I sincerely apologize for my disappearance with regards to these posts over the last few weeks, but in among exam revision and making sure I meet all the deadlines for my course – it hasn’t left much time to do anything else, so blogging has taken a back seat. And without wanting to jinx anything and say too much, it hasn’t just been the blogging that has faded into the background. My IBS has almost ‘gone’ too. Without using too many superlatives and claiming ‘it’s a miracle’, I have had some significant improvements over the past month which have reiterated that it IS possible to eliminate symptoms and to feel better again – we all just have to get through the hard parts and find a solution.
I know from personal experience, that IBS is one of those things that comes and goes as it pleases. Even if you’re not feeling overly stressed (usually mine flares up after Christmas – could it be linked to all the heavy eating?), it can creep up on you and leave you feeling disgusting for weeks, in my case months – but with a little perseverance and a little trial and error, you can minimise those symptoms and have you feeling back to normal again. It’s all too easy to be positive when you’re not suffering – I know, and in the the throws of IBS – nothing seems to work, but the key is sticking at something and learning how to manage yourself at your worst – so that anything better than that, is easy for you to handle.
My grappling stomach pains have almost gone, in fact I can’t remember the last time I suffered from a bad attack – for which peppermint tea, bed and a bottle water bottle were the only remedies. I no longer spend an age in the bathroom (TMI) and I seem to complain ‘agh, my stomach hurts’ far less frequently. Of course, I’ll never have a ‘normal’ stomach in my opinion – because my digestive system, like others with IBS, is more sensitive and prone to upset than your average person, but a life without all those horrible symptoms is more than enough for me.
Although I’ve got through the worst of it (hopefully) and am happy with where I’m at now, I know that some point in the future – the symptoms will return (ever the optimist), it’s just a case of knowing how to manage it when it does come back. A constant for me throughout the ‘recovery’ was of course Symprove, which although I am being provided on a complimentary basis – and initially I was a little cynical and unsure of it’s benefits, I do believe has been the lifeblood of the recovery process. Re-storing and re-setting my gut flora balance (which may have been irritated due to long term use of antibiotics) seemed a little far fetched at first, but works wonders both in terms of your health – and your IBS. Again, I don’t want to jinx anything – but I haven’t had one single cold/flu bout since starting to take Symprove on a daily basis (5 mins before breakfast), which considering I used to suffer from one every 2-3 weeks (no, I’m being honest), is a breakthrough.
Similarly, as soppy as it sounds – writing about my journey, although extremely nerve wracking at first, has also been therapeutic and has definitely helped with regards to my overall awareness of having IBS – and being in public. When you have something like IBS, which can cause anxiety and depression – it’s all too easy to shut yourself off and not get involved in things – which I admit to doing, however when your symptoms start to ease up, it’s like the clouds have been pushed to the side and you can see the blue sky again clearly. You know that the blue sky is up there all along, but there are hurdles and bumps first. You will get there though.
I have had over 1000 comments, tweets and emails from people all over the world – who are suffering from IBS themselves, know someone that is – or researching it. Some of the comments have been so heartfelt and kind, and it means the world to me that people are comfortable to open up to me and give me a bit of background about their experience. I am really sorry if I haven’t replied to your comment, as the last few weeks have been very hectic (however, I’ve just replied to lots – so double check on yours) however if you are ever in need of a little boost, support or advice. I’m no expert – but sometimes talking to someone who KNOWS what you’re going through – and isn’t just a doctor giving you the same old generic response (and printing you out a leaflet on IBS), can be the push in the right direction that we need. IBS, as a condition is still relatively unknown in the world of science. No-one knows what causes is, or what cures it. But until they do, I think it’s worth bearing in mind that it is manageable. And that you’re not alone.
You’ve all done an amazing job in helping me to spread the word about IBS and get people talking about it – and I’d love to continue on this path! I had a little brainstorm about ideas and thought about starting a Facebook group – for those who would like to talk to other like-minded IBS sufferers in real time and post tips, tricks and support. It would be almost like a forum, but without the faceless nature of it. Real people, talking to real people. If you’d be interested in joining this. Please leave your email address and name below – and I will email over information when the group is set up. Obviously if there’s only one or two of you, it might be better for us to email – but if there’s ten or more, a Facebook group would be the best option. I am lucky enough to have my mum and my boyfriend, who are extremely supportive and know what to say (and give me a little pep talk) when I’m having a bad bout – but I know for many of you, you feel as though your other halves are frustrated that you complain about your stomach often – or that your peers feel as though you are making it up. I know this feeling all too well, trust me. So having a support network, might just be the boost you need!
In essence, Symprove has helped me immensely. There are tonnes and tonnes of medicinal remedies out there which claim to stop spasms, help calm your tummy down and so on, none of which unfortunately have worked for me. I really dislike putting artificial stuff in my body (especially as a long term solution), so I am pleased that Symprove has been the ‘wonder worker’ and yet it’s entirely healthy and natural. Although I will be doing a ‘Tips & Tricks’ article in the coming weeks, featuring lots of advice on what to try when you’re having a bad bout, how to manage it and what to eat – my main tip would be to stay positive. It’s all too easy to lose your way and to wish you were just like everyone else – I’d be a billionaire if I got a pound for every time I said ‘I wish I was normal’, but this is something you have – so own it, work around it and don’t let it rule your life. It’s difficult, but it will make you stronger in the long term. Undoubtably.
I have announced the winners of my Symprove giveaway – Sian and Nicola, so I am really excited to see how both get on with their three month trials (please keep me updated girls), but until then – let me know what you think about this journey so far and if you’ve missed a post, I’ve listed them all below.
I think I speak for everyone when I say that sometimes, no matter what’s going on, you just have a bad day. You can’t necessarily put your finger on why that day is bad, or what’s made you feel low – but for some reason, your mood is heightened, you don’t usually feel like being around others and you just generally feel pretty ‘meh’. When you add IBS to the mix, this ‘feeling low’ period can be heightened even more unfortunately and you often have days, or even weeks, where you feel like a little shell of yourself, rather than being fully ‘you’. Read more.
I debated on several topics this week, as there is so much to talk about and since I’m trying to raise awareness for the condition this month (which is IBS awareness month), I wanted the posts to be meaningful and poignant. After much deliberation, I decided to write about fashion & IBS. Yes, that’s right – a strange combination, I know but if you’re a sufferer whose main symptoms include bloating, then you’ll probably be familiar with regards to how much your IBS dictates what you wear, on a daily basis. I’ve always LOVED fashion. Perhaps not as much as other people, or to the extent I try crazy new trends – but I have always taken pleasure in clothes, how I look and how I dress. However, when it comes to dressing for comfort (just to get you through the day) and dressing in the things you LOVE, the two don’t really bode well. Read more.
Some days I honestly feel like a walking pharmacist. Mebeverine, Buscopan, Peppermint Oil and Hydrochloride with Pepsin are just some of the many medications I have been on over the past few years. Often they seem to work at first, before slowly just ‘dulling’ the symptoms, until an inevitable return of the dreaded stomach pains. As I’ve said before, there is no ‘miracle cure’. Different things work for different people. Unfortunately with IBS there is no ‘one size fits all’ due to the fact that everyone suffers from different triggers, symptoms and flare ups, I think it really is a case of trial and error – and it does help to have a positive outlook. Read more.
Starting University is a big ‘leap’ in life to begin with. You’re moving away from home, from your comforts and from what you know. You’re stepping into the unknown. Living with new people, settling in a new area and working out what’s what. It’s difficult. I completely sympathise with that. It’s even more difficult when you have IBS. But it’s not impossible. I’ve always followed the mantra that IBS only makes me work even harder. If I miss an hour’s seminar, I’ll do three hours at home to make up for it. But of course, lecturers don’t see it that way and I appreciate it can often look like I’m just ‘skipping out’ because I’m hung-over or simply cannot be bothered. Oh I wish I had the freedom to make decisions based purely on that. I wish. Read more.
Being in a working environment and suffering from IBS symptoms is something I can relate to. Last year whilst on my gap year, I got a job at an international company – in their PR department, and later – for a blogging campaign they were running. It was an amazing experience and I met so many wonderful people, many of whom I still consider friends. At first, I was still in my ‘all clear’ period, where symptoms weren’t a worry, but after my first 5 months, the feared symptoms began rearing their ugly head. Stomach pains so bad I had to double over, a bubbly, anxious stomach that seemed to be cured by nothing and similarly (and unfortunately) frequent trips to the toilet. It wasn’t pleasant and it made things like sitting in meetings or being hunched over my desk all day seem near impossible. To anyone else, they were probably just aspects of daily work life. But for me, they were agony. I dreaded them. Feared them. Read more.
This is going to be a slightly different post, although hopefully one that some of you can relate to in some form or another. It’s taken me a long, long time to pluck up the courage to write about this because it is a very personal topic and I’m quite a private person. Similarly, it is largely unexplored and is often seen as taboo, despite one in five of us suffering from it at present but it is a condition I suffer with on a daily basis and something that affects every decision I make. I’m talking about IBS. IBS, if you didn’t know already stands for Irritable Bowel Syndrome. It’s not a very sympathetic term in my opinion and it is equally as unsympathetic when you have to try and ‘spell it out’ for someone, or explain the symptoms. If you’ve ever had gastroenteritis or food poisoning, or something similar, IBS sufferers experience the same (or in many cases) more extreme symptoms – but on a daily basis. Round the clock. 24.7. It’s embarrassing, it’s debilitating, it rules your life and is a horrible, horrible disease that I wouldn’t wish upon my worst enemy. And I say disease, because it’s just that. I didn’t ask for it, or bring it upon myself. Just like other sufferers. Read more.
Thank you all so much for emailing, commenting and tweeting – I read and treasure every single one. Please feel free to continue doing so, even if you’re reading this years after the initial posting. The important thing, is to know that you’re not alone – and that you will find a solution!
And similarly, if you find yourself constantly googling IBS (and that’s how you’ve got here), why not take a break and read about something a little different. You can catch my travel diaries here (IBS makes travelling hard, but not impossible), or my food reviews here. See you soon!