Loneliness - The IBS sufferer may find themselves gradually isolated.

Article by Sian

Loneliness and IBS
When IBS forces us to avoid social situations, loneliness becomes our companion.
It was Christmas Day and I was sitting in a dark house. It was gloomy, almost silent outside with the kind of concentrated quietness made up of families turning in upon themselves, to open gifts, cook, eat and settle in front of the television.

I had long got used to my partner, Kevin spending the day with his family, a day which would begin before noon and often end at midnight. Usually I went to my mother's, and especially since my stepfather died.

On this occasion she had been asked to my sister's house for lunch.

I avoid group or family gatherings and have for years, mainly because the ratio of people to bathroom is too great. There is also the social phobia factor.

At Christmas, when people eat a lot, drink and then nibble, they need to use the bathroom, and as I have seen, can remain in it for quite some time.

I am not happy with knocking on a bathroom door and asking people to come out, not even close family.

I had chosen to stay at home on my own that day, and I was not dissolving into a pity-party.

I like solitude and quiet, and I am always aware that there are truly lonely people out there, such as those in care homes or sheltered accommodation, who sit on their own over the holidays with no visits from any-one.

They do not choose this, I had, or rather my bowels had. Christmas dinner can be wonderful, and I actually love the variety of vegetables which are commonly served in the UK, but they seem to go straight through me.

I did feel a sense of loneliness, perhaps because it was a day associated with togetherness and families, and it made me think.

IBS, family, friends and Holidays
An IBS sufferer will make excuses not to attend certain events or to travel , but if we have partners, or live with families, this can cause some strain.

There are certain gatherings such as weddings or birthdays, where a couple or family are traditionally seen together. It is awkward when one of them is not present.

Holidays can also become a bone of contention. It is natural that people want to take a vacation away from their home, and unless there is a very good reason why they cannot, they will look forward to it and expect it.

Kevin works, so of course he wants to get away from the sameness of his surroundings. He also has no problem with flying and has spoken enthusiastically of us both going abroad and of seeing different sites with me.

It makes me feel horribly guilty, and has reduced me to tears of anger and shame, but it is no good my hedging and saying, 'I'll think about it,' or 'I'll see how I feel closer to the time.'

I know precisely what I think now and will think 'closer to the time.' I will envisage a train journey, followed by a coach journey on the airport bus, waiting for the flight, the hours in the air.

(Two recent airline passengers I have spoken to have said that sick-bags are not provided on flights any longer. Nausea is a huge part of my IBS. I may not necessarily be sick, but I could easily worry myself into it.)

Once the plane has landed there is the journey from the airport to the destination, then one would have to think about doing it all over again to get back.

The very thought fills me with such panic that in itself can cause a spasm of IBS. Even a day trip would be impossible.

It would be grossly unfair for me to demand Kevin live his life around me. He goes out when he pleases and has been abroad with friends. Yes, I feel left behind, and have experienced a sense of abandonment and loneliness, but no-one else should be curtailed by our IBS unless they truly don't mind.

I think that there is a great deal of give-and-take needed. Those not afflicted with IBS should be given as much information as possible about it and try to understand that there are certain things the sufferer cannot do, while those with it should realize that their family or partners can do these things and allow them to do so. In that way, hopefully, a balance can be achieved.

I have lost contact with many family members for years, due to the fact that they have moved and I will not travel to see them. My brother is in Spain, an uncle is in France and another in north Wales. I have always got on very well with my relations and cousins and would love to see them, but it is the journey.

Me, myself and IBS
Everything shrinks with IBS, sometimes our life can become as small as the walls of our house.

Unless people visit us, we will find ourselves alone save for our immediate family, partners, husbands and wives. If we live alone, we will mostly be alone. This may bring on depression , and it is important we find something to lift our minds from loneliness. The Internet is a great boon to us. I have been amazed at the amount of people who have contacted me via YouTube about their IBS.

Before I made a video on the syndrome I did one on panic attacks , and received many messages from people who spoke of their panic but also mentioned IBS symptoms. More messages came specifically about IBS when I put up a video.

Finding we are part of a worldwide *network* of people sharing the same problem is comforting. We can exchange stories and remedies we have tried, our doctors approach to it and the medicines they have prescribed, as well as experience the warmth of simple *chat* with people whom we have something in common with.

Apart from others who suffer IBS, I have met wonderful people through writing, since I read their work and that also helps to ease the loneliness.

Much of the time I will write, which is a very solitary hobby, but I know that there are people out there whom I can message if I wish, and the people I have been in contact with always know they can reach me.

Some people may take up needlework or art, may read keep pets for company, do puzzles or crosswords or computer games. The greatest comfort to me, however, is the knowledge that I can reach other people via forums or sites on the Internet. For people who can be virtually housebound, it is a great bonus.

There may also be those whose IBS is not so severe, who do work and socialize, but are subject to spasms of it.

They may conceal their condition and live normally but find it liberating to speak to people on the Internet.

Yet others are in the position where they feel they have IBS and suffer in silence because they are too afraid and embarrassed to speak to their doctors or family.

These also can find much information on the Internet and contact others who live with Irritable Bowel Syndrome.

We do feel lonely,'left out,' but so many people feel exactly the same as us. It is important we realize this, and what a wonderful support network we can gain and be a part of, with others helping us, and ourselves helping other people.

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