Thursday, 4 June 2015

Dealing with IBS and Anxiety





This is a personal post for me. But it is something that is a huge part of my life and I have to deal with it every single day. Some days are better than others, but on a whole, it will affect me in some way every day of my life. The term 'normal' in the quote is not one I would usually like to use. However, in my situation it is quite fitting. Most people I know can walk to the shops without mentally picturing where the nearest toilets are. They can go clubbing without crippling stomach ache resulting in having a rubbish night combined with anxiety and pain. Not having a stomach ache almost every night is what I would call normal. I, in this respect, am not normal. I am a long term sufferer of a condition called IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome) which, in turn, has made me more anxious and panicky as a person.


So what exactly is IBS and how does it affect your life? IBS can affect different people differently and it will be worse at certain times in a person's life. It can be caused by various factors but most notably, stress and diet. The symptoms include (which I can tell you are not very pleasant...) are severe stomach cramps, bloating and change in bowel habits (more advice and information on symptoms can be found on the page by the NHS HERE) There is no cure for this condition unfortunately, but there are some types of medication which may ease symptoms with some patients (none of which worked for me) and a change in diet can help control bad elements.



My IBS started when I was very young and I remember having various problems with it throughout the whole of school/college and a few doctors appointments. However, at this point, it caused me pain and stress, but it wasn't very severe. However, the significance of my condition was made clear to me in my second year of university. It was getting so bad that I was afraid to say yes to going out and doing fun things for fear of feeling ill and something bad happening. On a couple of occasions, it has been bad. And I was afraid of it happening again... so, I secluded myself. Feeling like I HAD to say no so that I didn't have to move myself out of my comfort zone in case my IBS played up whilst out in public. This led to me being a very anxious person, always worrying about what COULD happen. And when something did happen the anxiety would always make it 100 x worse. This was extremely frustrating, especially because I was in my second year of university and not experiencing all the fun opportunities offered to me. It also meant taking exams is doubly stressful, as I also have the stress of thinking about the exam and how my stomach will perform as well as my intellect... What annoys me as well is that it can come on so sudden. One minute I'll be feeling fine and happy and then BOOM onset stomach cramps and feeling absolutely dreadful making me panicky, heart racing, sweaty palms and I need to go home ASAP. It is so hard to describe this feeling to people and it always come at times when it's least wanted, when I'm nervous, excited or need to go somewhere in public. I did go to the doctors for a few months but they couldn't really do anything for me.



So, how have I 'overcome' this feeling of anxiety and spiral of forever being defeated by my IBS? I haven't. BUT there are ways to deal to live with it and keep it under control. First off looking at diet does help to control it. If I have pizza it's probably not best to go out drinking. So, watching your diet can definitely help push IBS under the carpet. As for my anxiety and the fear of not going out you just have to say yes and take the opportunities thrown at you else you'll never do anything. The worst that could happen is that you have a tough time feeling ill and have to go home. But at least you tried. Something that gave me confidence at being able to go out is Zoella's (yes Zoella, everyone and her dog has heard of her and how she is aimed at the age group of screaming teenage girls, but this post honestly changed my attitude to anxiety) post 'Just say Yes' (Read HERE) It really hits it home that you only live this life once and so if you shut yourself away and don't do anything then the opportunities will come fewer and fewer. You need to grab life by the balls and just try your best to do everything that life throws at you! Take small steps at a time and soon you will gain the confidence to do whatever you want! For me it started with just going out clubbing (and having a really great time!) to then plucking up the courage and going to Greece on a holiday with just me and my boyfriend. This was a big step for me and I had the best time with only a couple of occasions when feeling a bit dodgy.



The pain and anxiety haven't gone, and to be honest I don't ever think it will. But I am learning to live with it and just have to accept there will be tough times, but it's not the end of the world. They will pass and there will always be more good days then bad days overall. The best attitude to take is to accept all the opportunities offered to you and if the worst comes to the worst then at least you tried.



You will never have to think 'what if'.




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