The Day-To-Day with IBD
Today's a good day to write an IBD blog, ‘cause my gut has simply let loose for no apparent reasons. I woke with mild to moderate abdominal cramps and a couple of hours later the diarrhea started. It's on days like this that I am truly thankfully I was able to learn years ago how to live with IBD rather than as IBD. What I mean by that is this: my first severe flare-up (which was ten years ago) lasted for the majority of two years. In the first year of the flare I was scared, confused, frustrated, and simply, sick. I ceased to be Elizabeth and allowed myself to become IBD. I focused solely on what, at that time, I called ‘my disease.' I felt hopeless and helpless. I saw my doctor, I took the medication he prescribed, I pooped, I slept, I focused on the pain I felt, and ultimately I wished to die.
It was the day that I verbalized this particular thought, "I'd rather die than live like this," to my husband that I realized I had let IBD take over my life. The next day I called our friend in Arizona who knew a Reiki practitioner and asked him to make me a week's worth of appointments. I then started reading about nutrition, trigger foods, elimination diets, stress reduction, and how to heal the body with the mind.
Over the next months I became my own advocate - I still saw my GI and kept him updated on everything I was doing. But I pretty much tried everything and anything - acupuncture, Reiki, natural supplements, yoga, meditation, various IBD-friendly diets, eliminating certain foods and adding others, I even tried simply ignoring the urge to go to the bathroom - sometimes this worked but more often than not it didn't, and sometimes I ended up in embarrassing situations.
But, it's days like today - I can actually feel the pain in my colon, my rectum hurts, and that urge keeps hitting every 30 minutes or so - that I'm glad I went through the hard times earlier on. I now truly appreciate the good days, weeks, and years that I have symptom-free. I cherish that time and I use it well. And even on these days, when I feel a little frustrated because I can't seem to pin-point why my gut is flaring, I'm able to pull-out a useful coping ‘tool' from my tool box and put it to work for me.
Living with IBD for me doesn't mean that I no longer ever have any problems or symptoms. It simply means I've learned how to manage them better and to realize a serious problem from a manageable problem. For instance, since I've been having diarrhea today for the past few hours I will amend my diet for the next day or two until my gut settles down. For me this means I'll eat foods mainly from the B.R.A.T. diet - bananas, rice, applesauce, and toast - and know from past bouts that I can also safely eat baked chicken or white fish, naked egg noodles, and poached or scrambled eggs. I'll also be sure to drink plenty of water and Recharge and get as much sound sleep as possible. I am under a very strict deadline at the moment and will continue to be for the month of May. So, I know that I will have to manage my time and my energy judiciously. Even if I don't really feel that I have the time for yoga or meditation, I will make the time because I know from past experience that both of these activities help me reduce stress and feel better.
I've learned over the years that if I actually ‘listen' to my body it usually tells me when it's feeling stressed, run-down, and not well. My challenge is to actually hear what my body is telling me. Over the years I have come to believe strongly in the mind/body connection, but I still have to practice listening and hearing. I'm sure that the stressful deadline which looms over my head right now is part of the cause of my flare-up today. And if I think back over the past couple of days I should have noticed that a flare-up was brewing. It sounds odd, I know, but over the years my husband and I have noticed that about a day before a flare-up I tend to get grumpy and use the word ‘damn' a lot, both for no apparent reason. Well, for the past two days I have been grumpy on-and-off and that word has crept into my conversation but it wasn't until this afternoon that I really ‘heard' what I'd been saying and what my body had been telling me.
Today I live with, or despite IBD, and it is no longer ‘mine,' it simply just is.
You can read my whole story in my book: Living with IBD & IBS: A Personal Journey of Success, www.ibdandibs.com