Imagine you are the single parent of a child. A young toddler, whom you love unconditionally. Congratulations!
With children, of course, come plenty of proclivities (rather, annoyances). One of them being an uncountable number of potty breaks. Imagine every day, living your life, feeding this child as healthy and nutritious a diet as possible, and yet every 10 minutes –
“I have to go! I need to bathroom! Right now!”
Every 10 minutes. It’s tough. It’s even tougher as a college student.
When it’s your own body, forcing you to head to the restroom so often; sometimes every 10 minutes, sometimes every 60, sometimes every 5. Social gatherings, important meetings, trying to get work done – it’s all interrupted every day, with having to run.
Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is a medical condition that is generally characterized by stomach pain, nausea, indigestion, diarrhea or constipation (or both), and more. Due to the connection between the gut and the brain, IBS is worsened by heightened amounts of stress or depression. It can cause immense anxiety, which in turn, may worsen the state of the person’s stomach.
So a really bratty, awful, stressful little toddler.
Living with IBS as a first year college student can be a living nightmare. Dining halls aren’t always prepared with people like us in mind; no offense, but The Chat certainly isn’t. Hours after meals can look like laying in bed, deep breathing, trying to get over pain. That comes between the periods of having to run to the restroom. One can imagine how the already poor state of dorm bathrooms would be rough on someone with such a gastrointestinal problem. My dorm is laced with the scent of peppermint oil, a nearly magical item that helps soothe stomach pains and cramps; it’s probably detectable from down the hall after I have to slather it on. After meals, I take pills prescribed by my gastroenterologist, yet they don’t always help so much. I take other over-the-counter things to help – IBGard (which is way too expensive), probiotics, and a whole lot of Imodium.
I don’t mean to start a pity party; I think it’s important to normalize the life that me and fellow sufferers live. Many people are still grossed out by any mention of the toilet, when in reality, it’s a normal part of life that can become extremely painful and difficult to cope with. Many people with IBS were not born with it, me included – I was 16 when the distinct stomach problems appeared in my life.
Specific to Arcadia, I have found several friends like me. I don’t know many people with IBS, but many people I eat with are lactose intolerant, have allergies, or other meal conditions. We have found ways to cope with our situations. For me, always having Imodium on hand and being near a bathroom at all times helps to ease anxiety about finding a restroom in time. In addition to peppermint oil, heating pads and specific diets (low FODMAP meals) also assist living a busy lifestyle with the issues I have.
For any readers out there who are like me in any way, I highly recommend visiting a gastroenterologist or speaking with your primary care physician. I want you to know that there is no shame in reaching out for help with these problems. There should be no embarrassment in these conditions, and you have friends out there – as one person online called it, IBesties. No matter what, make sure you are managing your stress in healthy ways, and remember, the discomfort does not last forever.