Wednesday, August 24, 2011

IBS at Work

IBS is still busy ruining my life.


It's hard to chart the severity of this bullshit, but it really feels to me like it's getting worse over time. I used to take the odd day off from work to quietly manage my symptoms in peace and let them pass, but now that I'm working from home, doing that feels wrong. So I try to work around my bad days.


But this is very difficult. IBS is something that keeps me up at night. By the end of the day, I'm usually riddled with gas. It's like it gets trapped in there and doesn't want to come out unless it's en masse. The belching can actually force itself out of me and it can be painful. And it's something that will keep me up.


And if that's not happening, I'm often backed up, pardon the expression, which inherently steals my energy and robs me of rest due to rumbling discomfort.


So sometimes, being unable to sleep until 3:00 or 4:00, I don't wake up in time for 8:00 to start work. I figure I can get at least another hour or two, and then skip a break and work late if my work assignment sheet will allow it, and it usually does. At least then I don't have to be thoroughly exhausted, only rather tired.


But when the, shall we say, gates open, the day is shot. But I still work. Why? Because I work from home and feel too foolish to call in on these days and say my bowels are malfunctioning again, I need the day off. It's embarrassing.


Occasionally these open-gate days coincide with a late night. It's a terrible whammy of suffering. And I have taken the day off a couple times, but not as often as they happen.


Why? I just feel like they need me. I know they do. My sudden absence (anyone's really) throws off the whole schedule. The other two people who do what I do could be overloaded. I feel immense pressure to work through it.


My health is suffering, though. My mind is frazzled. I'm getting very burnt out. I feel anxious about work now, because I feel like I'm falling behind, always needing a nap I can't take, always bloated and cramped. Unfortunately, stress is a major trigger, and this whole thing is stressing me out.


And I am pretty sure my work doesn't understand. And this is my fault. I just loathe the thought of calling in and explaining this. Who wants to talk to their bosses about their bowel dysfunction and explain why it's impairing ability to work? I try to make it sound like it's not a big deal when I do mention it. I don't want to complain and get honest about it, because when I do I cry.


And now I'm at a crossroads. I had a terrible day at work, where I had to admit I was well behind because I spent so much time in the bathroom. And I know they were frustrated with me. I'm harder to get a hold of via email, which makes their job harder. Well, I'm away from my desk frequently to use the toilet or lie on my stomach or do some stretches to ease my discomfort.


I'm not sure what to do. Do I sit down with my boss and give her a doctor's note and explain my situation? It feels so needy and whiny. And I've recently had a separate health concern regarding the computer. But what I've been doing is catching up to me. I feel emotionally drained from this whole thing.


I have good months, the sort where I actually tell myself I just don't have IBS anymore, just to feel free, but I haven't had a symptom-free stint in awhile. And I long for that, I really do.

2 comments:

Alek said...

I think you should talk to your boss about it -- not to complain, but just to clear the air. If you can establish with them what's wrong with you, you can be more comfortable taking the time off when you need, stress less about being judged for it, and presumably require fewer sick days and suffer fewer symptoms.

I remember how bad stress can make IBS. When I worked my particularly stressful contract job a couple of years ago (you know which one) and I was still commuting, I was in constant agony. I thought things were getting worse and that they'd never get better. It got to the point where I had to regularly leave my desk to go to the bathroom, unbutton my pants and brace myself against a wall for 10 minutes just to ease the pain and get through the day. I couldn't "go" for 4-5 days at a time, struggled when I could, and -- without getting into too much detail -- suffered with what the doctor referred to as a particularly nasty "discharge".

So that's all pretty gross, but I'm just trying to give you evidence that things DO get better when you make a few changes. I always hated being told that my symptoms were stress-related, because what the heck can you do about that? The symptoms ARE stressful. What a miserable trap.

But, at the end of the day, it gets bad enough that you make yourself find a way, and you make it better. It WILL happen.

A couple of things that I did (I don't know how many of these you're already doing, but anyway):

- Try to go at least three days a week without any meat
- Limit your dairy intake (go vegan for one or two dinner meals a week)
- Eat a probiotic yogurt EVERY DAY
- I know you already drink it, but tea helps a lot, as long as you monitor your caffeine intake
- Eat more salad (seems unwise, I know), but generally avoid gassy greens
- Eat earlier, snack frequently, and sleep more; those seem like silly tidbits, but they're the three most important factors in limiting your symptoms, I found -- nothing made my problems worse than a combination of stress, tiredness and hunger, and if I ever eat heavily after 10pm, I know I'm in for a world of pain

I don't know if any of this is really helpful, but I know your pain, so I just want to offer whatever comfort and advice I possibly can.

Stay strong, my friend! These things always, always pass.

Caitlin H. said...

perhaps you need an, errr..."sexy bowel makeover"? http://www.sexyfoodtherapy.com/ibs-the-sexy-bowel-makeover/

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