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Being constipated is something very familiar to me and has been something I’ve struggled with for as long as I can remember. I thought having a bowel movement maybe once a week was normal. I had always had stomach pains, but I just dismissed them. When I was 15 my stomach pain got significantly worse. We finally went to the Doctor and it turned out that I was lactose intolerant. After cutting dairy out of my diet, there wasn’t a change in how I felt. My stomach hurt less, but it was still so painful and uncomfortable. Around that time, I became super self-conscious of my body, especially my stomach. I have been a competitive swimmer for over 12 years so I became extremely frustrated with my body and my stomach because I didn’t look like everyone else and I didn’t look healthy and slim and muscular like I should’ve. I didn’t look like what a swimmer at my level should’ve looked like. I looked weak. I became conscious of what I wore and how to make my stomach look lean at swim practice when we weren’t in the water. When I was 16, my sister and I were talking and it came out that I only have maybe one bowel movement a week. My sister was shocked and told me how horrible that is. From that conversation, I realized that there was something wrong and that everything I had been feeling and experiencing wasn’t in my head. I started to cut gluten out of my diet and by the time I was 17, I was on a gluten and dairy free diet. I started to see a Doctor who was amazing and really wanted to help me. She had me try laxatives and Miralax like nobodies business. I tried many different kinds of fiber supplements, but they only worked for maybe two days. I still wasn’t feeling any better, so I kind of gave up. When I was 18, I turned to a plant-based diet. I noticed that my body had a hard time breaking down and digesting hard foods like meat and crackers and even gf bread and crackers. During that summer, I slowly stopped eating. I skipped breakfast, would have a salad, maybe some fruit, and then snack for dinner. My mindset was that the less I eat, the easiest it will be to digest. But in doing this, I wasn’t fueling my body the way it needed to be. I was still experiencing horrible stomach pains, fatigue, and irregular bowel movements. I would maybe have a movement once a week but the two days after getting my period, I would tend to get diarrhea. My bodyweight began to fluctuate and my legs started to ache. I was constantly bloated and it was so mentally hard on me, as an 18y/o girl during the summer who was a lifeguard. I felt disgusting, and I had felt like that for years, but I really started to think that I looked sick. I was frequently tired but continued to push myself to go on runs early in the morning. One morning, after snacking on chips and sorbet for dinner, I woke up and my stomach looked like I was pregnant. It was so unbelievably uncomfortable. I had completely lost my appetite and was so so fatigued. After living like that, not eating and not passing, for about a week I finally told my mom and we went back to the Doctor. She had me go on a Miralax cleanse until I had cleaned out my colon. We took an x-ray and she had said that my entire small and large intestines were backed up. The radiologist was even severely concerned. I was on the Miralax cleanse, taking 8 doses every day with 2 laxatives and no food, for 9 days. I had little to no movements and felt horrible. One night, the stomach pains were so great that I laid on my kitchen floor in the fetal position, unable to move. That was the first time my parents thought that I wasn’t making this up. We went back to see her, did an x-ray, and it showed no difference. She then had me try two enemas and two bottles of magnesium citrate. Still nothing. She had thought that I might be celiac, so I became even more strict on my diet. I went to a GI specialists who started me on Linzess, which yielded no results. Now I am on Motergity which has worked wonders. I finally feel like I am cleaning out my system. I don’t feel like walking around with 10lbs of crap in my colon. I still get bloated like nobodies business, tired and fatigued, have awful stomach pains, and muscle aches. The GI formally diagnosed me with IBS and for once, something good came out of this. I felt like everything that I had been experiencing wasn’t in my head. That everything that I have been dealing with was real and tangible. While I am glad that I finally have an answer as to what is wrong, I wish I never would’ve spoken up. My grandma and uncle struggle with constipation, so my whole family was fascinated to hear that I have similar issues. My own personal medical issues are no longer mine. My family pushes for updates. I am disgusted by this. When we first got the x-ray back, I laughed because I thought that that was insane. Since then, everything has been public because I laughed. This has been something that has hurt my physically and mentally, but no one understands that aspect of it. As a competitive swimmer, body image is big. I struggled with my body for years upon years. I struggled with my body image at an age where I should’ve been concerned about what I wanted to be for Halloween. 

My current plant-based and gluten-free diet has seemed to help. Gluten is definitely a trigger, and my Doctor thinks I’m borderline Celiac. I hardly ever drink soda or stuff like that, but that is a trigger for when I do. I think fried food is a trigger, but again, I hardly ever eat it (expect for fries). I’ve been able to start finding triggers. I’ve found that my portions are definitely a trigger. As a competitive swimmer, I had the greatest appetitie ever and that really fueled my IBS and all of my issues. I’ve started eating less, but more frequently. By trigger, I mean that these things make me look pregnant because of how bloated I am,  horrible stomach pains and cramps, fatigue, muscle aches, and even mood swings. Living with these dietary restrictions has been hard. I don’t want to say, “sorry I can’t eat that or that or that or that,” because I don’t want to be high maintenance. When I’m out, it’s always a personal battle of whether I want to eat this and live but feel horrible later, or say no and feel fine but miss out on an experience. 

None of my friends or family struggle with this so I feel alone. I lie in bed at night, listening to my stomach, breathing through the cramps, just wondering when this will all go away. I know that there are worse things to have, and I am beyond thankful that it is only IBS. When I put things into perspective, I feel more at peace. I also know that this is so temporary and so I shouldn’t meditate on the temporary discomfort, but rather rejoice on the fact that one day, in Heaven, it will all go away. The mental and physical aspect of it will all go away. I will be happy and healthy.   

I’m 18 and IBS is something that I have lived with for my entire teenage years. I was just diagnosed this past year and I haven’t had normal bowel movements until this past month. With the good of being regular or at least kind of regular, I have had to be high maintenance in order to achieve that. The cost of this benefit is rough. But I found something. This is something I will have for the rest of my life, so I’m moving forward and fighting. 

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