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Irritable bowel syndrome: A pain in Libby’s butt

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‘My Experience’: Irritable bowel syndrome – A pain in Libby’s butt

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a pain in the butt – literally. Sometimes your tummy feels like it’s in a washing machine, and then you feel a sudden involuntary need to run to the toilet, no matter where you are. Many people say the embarrassing symptoms of IBS are even worse than the painful symptoms.

We speak to Libby, who has been managing IBS for nearly 10 years now, and she says the most important message she has for sufferers is that “you’re not alone”. She also says that sometimes laughing about the embarrassing symptoms can be the best therapy ever.

Denial is not your friend

Libby says when she first started getting a “funny tummy” when she was 17 years old, after the stress of studying for her final exams.

“I was just a teenager, looking to have fun at Schoolies Week and muck around with my friends,” she says.

“But I started to notice that when I would get stressed about my results or the new changes of adolescence, I would also start getting stomach cramps and feel like I needed to go to the toilet more than usual.

“Then sometimes I couldn’t go for days … my bowel movements were ‘all over the shop’, as my Dad used to say.”

“I was in denial for a while; I just thought that everyone is different and I could live with it. Then I would really need to, well, ‘poo’, and I felt like I could burst. I started to feel very isolated.”

Don’t play the shame game

“It would start to happen in embarrassing situations, like going on my first few real dates, or going out to a restaurant with the family,” Libby says.

Finally, Libby says it took the love and openness of her family to tell her that these bowel movements and sore tummies weren’t the norm and that it was okay to see a doctor about it.

“Going to the doctor was the most amount of relief I have ever felt, because she told me that IBS is very common and that I didn’t have to be stuck with the inconvenient symptoms,” Libby says.

“Learning that others go through the same thing made me feel like I didn’t need to feel embarrassed about my body in any way and that I could be a happy, fun teenager like the rest of my friends.”

Laughing your butt off

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)“After I finally accepted that I was a little sick, I felt like I could be open about it. This feeling didn’t come easily though; it took a little counselling, which is very common in this type condition,” Libby says.

And she is right. There are professionals who specialise in talking to people with illnesses of any variety.

“You can tell them your deepest fears and they won’t judge you,” she says.

“Talking to a counsellor made me feel like there was nothing wrong with being embarrassed.

“So one day, I was talking to my best friend. I told her a story about how I was driving in my car and I suddenly had the urge to go to the toilet. I was miles from nowhere, so I stopped and ‘went bush’, using a leaf as my only solace!

“To my relief, instead of saying ‘gross’ she started laughing hysterically and said, ‘Wow, I just went behind a tree the other day because I couldn’t find a loo!'”

Libby realised that not only can the people we love be very accepting if we give them a chance, but she also learnt that her best friend suffered from IBS as well!

“Now, we just laugh about different situations we’ve been in. It might be annoying, but you don’t have to feel ashamed.”

Treatments: Finally getting a cork in the butt

Since being able to laugh about her condition, Libby says it has minimised the amount of stress she feels which, in turn, reduces the severity of her symptoms.

“I’m in my late 20s now and I am very aware of the things that can trigger a bad week, such as very spicy food, too much stress, feeling over-tired, or drinking too much alcohol,” she says.

“Most importantly, though, if the symptoms get too severe I can use over-the-counter medications if necessary. Or, sometimes I will see my gastroenterologist about the latest treatments available.

“And there are treatments being developed and improved all the time for these types of gastric conditions, so no one has to feel like they must live with embarrassment or feel like they can’t leave the house.”


More information

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
For more information about
irritable bowel syndrome, see Diseases – Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS).
Gastrointestinal systemFor more information aboutthe gastrointestinal system, see Anatomy – Gastrointestinal System.

Diseases relevant to this personal experience:


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Posted On: 28 September, 2010
Modified On: 28 August, 2014

Created by: myVMC