In November of 2021, I was diagnosed with IBS or irritable bowel syndrome. I had an uninvited, new irritable friend that became a part of my daily life, just like my IBD. Leading up to being diagnosed, I had been experiencing gut-wrenching belly pain, nausea with pain, and fluctuations between painful constipation and uncontrollable and very urgent soft stools. I knew something wasn’t right. I had experienced fluctuations of stool type from my IBD, but this time it was different. 

At my GI visits, I remember thinking and also saying, something is causing my constipation, but I was always told to take MiraLAX daily because sometimes our bodies need help to keep things moving. So, I went many months cycling through times of uncomfortable constipation, unpredictable days, moments of high gut-wrenching belly pain, lots of pooping of soft stools, and then my body would go right back to being constipated again.

It was frustrating for me leading up to my diagnosis of IBS because I felt so uncomfortable all the time.

I wasn’t expecting another diagnosis; I thought it would be something small and simple that I’d work through and move on from, but that unfortunately wasn’t the case. Even though I've been living with IBD for a long time, being diagnosed with another GI condition was difficult for me and I am still adjusting. But, there were also feelings of relief with now knowing the reason for how I had been feeling, and knowing that my care team and I can work to treat and manage it now too! But with a new and unexpected diagnosis came many thoughts and feelings.

When I was diagnosed, I was told I had "IBS", what IBS stood for (Irritable Bowel Syndrome), and that stress and anxiety can impact it, but no one ever explained what IBS exactly was. I went many months into this new diagnosis thinking I was causing my pain, symptoms, and experiences. It was the worst feeling; I couldn’t figure out how to control my anxiety enough so that I could feel better. It was a big emotional struggle for me, feeling like I was the cause for it. I’m grateful I had already been connected with IBD psychology when my irritable friend came along. That was where I learned what IBS really was and that I was NOT causing my pain and symptoms. My threshold just gets very low at times and when it is low, stress, anxiety, food etc. can make symptoms very loud and my gut gets overly sensitive and goes on high alert!

My irritable friend will attack me at the most unpredictable and unpleasant times! It can make life hard. It makes planning with friends, attending school, and working difficult and sometimes frustrating! When my threshold drops very low and I begin experiencing symptoms, it’s exhausting and can become debilitating because I have so much pain and unpredictability.

Since being diagnosed, I have learned a lot about telling the difference between what’s IBD and what’s IBS. I’ve been diagnosed for over a year, and I still continue to learn more about my IBS every day and all the different things it can do to my body and ways it can make me feel. I am still continuing to experience new symptoms and figuring out when it's my new irritable friend that's causing them, or when it's my IBD! The symptoms are so similar and it’s been a big adjustment living and dealing with both IBD and IBS.

Since my unwelcome, irritable friend joined my life, I’ve messaged my GI because of changes in stool color or the crazy amount of long-lasting pain I have - symptoms that make me feel like something abnormal is going on inside! Before I knew I was living with IBS, these types of symptoms would usually indicate active IBD for me. I would never feel unwell in these ways unless my IBD was flaring, until my new irritable friend came along. And even though I've been living with my irritable friend for some time now, I'm still learning all the ways he appears in my life.

If I could share some advice for others living with an irritable friend, I think it would be to please just ask the questions (even when you feel like you're being bothersome) and understand what your IBS actually is! Just because you may already be living with a GI disorder, doesn't mean you necessarily understand what IBS is and how it differs from something like IBD. Your care team is there to help you and are happy to answer any questions you have! They want to help you feel better. Just understanding what IBS is was a big hurdle I could’ve simply walked around if I had just asked questions early on! Instead, I tried walking through the hurdle. I'm really grateful to my IBD psychologist for sitting me down and explaining what it really is and for helping me understand that I'm not the cause of my IBS symptoms! 


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