I wrote the following entry about two weeks before my colonoscopy. I was desperate for some relief and I finally got it after my doctor told me to try taking Imodium to slow down the frequency of bowel movements. It was heaven for those two weeks. Before I knew what the colonoscopy would reveal. I thought I had found the answer. I thought it would really be that simple.

So here’s what I wrote, before I knew that I had colitis:

May 29, 2017

The story that I have been dreading telling is that I’ve been having a lot of upset stomach issues. For years. I’m not sure, specifically, when it started but I know that I started noticing issues when my husband and I lived in the apartment. Urgency, frequency, unpredictability. Those are my biggest issues. I would feel completely fine and then 10 minutes later when I’m in the car driving somewhere, I suddenly need to stop for a bathroom NOW. I would have to go to the bathroom and have bowel movements 3, 4, 5 times a day. And sometimes I would have a good day, but sometimes I would have a bad day, when my stomach hurt and I felt like I’d need a bathroom all day long. I’d go, stand up, wash my hands, and turn right back around to go again. I was late for meetings at work because I’d need to go right before a call. I had to stop on my drive in to work because I couldn’t make it a half hour and I knew there’d be traffic. Traffic made me panic; there was no escape if we were on the parkway in the city in bumper to bumper standstill traffic. Airports made me nervous. Even though there are bathrooms on planes, I panicked that I would need a bathroom during the half hour take-offs and landings when they won’t let you get out of your seat. Long car trips made me nervous. I was constantly googling where the next exit or rest stop was. Going anywhere new made me nervous, if I didn’t know where the bathroom was. The first thing I did when I got to any place was scope out the restrooms, even if I didn’t have to go yet. I had stopped in gas stations, convenience stores, coffee shops, retail stores, port-a-potties, fast food places, grocery stores. And I can’t even tell you the places I considered, as I panic-drove around. I considered libraries, banks, office buildings, doctor’s offices, and more.

I had actually had accidents twice, while I was out in the neighborhood for a run/walk. I was somehow able to make it through my 10-miler race last fall, and then I quit running outside. I was too afraid. Even the thought of being outside in a neighborhood, a mile or more from my house or any known bathroom was terrifying, and I just couldn’t do it.

I was desperate for some kind of relief. I was desperate for answers. Desperate to end the unpredictability and the shame I felt when I needed a bathroom, even though no one could tell how bad it was. I don’t think anyone caught on to my issues, unless I told them. Which almost makes it worse. I almost wished everyone just knew that I had issues so that I could stop feeling so ashamed if I had to leave a meeting urgently or if I asked someone to pull over for the third time during the drive to a meeting. I almost felt like it would just be easier if everyone knew and understood, then I wouldn’t feel so alone. But I never did tell them.

I finally got an appointment with a gastroenterologist after trying, unsuccessfully, different diets, like dairy-free and gluten-free. This doctor told me with a fair amount of certainty that I likely have Irritable Bowel Syndrome with Diarrhea, or IBS-D. Not to be confused with IBS-C, which is constipation. It’s difficult to get an official diagnosis, because a diagnosis just essentially means that everything else has been ruled out. There doesn’t seem to be a cause or a cure, and everyone’s symptoms vary slightly. In my case, there doesn’t seem to be anything I do or eat that makes it worse or better. It just is.

The doctor told me to try anti-diarrheal medication and scheduled a colonoscopy to rule out anything else. I haven’t had the colonoscopy yet, but let me tell you, the anti-diarrheal meds are a godsend. I haven’t felt this good and this relaxed in a long time.

There is a caveat, though. This medication can cause the opposite effect for me and give me constipation. So while she originally told me to take it three times a day, I found that I wouldn’t go to the bathroom for like three days and then when I did go, it was so large and compacted that it was very painful to go. So I’m trying to take the meds twice a day and it seems to be going better. I only need to go to the bathroom about once per day and I don’t feel much urgency or unpredictability. Even when I do feel like I have to go, I find that I can actually hold it until I have access to a bathroom.

It’s a weird feeling for me, after having so many issues for so long. But it’s amazing. If this is the long-term solution, it’s going to be life-changing. I would be okay if this is all it is. I can live with this. I’m just hoping they don’t find anything more seriously wrong during my colonoscopy. But the doctor seems confident that it should come back normal. She seems to be doing it to err on the side of caution, rather than because she thinks she’ll actually find something. So that’s reassuring.

So that’s scheduled for next month. And for now, I can breathe easier, walk more, run more, take drives, and not panic. I’m going to be okay.

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