and society expects you to keep it that way. But when you start dating someone, you start sharing things that are normally private. If you had a rough childhood, you can share that with your partner. If you are out and start feeling bored, you can whisper that to your partner and leave with them. There are certain things that become ok to share with a former stranger simply because you're together now. But not poop. It is NOT ok to talk about poop. So what happens when poop starts to rule your life? With IBS it becomes such a large part of your life, so how are you supposed to keep that private? How can you be expected to keep something like that from someone who spends a large part of their time with you and eventually lives with you? Or do you share it with them?

That's for you two to decide. Not everyone is alike, so it might not be something that you will ever talk about. Personally, having him allow me to talk about it when I need to has drastically improved my quality of life. If I had to keep everything that was happening to me private, I would still be incredibly depressed and feel alone, or worse. For us, sharing my IBS was the best thing for us and has actually brought us closer together.

If you read my post about being embarrassed by IBS, you should know that (I think) you should not be embarrassed about it. Nor should you allow other people to make you feel embarrassed about it. That goes for your partner. I would hope that whomever you choose to fall in love with accepts you, and if you choose to be open about your IBS, they should be accepting of that as well.

In the beginning, I started off taking things very slow. When I started noticing that my symptoms were coming back, I didn't really say anything. On the night I got food poisoning and my IBS was triggered to start back up, I didn't even share what was going on with him. There he was sleeping right next to me, and he didn't know then how sick I was feeling. He didn't know until I woke him up begging him to take me home. After that, if I didn't feel well I would just tell him I didn't feel like hanging out or that I had homework to get done. As I realized that my symptoms weren't going to go away, I didn't want to hide it as much anymore. I would tell him that my stomach hurt and that I needed to stay in. Luckily, he was more than happy to stay in with me. We ended up spending New Year's alone in my apartment where he made me something off the BRAT diet and we just talked all night.

It continued like that for a long time. From the beginning, I think he just thought that my food poisoning had lingered longer than it should have. Since the IBS symptoms had disappeared completely during high school, I didn't feel like I needed to tell anyone. After I realized my symptoms weren't going away, I decided to tell him about what I had dealt with as a kid and what I was dealing with now. I explained that it most likely wouldn't go away quickly and that I could be sick for a really long time. I told him I would need him to be patient with me but that I definitely didn't want to hold him back from going out with friends just because I wasn't feeling well. This is where I go back to talking about being lucky. He wasn't ok with that. He wanted to take care of me when I was sick instead of going out and partying. He was content just sitting at home with me, bringing me my medicine, and making sure I had my heating pad. Personally, I feel like hiding it from him would have made him think he was doing something wrong and I didn't want to hang out with him. Being open and telling him I was sick allowed him to realize that there was something external causing our relationship to change.

But you have to remember this was before I turned into what I am today: the girl who blogs about poop and isn't afraid to mention it in normal conversation. You also have to remember that we've been dating for 9 years a week from today. Our relationship has evolved slowly over that time, and he has slowly become more and more ok with my symptoms and talking about them. Right now, we talk about almost everything except shape and color. It has become a completely normal part of our relationship because it is something that affects my life so entirely. He knows that it's important to me, so it's important to him.

What I suggest is that you date like a normal person. Obviously you'll have to make some changes to accommodate your IBS. Find restaurants in your area that have a "safe" meal you can order when you go out, has clean bathrooms for you to use, and is within an acceptable distance from your house should you feel sick. Do some calming exercises before you go out to mentally prepare yourself to relax. Calming your nerves before a date is almost impossible, but just do everything you can do to make yourself feel comfortable while you're out. Bring all the medicine that you need and come up with an excuse should you have to leave early.

But most of all, don't sell yourself short. You are a good catch; your IBS doesn't change that. It doesn't make you gross or undesirable. Someone out there will love you, and, with time and understanding, will accept your condition as well. Once you find someone you want to be with, slowly introduce them to your IBS like I did. I wouldn't lay it all on them at once, but you need to make sure they're ok with your day to day limitations and that they will be for a long, long time. I worry every day whether or not my guy will eventually get tired of me holding him back from a "full" life since I'm stuck on the couch more often than most people. But I can't stress enough that you need to surround yourself with people who accept you, IBS and all. A lot of us have family members or friends that make us feel strange because of what has happened to us. You can't choose family, and a lot of times you can't kick one friend out of the group, but you can choose your mate. If you start dating someone and they're completely grossed out by your IBS, move along. If someone can't accept that you have a condition that affects your life, they're not worth your time.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Weddings and IBS Series

I don't know if I've mentioned it here, but I'm getting married!! I've been dating my now fiance for 9 years this November and we got engaged last December. As we're about a year away from our wedding, we're full-on wedding planning now.

From the moment I got sick, I was terrified about getting married and not for normal reasons. I was terrified that I'd be in the middle of my vows and suddenly have to run to the bathroom. Or that I'd be able to try on one dress before having to head home to the heating pad. Then it hit me the other day that other IBSers might wonder how someone would deal with all of the things that weddings bring and get through it without any major, wedding-stopping episodes.

So I'm going to start blogging about different experiences I'm having during the planning process and how I'm dealing with them. This will obviously be more helpful for the women since, well, I'm a woman, but let's face it- standing up in front of hundreds of people is anxiety-inducing in even a completely well person and will definitely fuel the IBS fire.

If there are any questions you have about specific parts of the process that I don't answer as we go through this series or anything you want to make sure I touch on before I really get blogging, let me know! Hope you guys find this useful :)

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Embarrassed by IBS

I used to be embarrassed by my IBS. If I was going through a rough patch where it was completely necessary to always have instant access to a bathroom, I would just stay at home. I couldn't fathom my friends knowing I was having stomach issues. If my stomach would make ridiculous noises, I would turn red and apologize profusely to anyone within range. I'd grin and eat whatever I was offered because I didn't want to have to answer questions about why I was refusing or make the host feel bad. In short, I was embarrassed by my IBS. If you have followed my blog for any length of time, you'll know that time is long gone. I share all :)

I grew up. I realized I don't choose to have this Syndrome. I mean, who in the hell would choose to give up their favorite foods or feel super sick when they cave and eat things they shouldn't?? Just as someone with any other sickness (cancer, diabetes) did not choose what they have, neither did we. Anyway, I came to accept that this had become a part of who I am, and, just like any of my other quirks, if people didn't like this part of me, too freakin bad. My IBS defines most of how I live my life; I cannot just hide it away to make it less uncomfortable for you.

That was until I started at this new store. I suddenly realized that very few people there knew what IBS was, and even fewer knew that I had it. Some of my techs found out about it when I was talking to them about whether or not I counsel patients about constipation when they pick up pain meds. My comment was, "Well, if they're on it long-term, I talk to them about it, but if they're on it for a few days, I don't. Not many people like talking about poop." Someone responded saying that no one likes to talk about poop. My response, of course, was, "Well I blog about it." Obviously, this left everyone there basically clearing out their ears wondering if they could have really just heard what came out of my mouth. Once I assured them that is what I actually said, they had to look up my site, and they didn't like what they saw. My IBS had make someone feel uncomfortable, and I just knew they were all judging me for it. It probably didn't help that one of the first posts they saw was a detailed description of how my mornings usually go, but still.

I know it's silly to be embarrassed by my IBS, but I got into a sweet spot where everyone in my life knew explicit details about my IBS and had come to terms with it. They accepted that me blogging about it was how I dealt with how singled out and lonely it makes me feel, and how I connected with other people like me. To them, it was part of knowing and loving Rachel. Now that I'm in a new place and have all of these new people with whom I interact, I don't know how to go back to not being embarrassed. I thought about just hiding the fact that I have IBS and trying to wiggle my way out of awkward situations (refusing food, etc), but I don't want to go back to living like that.

Yes, I talk about some graphic things on this blog, but the gruesome fact is that poop has ruined so many of our lives. Well, maybe not "ruined" for some of you, but most of us live our lives based on when we poop, what makes us poop, and figuring out how to change that and get back to normal. Talking about this on a public forum helps ME. And based on the amazing comments and emails I get from all of you, it helps you too. And that's why I put my embarrassment aside and talk about it as I would talk about it with my doctor, or fiance, or sister. Because just like poop, getting it all out just makes you feel better :) And joking around about it helps too.

Having a blog doesn't change the fact that I have IBS. It doesn't stop the urgency, doesn't quiet my stomach, and it sure as hell has not made it ok to eat pizza again, BUT I remember how lonely it was when this all started happening to me. I remember thinking that anything I put in my mouth might as well be poison because that's how it made me feel. I remembering avoiding anything but bread, rice or cereal and losing tons of weight because I didn't know what else to do and my doctor didn't know either. And then I found the IBS page, and I learned something about IBS. I started making a list of what my trigger foods were and what foods I could safely eat, I read comments from people who sounded just like me and struggled through the same things I struggled through, and I thought, "What if I just blogged about what's happening to me? What if I wrote everything I know about IBS in one spot so someone newly diagnosed with IBS has somewhere to start, someone who's on their side, and someone who knows what it feels like to have a broken body?" So I started blogging. And someone emailed me and thanked me, and it was all worth it. If this blog helps a single person on their path to health or makes then feel like someone understands them when no one else does, then it has done its job. And because I know it has, I can get over this small embarrassment of coworkers judging how I deal with my personal struggles. Because I know you people are out there, and that you get me. And that's what matters.

Monday, May 6, 2013

What I'm doing right now

A couple people have commented or emailed asking what I'm doing right now, so I thought I'd just go ahead and post about it.

Recently, I've been transitioning from being what they call a "floater" pharmacist to being in one store- my store, the one I've worked at as an intern for 5 years. I'm working under my mentor, and my hours are also getting shifted around, so it's causing some stress. Because of that, I've increased my daily dose of Imodium to a whole tablet at bedtime. Unfortunately, I've gotten pretty stopped up, so I quickly dropped back down to a half tablet at bedtime.

As a pharmacist, my life doesn't allow me to follow any type of diet. A lot of you have mentioned the FODMAP diet, but, honestly, I don't have time to figure that out right now. Along with still trying to get used to my schedule, we're also building a house right now which takes up a ton of my free time. When I work, I work from 8am to 10pm, and it's rare that I get to eat, let alone pee or sit or grab a sip of water. So any type of diet I would try would get screwed up every other day.

On my days off, I'm too exhausted from the day before and thinking about the next day of work to do anything other than pop a freezer meal in the microwave. My diet is pitiful. On my off days, I've been eating a bagel with peanut butter (for protein, so my blood sugar doesn't drop low) for breakfast, a snack for lunch, and a frozen Lean Cuisine meal for dinner. I of course have my safe Lean Cuisine meals- not all of them work for me, so I stick to 2-3 of them and repeat them day after day. On days that I work, I have the same breakfast and try to sneak in a protein bar and Rice Krispie bar (for a quick bit of sugar so I don't pass out) around 7pm when I start to feel faint, but I'm lucky if I get time for that.

This is killing me because I had gotten SO close to 140 pounds, which has been my goal since I got super sick after food poisoning 7 years ago. Now that I'm not able to eat hardly anything every other day, I'm dropping back down. Also, although I always thought that avoiding food would make me feel better when I was sick, I'm feeling worse and worse. I need to find some safe foods that I can take with me to work. Trying to eat while I know I'm going to be stuck at work for 10+ more hours is pretty terrifying.

So the answer to the question about what I'm doing right now, in a nutshell, is failing. It's mostly working- I haven't had a loose stool in a while, but that's mostly due to not eating very much and taking a higher dose of Imodium than I require. I've been bloated almost constantly, though, and it gets pretty painful somewhat often. And, of course, I'm just feeling weak and too skinny again. I've got to figure something out.

Do you guys have any ideas for safe, quick work foods- ones that I don't have to eat with my hands? (Remember, I'm a germaphobe who works in a pharmacy full of sick patients.) I'd love your input.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Spending my life in the bathroom

URGENCY, wake up out of a dead sleep, run to the bathroom, sit on the toilet for half an hour while nothing happens. Legs go numb, stand up, wash hands, URGENCY, sit back down, repeat.

Go down to eat breakfast, put bagel in toaster, URGENCY, try to hold it off til after breakfast, eat breakfast, go upstairs, sit on toilet for half an hour, poop one pebble, horrible cramps while everything readjusts.

Get finished getting ready to go to work, URGENCY, sit down on toilet, nothing-you're late for work now.

Get home from work, have a fairly quiet evening, get tired enough to go peacefully to bed, URGENCY, sit on toilet until you're sure you'll never walk again in hopes that you won't repeat this morning, nothing.

Go to sleep, URGENCY, wake up, repeat...over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over...until you give up.

Saturday, February 9, 2013


Having a significant other is great for many obvious reasons, but they are particularly useful when it comes to control over your mischievous urges.

Let me set this up for you: you just had a wonderful, small piece of a safe brand of pizza (if you're lucky enough to be at a place in your life where you can handle pizza), and you suddenly feel completely and utterly miserable. You're super bloated and might even be experiencing some urgency. You say, "Baby, don't let me eat a single thing for the rest of the night. Water only."

Now, fast forward a couple of hours. The bloating has dissipated and you're no longer having urgency; the threat of an episode is no more. You open up the pantry and see a snack that you really want, so you grab it and head out to the couch. Your significant other says, "Whoa whoa whoa. You said you couldn't eat anything else all night." You respond with, "Well, yeah, but I feel fine now!" They say, "Put it back."

Grrrr. But goodness how helpful that is! Because you just know that you'd be down for the count if you would have actually eaten the snack. So don't forget to ask your boo to help you stick to your guns and keep your stomach happier than it would have been if you had given into your urge to snack after an almost-episode. It might almost help them feel like they have some control over the thing that has indirectly changed their life too.

Friday, January 11, 2013


I've been a worrywart lately, and I wasn't really sure what I was so nervous about until now.

Obviously, building a house is a very stressful thing, but so far I've been having fun with it. It's given me something to do and, more importantly, something exciting to save for finally. The whole affording it thing is always in the back of my mind, but, for the most part, it hasn't been a huge issue so far. But today it finally hit me that the part of the building process that has me freaked out is not the building at all- it's what happens after the house is built. We move in.

Yay! Exciting! Right? Wrong!! Being someone who has lived their whole life with IBS, I have grown very accustomed to my routines. I believe they are what has given me a mostly normal and predictable life. I don't want to get sick? I eat the same meals over and over and over again until food disgusts me and then pick another. I have a bad day? I spend the entire day at home in my bed, steps away from the same, comfortable bathroom I've used for 5 years with my meds all in a row downstairs in the medicine cabinet.

To any normal person this would seem childish. They'd think, "You grow up and move on. New things happen and you adapt to them," but being the so not normal person I am, I'm worrying about how I'm going to feel in my new bathroom. Is there going to be room for my emergency meds in there? Am I going to feel cramped? Our bed is going to be flipped, so my side will now be facing away from the bathroom, so am I going to be able to make it to the bathroom quickly in the middle of the night? Where am I going to put my meds so that I can find them quickly? And then there is ALL of the other routines that I've set up for myself in our current house that don't have to do with IBS. Where will I set my stuff when I come home from work? Where will we pile up the mail? Where will the dogs leashes go? Will I get so stressed out about all of the changes and cause an IBS flare up?

This should be such an exciting time in my life and while it is in some respects, I just can't get this nagging feeling out of my brain that the first year or so is going to be super stressful while we try to make new routines for ourselves in our new space.

There is, of course, another side to the story. We're getting a new fridge that will have so much more room for fresh food, and we'll have plenty of room to cook now. This could mean more home-cooked meals tailored to my diet. The dogs will have a fenced backyard to get all of their energy out so they'll be less annoying inside with us.

I just can't wait for them to get started building the house so I can start to visualize where I'm going to put everything and how I'm going to do my daily routines in the new space. I keep saying that I wish we could just fast forward 6 months and have it be done so I can stop worrying about what may be, but I don't know if I'm ready. I need to break down all of my routines and see if I can make it work in the new house. I just hope my IBS is up for the challenge because it's going to be a stressful 6 months while I get it all figured out.

Have any of you ever dealt with a move or something where you had to switch up your normal routines? How did you deal with it?

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

I hate the winter

I was doing so well. If you follow my blog at all, you probably know that I've been a lucky girl as of late. I graduated, got engaged, and now we're building a house. Oh, and hey, my IBS has been in check too! Lots of things are finally going well for me.

But then winter happened, and I started struggling to stay well. I got a sinus infection and started feeling crummy here and there after I "recovered" from the infection. But this morning I woke up to a massive grumble in my stomach. Unfortunately, it was a grumble that I'm all too familiar with. And then the urgency hit me. Gahhh, here we go.

I spent the first two hours of my day in the bathroom, gobbling down Imodium and praying it would stop. I eventually dragged myself to my bed, flipped on the heating pad and fell asleep for a few hours. Good news is the urgency doesn't have any effect on you while you're unconscious. Luckily, when I woke up the Imodium had kicked in, but I was left with the cramping and general icky feeling.

After this little bout with my winter stomach bug, I'm thankful for a few things- Imodium, my heating pad and some wonderful coworkers who worked together to cover my 13 hour shift today. Can't imagine being stuck at work and having to run to the bathroom every 2 minutes. Let's hope this crap hits the road and is completely gone by tomorrow.