Life With IBS: I'll Take an Order of Fries and Imodium, Please


One of my many illnesses is irritable bowel syndrome, or IBS.  Everyone just says IBS, because, well, let’s be honest, who wants to say, “I have irritable bowel syndrome?!” When you go to work, your boss doesn’t likely have a big sign on him or her that says, “I had diarrhea four times this morning before I left the house and will most likely pee out my anus the rest of the day too.” Similarly, the moms and dads at school pick-up aren’t going to declare they’ve had constipation for a week and feel like they will puke their guts out if they don’t use the bathroom soon. I mean really. It’s hard enough to talk to your doctor about, let alone other people.

But, alas, a lot of us struggle.  I have for over 20 years, and have been diagnosed in three states. I’m not really sure why the doctors in these states didn’t take the word of the previous doctor, but they didn’t. It’s not like it’s a hot diagnosis everyone is talking about and dying to have. It’s hard enough to admit, just believe me.

That aside, I thought I would talk about some of the relatable issues that arise with IBS.

If you have IBS, you will likely relate – so, hopefully through the giggles there will be some “I’m not alone” moments too.

When you have that big project at work and the presentation is in 10 minutes, and you’re in the bathroom with severe diarrhea and you think, “Oh my God, not now! Not now!” You pray during the presentation that you don’t start leaking – especially since you wore that slick new ivory power suit.

How about that school field trip? The one with limited bathrooms, that’s guaranteed to be on the hottest day of the year. With port-a-potty like bathrooms and toilet paper that is so thin and rough, you can see through it. The kind that gets stuck to the sweat on your skin and makes it impossible to use on a 100 degree days with 200 percent humidity!? When you’re in charge of a bunch of little kids and can’t be in the bathroom alone for 20 minutes?!  There’s no slipping out to a bathroom far, far away on one of these days. Nope. Prayer, starvation, and lots of pre-emptive medication are your only hope.

Anxiety can fuel IBS symptoms.  So, the more anxious you are, the more severe the diarrhea. Then you freak out about the diarrhea, which continues to make it worse.

How many of you have that Pepto-Bismol bottle in your drawer at work, or in your purse? Or carry around the anti-diarrheal meds in your pocket? I’ve found myself chugging Pepto before a meeting at 8:00 a.m., but now I can’t because I’m allergic to it (lucky me). I should own stock in Tucks.

Or, when you cycle into constipation. You are starving so you keep eating and forget that you haven’t gone for, I don’t know, three days or a week or so. All of a sudden you aren’t hungry anymore, and you have a backache that feels like a kidney stone is coming. You can’t wrap your brain around what is happening to your body. Your jeans are tight. You look at food and want to vomit. Am I pregnant? Then it hits you.

Nope, just constipated. But boy, let me tell you it will feel like giving birth to a bowling ball when I finally have to go. Unless, you choose the laxative route. I’ll still give birth out the back end, but not to a bowling ball. Instead, the bowling ball will be more like a baseball with numerous waterfalls echoing behind it. Everyone has their chosen poison for this.

One brand will create doubled over stomach and intestinal cramps through the process, so you avoid that like the plague. Another promises to make things “softer,” but reality and previous experience tell you otherwise. Finally, you choose the one that requires you to drink sandy liquid, but eases the process a little. And, after your week of relief and healing from being Niagara Falls for a few weeks, you realize the cycle starts all over again.

You aren’t alone. Many more people struggle than would ever admit. And, while I joked about IBS, it’s really no joke. Getting the runs at the restaurant before the meal is even over isn’t anyone’s idea of fun. It’s painful, debilitating, and causes a plethora of other problems. It’s real.

And, to my fellow IBS warriors, I salute you. The next time you’re in that special aisle at the drug store, I hope you think of this article, get a little chuckle and salute back. You aren’t alone.

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Thinkstock Image By: Manuel-F-O

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