Dealing with the Giraffe on the Tennis Court
If you suffer from the symptoms or IBS or any other digestive issues you know that the disease can take center stage in your relationship. Coping with flare-ups or even the anticipation of a flare-up of your GI symptoms can cause stress and anxiety and can have a negative impact on your relationships. These difficulties are not limited to romantic relationships, but also affect your relationships with your friends, co-workers and family.
The first line of defense is to seek and obtain an accurate diagnosis of your condition from a qualified and knowledgeable physician, such as a gastroenterologist. These are diseases that affect millions of people and yet, there is no known single common cause among patients. In other words, the causes differ from patient to patient and can be difficult to pinpoint.
Treatment also differs from patient to patient. While there some treatments that seem to be effective in relieving certain gastroenterology conditions in large numbers of patients, it is important to develop a long-terms treatment strategy where you and your doctor are actively involved in selecting treatments, assessing whether they are working and then, if needed, modifying them as needed. We at GastroSB treat patients as people and not just diseases. We strive to know our patients so that we can prescribe treatments tailor-made to their lifestyles.
Once you obtain a diagnosis and start a treatment plan it is important to educate yourself as much as you can about your disorder. Knowledge is power! Taking control can put you in the driver’s seat and this alone can go a long way toward reducing stress and anxiety which we now know can exacerbate symptoms. There are numerous resources available to you from recent studies to the personal accounts of other with disease. You are certainly not alone!
Having learned what you can about your disorder is important to educate your partner and other family members. This doesn’t mean over-sharing each and every personal detail, but it does mean letting them know about the disease. Having it does require some lifestyle modification and that sometimes you just might not be your “best self” and that it is not be taken personally. It is important to allow yourself the space to manage your symptoms without feelings of guilt or anxiety. Again, this alone can create a vicious cycle where one can swing back and forth between symptoms and anxiety like a pendulum.
It is also important to identify other areas of conflict and stress in your relationships and to develop strategies to manage these head-on. Avoiding these issues can cause additional stress and anxiety and lead to flare-ups, not to mention just plain unhealthy for your relationships.
Finally, seek support and be specific about what you need from the people in your life. Often people treat others the way they like to be treated. While well-intentioned this can be misguided and lead to hurt feelings. If you need to be left to manage on your own- say so! If you want comfort, to talk or to be reminded to take medication – say so! Giving your friends and family the information they need to support you is better than having them guess, so tell them.
The theme here is communication! A difficult thing to establish and maintain in the best of relationships. But even more important when you are suffering and your friends and family are left to guess what’s going on.
“Good communication is the bridge between confusion and clarity.” Nat Turner