I’m in a lot of pain right now. I’ve been in a lot of pain over the last couple weeks. It’s kind of hard to tell when the intensity started to ratchet up.
Let’s see. The period I shouldn’t be having started last Saturday with some spotting that I recognized as a precursor to a true period. I kept taking the birth control pills so I’m going to get some break out bleeding later this week (fun!). The abdominal pain that is supposedly caused by IBS has been high for longer than that, because I started to change my diet in response the week of New Years.
For some reason, my stomach is not pleased with eating solid food before 11 am or so. And that’s pushing it. Noon is better. If I eat solid food before my stomach is ready, then I get instant pain on top of the already existing pain. I mean, I wake up and there’s a burning in my stomach. Or maybe not my stomach. There’s a burning in my abdominal region. Midline a few inches above the belly button seems to be where it is centered.
The burning isn’t going away throughout the day, but if I wait long enough, I can eat solid food without exacerbating it. Even eating Saltine crackers causes pain. I thought they would always be safe to eat! (I feel so betrayed.)
Chewing gum seems to help a bit. It either distracts me from the pain or provides some soothing effect with the flavor (strawberry, not mint. Never mint!). But the moment I stop, the pain is just there in my head, bubbling up insistently, refusing to be ignored. Monday night I had a hard time falling asleep because of pain. It wasn’t burning this time, but a throbbing ache that spiked now and then in the lower right.
I frequently feel as if I’m going to vomit, but it’s always just a burp. Sometimes the burp feels like it’s going to be a vomit, to the point where I can feel stuff rising in my throat but it never comes out.
I’ve cut alcohol from my diet and I’m working on cutting caffeine (I get really bad caffeine withdrawal, so I’m slowly reducing so as to avoid the additional pain of a caffeine withdrawal headache). I spent some time this weekend looking up what else this pain could possibly be other than my useless Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) diagnosis.
I call it useless because there’s nothing concrete I can do to truly treat it. The pills are a stopgap measure that have side effects I don’t like. Diet changes don’t seem to help. I exercise plenty and have great sleep hygiene (when the pain doesn’t keep me awake). Given that the pain seemed to spike hard during the period (that I shouldn’t have been having because I’m taking oral contraceptives to prevent that event), I considered endometriosis.
I’ve looked into that before, because I have tended to have issues with my bowels during my periods for a long time. In 2004-ish, I had a pelvic ultrasound to check for endometriosis and they said it was clear and I didn’t have it. But, my searching over the weekend revealed that pelvic ultrasounds are no longer considered to be definitive in detecting endometriosis. The definitive test is a laparoscopy, which I probably won’t be able to get because it’s a surgical procedure and the condition was already ruled out.
The other thing I considered was chronic appendicitis, in which the appendix is partially blocked leading to the exact symptoms of IBS. I read a story about a guy who had that condition diagnosed after a colonoscopy revealed pus oozing from the appendix. My gastro offered to put me in for a colonoscopy when we were still trying to settle on what was wrong, but I was afraid.
I was afraid that it would just be another expensive test that revealed my body was perfectly normal and seemingly healthy like the endoscopy had. I was afraid and so I settled on the IBS diagnosis and took the pills with the bad side effects and then I spent some time taking mint oil pills that seemed to help for a while and then they started causing me pain so I stopped taking them.
I’m not taking anything for IBS right now. I’m trying to endure the pain and get through this bad time. I’m tired of hurting and I’m frustrated because I feel like I can’t see a doctor about this. Because I already have a diagnosis and there’s nothing more they can do.
I don’t want to eat anything most of the time. I’m hungry but I don’t want to eat. I like the idea of those other diagnoses because they have solutions. IBS doesn’t have a solution.
You simply have to cope.
With pills that kinda work and cause side effects, with dietary changes that never work long term, with reducing stress and sleeping well and exercising and trying to be as healthy as possible. And with pain that comes and goes at unpredictable intervals, tends to stay for weeks or months at time, and leave again for no apparent reason.
Last October, I had a good experience after doing liquid breakfast for two weeks. It cleared the pain right up. Doing the same thing now, I’m getting different results. No change in the pain. I’d much prefer to have some insanity with these methods and start getting the same results from doing the same thing. And I’ve read that chewing gum is bad for IBS because of swallowing gas and I’ve read that drinking carbonated beverages is bad for IBS, but drinking sparkling water feels good. It soothes my burning tummy. So I’m not about to quit them.
And even though what I’m writing is a lot like one big complaint, I am trying to stay positive. I’m trying to go through my days without letting the pain dictate my mood. My husband pointed out to me last week that I’ve been down. I don’t like being down. Being positive ultimately feels better, so I work on that.
And I know that googling symptoms isn’t that healthy of a behavior either. According to webmd, everyone has something terribly wrong with them based on self-reported symptoms. I’m not so much looking for an alternative diagnosis as I am looking for new ways to cope.
I need to take action or I’m going to drive myself crazy. So I’m starting back up on drinking some fiber supplement in the mornings, since I’m only drinking my breakfast right now anyway. It may or may not help, but I’ll be doing something and that will make me feel just a bit better.