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A Day in My Life With Irritable Bowel Syndrome

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Over a year into living with a complicated chronic gastrointestinal illness, I’ve kind of got my own routine. I live my life somewhere between being bedridden and living life “normally.” I’m still learning what triggers my symptoms and regularly trying new treatments under new diagnoses. Every day brings different challenges, and I take them on the only way I can: one day at a time. This is what it looks like:

Alarm rings. Good morning.

But the only actual good thing about morning is the two minutes of symptom-free bliss I get before my body properly wakes up and starts misbehaving. Two minutes is up. Hello pain.


Why did I even set an alarm if I’m going to be in pain? Something about routine being good for your well-being. That’s what I tell myself anyway.

A lot of people with chronic gastrointestinal illness will say the same thing: mornings are hell. There’s just no way around them. You just grit your teeth and get up anyway.

Rolled out of bed. Time to dare breakfast. Yes, dare is the correct choice of word. Breakfast is my greatest test of the day. How well I cope with the first dose of food is usually a good indicator of whether I’ll have a good day or a bad day.

Two bites into my gluten-lactose-and-basically-anything-with-flavor-free breakfast and I already feel like I’m going to vomit. Throw in some anti-nausea pills with my morning meds to fix that up.

Halfway through breakfast is about all I can get before running to the bathroom. A good day I’d get through all my breakfast, a bad day I wouldn’t even get to breakfast.

This sets the tone for my day.

I’m already exhausted. My abdominal pain is in full force today. There’s nothing I can do except lie back down for an hour or so. This usually gives my system time to settle.

It’s usually in this time I decide what I think I can handle for the day.

On a good day I’m preparing my study, getting ahead on my freelance work and texting a friend to see if they’re free to hang. On a bad day I’m canceling plans, extending work deadlines and just hoping my lecturer won’t mind I’ve missed another class.

Today I think I can handle some study and a short walk with a friend.

By midday I’ve had three more bathroom visits but my nausea is down and my pain has settled. This is where the productive part of my day usually starts.

Got some study done, but no way near as much as I needed to. But I’m used to that.

I can get more calories down for lunch and have a bit more energy, but around mid-afternoon fatigue has set in and I need a break. Sometimes a break ends up being the rest of the day. Nap. Netflix. More meds. Nap.

Changed my plans of a walk to just a quick visit from a friend. I’m just too tired, but at least something is better than nothing.

It’s hard seeing a friend when you’re not doing so well. I’m so glad to see a familiar face, but feeling down and envious of the things they can do in their life with full health. They’ve offered to help out, but what can they really do? The support is definitely appreciated though.

Dinnertime is coming and I’m racking my brain thinking what I can possibly feed myself that won’t cause me to get sick. Dinner is my best bet at getting a proper meal down, but if there’s something in there that might trigger my symptoms, I can say goodbye to the next few days of productivity.

My pain is always worse in the evenings so I add some extra painkillers to my evening meds. All that’s left to do is put my feet up and try to rest. I say try because I really don’t want to rest. I’d like to be out playing sports, hanging out with friends, exploring the city – basically anything and everything else.

But for now, there’s no other options and if I want a chance at functioning tomorrow, it’s time to rest. The sedating effect of my medication means sleep isn’t a huge problem.

I tell myself I’m proud I got through another hard day and hope that one day, tomorrow will be just a little less challenging.

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Thinkstock photo via Suriko.

Originally published: September 7, 2017
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