So, with April being IBS Awareness Month, I’ve been talking about (or what many people would argue is oversharing) how my little bitch of a digestive system works. For those that haven’t been enjoying this kind of quality content, you’ll be pleased to know that this is my final poo-related post for the time being. Last time, I spoke about my A to Z of IBS, in an attempt to demonstrate how it affects multiple aspects of my life, and today I want to talk a little bit more about certain situations that it just absolutely loves to ruin.
Again, for those who are sitting here thinking I need to keep this sort of (literal) shit private, you are the exact reason I’m doing this. I want to talk about this embarrassing AF illness that so many of us have. By talking about it, we can reduce the stigma around it, and maybe even encourage people who are experiencing symptoms to visit their GP. Not only that, but I want anyone else out there struggling with IBS to know they’re not alone. I feel your pain, and I hope that this post is something you can relate to, in the most humorous way possible. Those who know me know that humour is one of the main ways I deal with my mental health problems, so what better way to deal with a chronic illness involving poo? So, for one final time this IBS Awareness Month, let’s have a good old chat about poo.
If you haven’t guessed already what I’ll be talking about in this post, I can’t help you. Maybe you should leave.
1: Eating in Restaurants
Bloody hell. Eating in restaurants is one of those things that so many people enjoy every single day – or rather, they did, pre Covid. However, when you have IBS, the idea of eating in a restaurant is a terrifying one. Where do I start?
- Scouring the menu for dishes that won’t rip the shit (literally) out of your intestines.
- Needing to know where the toilets are at all times.
- The fear of going to a restaurant you’ve never been to before.
- The worry that it’ll be a waste of money if you don’t eat the whole meal – even more awkward if someone else is paying.
2: Eating at Someone’s House
It’s a similar one. Yes, you’ve not got the worry of it being a waste of your money if you don’t eat it, but you’ve got the worry of offending whoever the hell has cooked you the meal. It’s a catch-22 – if you don’t eat it, you run the risk of offending them. If you do, you run the risk of your butt exploding, more than likely in their bathroom. No one likes to be remembered as the guest who destroyed your friend’s toilet.
3: Going Literally Anywhere Outside Your House
Day trips. Holidays. Other people’s houses. You can’t go anywhere without the immediate need to know not only where the toilets are, but also how clean they are, how private they are, whether other people can hear you in there, and my personal favourite, whether there’s the means (bleach, air freshener, at the very least a decent flush on the thing) to hide the fact you’re making it inhabitable for the next poor sod that goes in there.
4: Travelling Abroad
IBS is a fear that hangs over me whenever I go on holiday. The idea of sitting on a plane for a long period of time, eating new foods and drinking the water all fill me with dread. I won’t eat salads, I’ll send drinks back if they have ice in them. I’ll even go as far as using bottled water when I brush my teeth because I’m so scared the water will make me sick. Not even in the higher risk countries like Mexico or India – literally places like Spain and Portugal, where most people are fine. I’d love to go on a trip to New York someday, but if I’m completely honest, the idea of a long haul flight and the possibility I probably will have to use a plane toilet at some point terrifies me. “Yeah but Ames, you might not need a poo while you’re on the plane” – you say that, but the anxiety I will inevitably experience in the run up to the flight will ensure that there is a 99% I will most definitely need to crap on that plane.
5: Eating a Big Meal
It doesn’t even have to be in a restaurant or at someone else’s house – sometimes your digestive system can betray you even in the comfort of your own home. All it takes is a slightly larger than usual meal.
6: Going to the Bathroom in General Being Dramatic AF
I envy the people that can go to the bathroom, have a slightly less-than-normal BM and carry on with their day afterwards. In my situation, it becomes painfully anxiety riddled very quickly. Such a thing can kick my anxiety, OCD and emetophobia into action, resulting in these thoughts, among others:
- Oh shit, I’m ill.
- Don’t be stupid. You’re not ill.
- Maybe I’m getting ill?
- What did I eat?
- Have I been near anyone who’s ill?
- I DID get a bit stressed the other day…maybe it’s just anxiety?
- Or I could be ill.
- What’s wrong with me?
- I bet the colonoscopy didn’t pick something up.
- Maybe I’m dying.
- I’m definitely dying.
- Actually no, It’s just a flare.
- What if it lasts for days?
- I best cancel EVERYTHING for the next few days.
- Now I feel sick (99% anxiety related) – maybe I AM ill.
- What can I be sick into if I need to?
- If I’m ill this bathroom will never feel clean ever again.
- Don’t be stupid, it’s just a flare.
- BUT WHY DO I FLARE ALL THE FUCKING TIME?
- I’m just going to quit eating.
Guess what? It’s a fucking IBS flare hun. It happens at least once a week. Following the incident and these thoughts, you may as well write the rest of the day off. Not only do I feel (literally) like crap, but I’m now petrified it’ll happen again.
7: Whenever Someone Suggests Going For Food
I love making plans to meet up with friends, but the second someone says “shall we go for food?” I’m filled with dread. Nibbles are fine. But an actual meal beforehand? How do I put it politely that it’s not that I don’t want to eat with you, it’s that I’m terrified I will shit myself in front of you afterwards. Let’s just drink on an empty stomach, kay?
8: When You’re in a Rush
I hate being late to stuff, but on the occasions that I am, you can bet your powdered bottom that my IBS will punish me for it. I will literally be locking my front door when my stomach says “Actually, no.” And of course in these moments, it’s not a situation you can ignore. So of course you go back inside, do your business, and then you’re even later. As a result, I’ll be extra stressed about being late, meaning my OCD is triggered, causing me to worry about if I left the taps running, if I locked the front door, or my personal favourite – did I wash my hands? Mate, you have contamination OCD, you washed your fucking hands. Multiple times. You’re fine. Funnily enough, it doesn’t listen.
9: Looking and Feeling Attractive
There are rare AF situations when I’ve been feeling how I look. My face looks moderately okay and my outfit looks alright (that’s about as good as it gets in my mind). I feel semi attractive. I think that yeah, you can maybe see what my husband was on about when they said I look pretty. Then, all of a sudden, my IBS goes AHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA and I (for want of a better phrase) need to take a horrible crap. Fast forward to however-long-it-takes later, when I’m a sweaty, bloated, mess and begging him to take the free pass I’m offering him. We’ve all been there, right? Right…?
Well, that took a turn. If you suffer from IBS yourself, I hope that in some way, you found this post relatable. If you don’t have IBS, then I hope you enjoyed a snippet of what it’s like being me. Again, I’m not doing this because I get off on telling the internet about my digestive habits, I’m doing it to raise some awareness of this little bitch of an illness. IBS is so much more than having a sensitive stomach, and it can affect so much more of people’s lives than you realise. Yes, it’s not exactly a pleasant topic to talk about, but by doing so, we can reduce the embarrassment around it. Remember, if you’re experiencing any digestive symptoms that are worrying you, or you’ve noticed any changes in your bowel habits, it’s always a good idea to pop and see your GP to get it checked. Don’t be embarrassed, they’ve seen it all before! As JD from Scrubs says…