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 :)