Family life with IBS

IBS can cause real havoc amidst family life.  With irritable bowel syndrome being so misunderstood, it makes IBS really hard for those around us to comprehend what is really happening.  This can result in many strains being placed upon day to day relationships.

It does not matter which position in the family you hold, without good lines of communication the inability to understand each other diminishes considerably.  If you ask yourself the question how does my IBS effect those around me ? The answers will be quite interesting.

It would be very unlikely that you have ever posed that question of yourself, few of us are even aware of the nature in which IBS alters our behaviour.  By this we mean the subtle nuances as opposed to the obvious, physical actions such as needing to be close to a toilet.  The depth to which IBS may penetrate your thinking is not always obvious.

For example you may be far more likely to simply get in the habit of rejecting social opportunities.  Many IBS sufferers find the best way to deal with their IBS, is through avoidance.  It may not be on the forefront of your mind when you do it, however it is likely that you will duck out of scenarios in which you may envisage a problem.

It is also unlikely that you would spend the time explaining this to those around you.  IBS is an embarrassing and personal condition and not something easy to share.  If you are the head of the family you may also not wish to show others what you fear could be seen as a weakness.

All of these scenarios lead to a place where you have a condition which significantly alters your behaviour, a condition that may be painful and may bring you down.  However, you then feel uncomfortable discussing how you feel and what you are going through with your family, the net result being a loss of communication which can have quite severe effects.

In the dark

To the uninitiated IBS can be quite baffling, the way the media makes it sound and the regular trivialization of the condition ensure this gap between perception and reality. The result is that your behaviour can be misunderstood and you can have altercations or issues with family members and loved ones who don not understand.

They may not understand why you constantly need the bathroom, and without saying so grow impatient with it. They may grow impatient when you reach the stage whereby IBS is dictating your social plans, thus effecting theirs.  They will be effected when you feel down about the condition, and when you are in pain.

Poor digestion can have strong correlations with mood swings, thus your family may be on the receiving end of this. All of this is utterly avoidable.

Bravery through honesty

Many of us like to soldier on, and while we agree that is necessary, to those that spend their lives not opening up to others about their condition, there will be a cost.  Relationships with family and friends can be ruined by our inability to be truthful.  To finish I leave with an example, whilst not family it was a loved one.

During my university years I met a girl, with whom I fell in love.  To this day I can truly say that I have never felt that way about anyone before or since.  Everything was going great except for one thing, she would often like me to stay over, however she lived in a shared house with only one bathroom.

I hated being in a house where there was a chance that I could not get to a bathroom so I used to come up with excuse after excuse as to why I could not stay with her.  This eventually lead to the downfall of the relationship, which may sound trivial, but looking back I can see that my feeble excuses would have been really hard to understand, to her she felt constantly rejected and pushed away.

The truth never seemed an option, this was a girl that I loved and I wanted to see me a certain light.  I thought my issues would have reduced my standing in her eyes, so even after it was too late I kept quiet.  When I look back I remember that one of the reasons I loved her was her kindness, and how utterly ridiculous it was for me to stay quiet.

This may be a story about a loved one, not family the principle is the same, simply opening up and being brave can really help you get through situations when those that love you stand by you.  You do not have to go on about your situation, just make sure the people that matter to you, the ones that care, know why you do what you do.  You’ll be amazed by what a cathartic experience it is.

You don't choose your family. They are God's gift to you, as you are to them.  

Desmond Tutu