Day 5 of my 5 blogs in 5 days (aka Alison’s Awesome Week of Daily Blogging). So far we’ve been on holiday, we’ve been annoyed by open letters, and we’ve moaned about lack of diversity in government, and today I’m going to talk about me, because that is pretty much my favourite subject, and I am – at least in this corner of the interweb – a special and important little snowflake.
I suffer from IBS. For the uninitiated, IBS stands for Irritable Bowel Syndrome. That fact should do two things: firstly it should tip you off that this blogpost might involved reference to bottom business; and secondly it should give you a mental image of a bowel with a face, reading the Daily Express and chuntering to himself. Yes – for reasons I can’t really explain my mental personification of my bowel is male. Male with quite a fulsome moustache, since you ask.
Anyhoo, IBS is one of those modern illnesses that some people don’t really think exists, and is what doctors refer to as a functional disorder. That basically means that your bowel doesn’t quite work in a tiptop way, but the reasons for that are as yet not fully identified. Diagnosis is done by a process of ruling out all the stuff that doctors already know makes bowels abandon normal function (coeliac disease, cancer, crohns disease etc.) This is generally achieved by the method of sticking a tiny camera into places that no camera ever had ambitions to go and having a jolly good footle about to look for badness. If no specific badness is identified, then congratulations – you have IBS.
In practical terms that means that I suffer from stomach aches a lot, often with added constipation and diarrhea (sometimes, weirdly, on the same day). Diarrhea, for me at least, usually passes pretty quickly (well, obviously) on its own. The stomach aches can be fairly well treated with a wonderful little IBS drug called Buscopan, but the constipation is a right pain in the… *Handbrake turns the blog away from a very obvious, and somewhat yucky, joke.*
So those are the symptoms but that’s not what this post is about. It’s not, despite everything that’s gone so far, about my irritable bowel. It’s about irritable me. And I get irritable with people. Specifically people who are neither my GP, nor my consultant gastroenterologist, who want to offer me medical advice on this problem.
‘It’s probably stress,’ they say.
‘I’m not stressed,’ I say.
‘You are. Stress is what causes it. I had a stomach ache in 1982. That was stress.’
‘I’m not stressed.’
They tip their heads and adopt a sympathetic tone. ‘You’re putting on a brave face. That means you’re not dealing with your stress.’
‘I’m not stressed,’ I screech.
‘Well you sound stressed,’ they say
I’ve had versions of that conversation in real-life and on the modern social media a number of times since I was diagnosed, and I’m kind of vaguely aware that my irritability reflects worse on me than on the poor innocent sympathetic passerby, but I do get irritated. I occupy a weird double space where I want to be treated absolutely normally and not have to deal with any sort of sympathy or helpful suggestion about the herbal remedy that really helped your Aunt Tallulah, but I also want people to appreciate that sometimes I feel ouchy and this can lead to grumpiness. And I do get that that’s probably not really possible. Ah well, into each life some rain must fall etc. etc. Other people have far worse things to deal with. Every cloud has a silver whatnot. And other similar platitudes.
So that’s it for my 5 posts in 5 days week. It’s been slightly random but I never promised coherence, so there you go. I’m going to try to get back to regular weekly blogging from now on. Probably on Mondays or Tuesdays but we’ll see how it goes. In the meantime, you can always buy a book…