Read Part 1 here
In the height of my ED, my IBS was only an issue when I ate, so I tried not to. When I went into recovery and had to eat, my symptoms went into overdrive and I was sick no matter what I ate. Although I was telling myself I was improving, I was still restricting (to a lesser degree) and when I felt the need, would try to make myself sick. To avoid suspicion, I would sometimes eat my allergy foods (i.e. bread) to force a reaction. After about 3 months, I realised I wasn’t reacting anymore. I had put on about a stone, was eating regularly and was chock full of meds. And I was able to stomach food I hadn’t eaten in 4 years.
Cut to 2 years later and I started seeing a dietitian to push through the next hurdle of recovery. Besides addressing my eating patterns and my vegetarianism, she gave me a list of foods to avoid. These low-FODMAP foods were not the extent of the restrictions I had put on myself previously. Basically, I don’t eat apples, mushrooms, onions and honey and I keep white bread to a minimum. As it turns out, my symptoms are highly correlated to my stress levels – which fits completely with my history of depression and anxiety. When I started to get these under control, my IBS was a lot easier to handle too.
The reason I decided to bring this up had to do with the current exam period. I hadn’t been experiencing any symptoms for a while. Like the reading week before it, this reading week had driven me into a frenzy of thoughts of failing and ideals of perfection. An added bonus of the Spring Semester was a stressful work placement and an almost constant string of rehearsals in the period leading up to the exam. The culmination of this was a week of alternately restricting and binging on a daily basis.
Soon, the tests were upon me but I felt prepared. I knew my shit and went into Anatomy to give a sigh of relief that the questions I felt particularly strong at had come up. One hour in and half the questions done, I felt a stabbing pain in my gut. I tried to ignore it but eventually I caved and was escorted to the bathroom. I got sick, felt better and headed back to finish off what was to be a kickass exam. My insides had other plans and I only lasted fifteen more minutes before I called uncle and left the exam hall, test unfinished, to get sick. Disgusted and disappointed don’t begin to cover how I felt that day.
Whether I like it or not, food is always going to be an issue. IBS doesn’t go away, it just fades into the background before rearing its ugly head in times of crisis. My eating disorder seems to follow the same pattern and the two have become intrinsically linked. Maybe if I didn’t have IBS, I would have never restricted a food group and become accustomed to not eating. Maybe if I had never had an ED, my IBS wouldn’t have exacerbated as badly as it did. At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter. With both conditions, the disease does not just disappear. You find ways to live and ways to cope.
To be continued…