Oh poo, I have chronic IBS!

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The faint of heart might want to look away now. I started this blog with the intention of being completely honest and open about my life. So even though I loathe talking about IBS, it dominates my life in such an enormous way; I wouldn’t be living up to my honesty promise, if I didn’t blog openly about it.

Having suffered for nearly three years, I have got a lot more open about telling people that I have a problem. Not by choice I might add, there are many things I would rather do than tell virtual strangers about my bowel habits, like having a tooth pulled at the dentist! But if you have this disease, then you will know that it’s not long before your dignity goes flying out of the window.

That said, although I see my doctor at least once a month and IBS is almost all we talk about, I still can’t quite look him in the eye when I say the word poo. I know, it’s ridiculous for a grown woman to blush at the mere mention of the word; but I would far rather be rudely refusing to meet his eye, staring at the floor, out of the window or anywhere except at him, when I say the word poo! Rather hilariously I find myself being embarrassed just by typing this and just accidentally hit caps lock, so it looked as though I were shouting the word out loud. Who knew fingers could have Freudian slips? Apparently I can’t even type the word like a normal person. Hopefully if I repeat the word numerous times in my blog, I might get used to it. Don’t hold your breath though ….

IBS is a horrible thing to suffer from, losing control of your bowels in a public place must hands down one of the most embarrassing things you could ever experience. Very fortuitously, I have always been near a toilet when it happened. I’m not sure I can convey the panic and discomfort very adequately. It’s almost one of the last bastions of decency, that we Brits and possibly the rest of the world too, do not talk about our bowel habits in public. This is particularly true of girls, in my experience anyway. I would far rather chat about a great orgasm to my girl friends, than tell them about my IBS in detail. So no one wants to suffer the ignominy of losing control of their bowels in a public place.

Fortunately although I have had a lot of near misses, which are bad enough, I have always just manage to get to a toilet in the nick of time. The first time it happened to me, I was driving home from my sister’s house, she lives in Oxfordshire and it’s an hour away from me. My stomach started rumbling ominously ten minutes into my journey. Had I known what I know now, I would have immediately turned the car round, hurried back to her house and to the sanctuary of a not so public toilet.

Instead I loosened the top button on my jeans and hoped it was just trapped wind. As I drove out of Burford, onto the country roads and away from any toilets, my tummy started to hurt. It kept up the alternate rumbling and painful spasms, until I needed the toilet desperately and of course there were none. It got so bad, I actually thought I would have to stop and go behind a big tree, but I knew I had diarrhoea and I couldn’t quite bring myself to go in a field somewhere.

I was so desperate I almost considered just going in the car, but how would I get out and into my house without someone spotting me? Should I speed dial my husband and explain my unexpected poo emergency and ask him to come out with a large towel to shield me and then what about the car upholstery and my clothes and oh god the smell doesn’t bear thinking about. So I clenched my teeth and of course my buttocks, broke all the speed limits and amazingly managed to pull into a pub 15 excruciating minutes later.

I parked across three spaces and knocked over several small children in my haste to get to the loo and for the first time in my life I paid no attention to polite niceties, such as queuing. I had made it in the nick of time and the ensuing explosion in the toilet was not pretty, sadly for me it was also not quiet and I sat shakily on the loo for a good ten minutes longer than was strictly necessary, just to make sure everyone had left before I dared show my face – beyond embarrassing.

It wasn’t a great experience, but I put it down to a mild bout of food poisoning and all was well for a few more weeks. Then of course it happened again and then again; until I could no longer blame what I had eaten and made an appointment to see my doctor. I managed to use every word under the sun to describe what had been happening to me recently except for the more obvious poo. IBS was suspected and I was given Loperamide or Imodium as it is better known and for a while it worked. Then it was no longer strong enough and I was given co codamol.

These pills gave me back some quality of life and although I still suffered attacks of diarrhoea at least twice a week, I knew the pills would stop it relatively quickly. That said it was still a very embarrassing thing to deal with, on several occasions I had to leave the gym because of an episode and eventually I had to give in and take the pills before I had an attack. This worked really well for a while, but by now I was experiencing other symptoms, such as extreme abdominal bloating and severe cramps. So I had no choice but to start taking Tramadol for pain relief. I also had to give up on drinking wine. It was, as you can imagine, a traumatic time to say the least, wine had been a great friend of mine and I was sorry not to be seeing so much of her.

Next in my IBS journey were the multitude of tests. You name a bowel condition or a disease that affects your bowels and I have probably had a test for it. I have been poked and prodded and often quite happily, because I really do want to know what on earth is wrong with me? That said, not many tests are particularly enjoyable. A colonoscopy has to be right up there with them.  The indignity of having a tube shoved up your bottom in a room full of people is nothing compared to the discomfort you feel when they start inflating your stomach with lots of air via that same tube. Good grief, it is an awful sensation, you feel like you are literally going to explode and just when you think you can stand it no longer it gets worse. You are suddenly extremely nauseous and there was a medical reason for that, but i was too busy concentrating on not being sick on the nice nurse’s shoes that I plum forgot to listen to the explanation. And don’t get me started on having an enema before hand……

Then there are the delightful pills known as picolax, which give your bowels a thorough clean out. One of the theories as to what was causing my problems was that I might have impacted fecal matter in my bowels – I do apologize for that last sentence I hope you are still with me …. Needless to say taking Picolax was an awful weekend. To take a pill that you know is going to give you a vile stomach upset takes a lot of courage. Taking another one 8 hours later when you are in the midst of it all is sheer madness. I got very ill and dehydrated and eventually when my vision started to blur I gave up and took co codamol to stop it. Then there was the mega antibiotic metronidazole, which made me feel as if I had terrible morning sickness for two weeks, but with no baby joy at the end. By contrast the CBT scan was a blast, the two month wait for the result not so much.

I could go on about the amount of treatments I have taken, but I think you get the message and you can now probably understand why I hate talking about IBS – nothing about it is pleasant! Yet talk about it I must because I hope if anyone else is in the same position as me, then they might find it helpful to read. If your bowels are in perfect health, then I apologise for what you have just read!

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