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How I'm Handling My IBD One Month After Diagnosis

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I’ve always had a “jiffy tummy,” a “nervous belly.” It became somewhat of a small joke with those I was closest to. It was funny, because if a zombie apocalypse ever came, we all joked that we knew I’d be in a heap vomiting somewhere and would be the first out of the gang to get chomped on by a hoard.

A couple of years ago, I started a job I knew was affecting my health. Post-break up from an ex and not a great income gave way to my first very real experience of what has now been classified as inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).

I was in unbelievable amounts of pain and was passing bloody, mucous-filled stools at work, regularly. It was embarrassing. In a shared bathroom, with people who didn’t understand, they would openly say in an open-plan office, “Can’t people just hold it in until they get home? That’s gross.”

The answer to that is no. The only way I can describe it to people is the feeling when you have eaten something dodgy and you have such little control over your bowels that you know you shouldn’t leave the house. Yeah, it’s that. But it can last months and no one else can really see it.

I then got my next bout of illness this year. It felt familiar, the symptoms much the same. Vomiting, diarrhea, chronic fatigue. But I decided to go to the emergency room after a call to the NHS helpline who wanted to send me an ambulance. They referred me to my general practitioner, who very kindly organized an emergency referral.

Here I am, a few months later with a diagnosis. I have IBDU, or IBD (unclassified). This is a growing diagnosis and though I do have symptoms of colitis, my symptoms don’t always fall into one of the two categories.

I’ve been so lucky that my diagnosis was quick. It hasn’t affected too much of my bowels so far. The doctors seemed quite positive. I’ve read stories of those who have had a horrendous time with their IBD.

But I feel torn. A recent diagnosis has left me feeling both glad and sad. I’m glad for my diagnosis and the help I can now receive, both medically and from others who I can now talk to about it. But I now know I have a lifelong condition, one that has limited what I can do when it flares up.

I have, however, made it my aim to talk about it.

Most people know that I poo’d myself on the way to work not long ago because I just couldn’t hold it in long enough to make it to a toilet. Some laugh, some, I can tell, are completely grossed out. But I want to be open about it. If I can laugh about it sometimes, why can’t others? It takes the taboo away for me.

There have also been times that my illness has gotten me down. While waiting for a diagnosis and treatment, there have been times I’ve struggled to get out of bed, go for a walk. I’ve had hospital appointments and treatments that have worked wonders for my stomach but not my mental health. I’ve needed to hold the hands and lean on the shoulders of those I love a lot through it.

So right now, I’m just a mere month into an illness I’ve probably had longer than I ever knew. And though I am apprehensive about my future with this illness, I have to remind myself that I am in many ways lucky.

I will continue to talk about my bowel mishaps with people and joke when I can about it and I will continue to hold the hands of those I love when I have a flare up and can barely manage to stay awake for the day. I will strive to be healthy, and only let this limit me when it has to.

For anyone else who has recently been diagnosed, we’ve got this. And I swear, the second you decide to tell people you’ve ruined your knickers in public, everyone else’s stories start popping out of the woodwork and suddenly, you’re not alone.

Image via Thinkstock.

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Originally published: November 19, 2016
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