IBS, Anxiety and Me

It’s been precisely 1 year and 4 months, since my first IBS post went live and it’s been a rollercoaster of a journey ever since. Living with IBS brings some extreme highs, when you’ve finally cracked how to manage it, and some extreme lows where you’re bathroom bound, doubled over in pain, bawling your eyes out. If you have IBS you know exactly what I’m talking about, it’s a debilitating illness, if I can call it that, and can be super isolating but every time sufferers talk about it, they’re helping break the poo taboo. And that’s super important, which is why I wanted to post today about my anxiety, one of the other symptoms of IBS.

In the past year I’ve bought a house, chopped a lot of inches off my hair, been on a probiotic journey where I learnt that making your own probiotics is bloody time-consuming and not always successful, got engaged, tried another 12 week course of Symprove and started trying to follow the FODMAP diet. I’ve also met some fellow bloggers – shout out to The Beautiful Mouth, Scarlett London and Free From Fairy – who are in the exact same IBS boat.

We all know that stress is a big factor in flaring IBS symptoms and while I have tried not to get so wound up by things, it’s really freakin’ difficult. I’m a natural-born worrier, worrying is ingrained in my DNA, there’s not too much I can do about that. And just recently, within the past couple of months, I’ve felt it even more. Worrying and stress go hand-in-hand with anxiety, which in turn, all leads back to IBS.

My anxiety isn’t really something I’ve ever discussed openly before. I struggle with anxiety and talking about it, because to me, it can seem like a weakness. Even when I know it’s not. I hate feeling like I’m not in control of my body, and when my anxiety rears it’s ugly, unwanted head, it swamps me.

I’ve dealt with it before, mainly when I’m in a situation where my IBS symptoms have flared and I desperately need to get home or find the nearest loo and I can’t concentrate on anything other than that and the intense gut-twisting pains. I can almost deal with it then but a month ago my anxiety crept up on me at work and I wasn’t prepared and I didn’t know what it was or how to handle it, and it overwhelmed me. I remember coming over all dizzy, feeling flushed, weirdly spaced out with my heart racing. I went to the loos and locked myself in a cubicle, trying to calm myself down with big, deep breaths, the same I would do when suffering with IBS. Except this time I couldn’t control them. In the end I had to leave work and it was only after I’d been sat at Clapham Junction station waiting 20 minutes for my train home, that I started to return to normal. I can only describe it as an out-of-body experience. And it’s only thanks to my mum for talking me through it that I began to beat it. I remember cancelling all plans that weekend and feeling so low. For once I’d had an anxiety attack and it wasn’t directly related to my IBS, just stress, and I felt so out of my depth.

I had another attack a couple of weeks later, again at work, but this time I was prepared. I knew as soon as my heart started pounding and my head started spinning what it was. I took time out, I got my breath back and I told myself that I can beat this.

I haven’t had an anxiety attack since thankfully. If and when I do, I now know how to kick its ass. And I will.

I think if you’re generally seen as a ‘strong’ individual, someone who just copes and gets on with things, people are surprised when they find out you have anxiety. It’s not expected. Sometimes they don’t know what to say and sometimes they say exactly the right thing at the right time. Luckily I have a lot of the latter people in my life. Friends who text me every so often, just to check in and see that I’m ok. And I am. I really am. I’m a complete over sharer when it comes to many things but my anxiety, not so much. Not until this post poured out of my finger tips. This post feels like some form of therapy. It’s so cathartic to write and so emotional to relive it at the same time.

Funnily enough when I was with my family over Christmas the topic of stress at work came up and we all shared our stories. I told them I’d had anxiety attacks and we swapped stories of dealing with worry, stress and anxiety and it felt good to know that I wasn’t the only one. Because that’s the way anxiety makes you feel. And you’re really not alone.

When it all gets too much I just have to remember to breathe, take a step back and roll a whole lot of This Works Deep Sleep Stress Less rollerball over my wrists.

Got any top anxiety-busting tips, drop them below.

Read More About My Struggle with IBS:

6 Things To Do When You Need Some Time Out

IBS Update: 7 Weeks into My Symprove Trial

My IBS Update: Back on Symprove

What to Do When an IBS Attack Strikes

Everything You Wanted to Know About IBS But Didn’t Want to Ask

How to Make the Best Tasting Water Kefir Probiotic

The Reality of Making Your Own Probiotic

Making My Own Probiotics: The Brew Factor

IBS Then and Now: My 12 Week Symprove Review

What I Wear to Beat the Bloat

IBS: A Quarter of the Way Through My Symprove Trial and Feeling Tickety Boo

How I Deal with My IBS on a Daily Basis

IBS: You Are What You Eat

8 Reasons Why Living with IBS Sucks Big Time

3 IBS-Friendly Breakfast Recipes to Try This Weekend

My Irritable Gut and I

Read More in the Living With IBS Series:

Living with IBS: Ruth’s Story

Living with IBS: Laura’s Story

Living with IBS: Alison’s Story

Living with IBS: Claire’s Story


4 responses to “IBS, Anxiety and Me”

  1. Avatar Jess Stonehouse says:

    You’re amazing Jo, don’t ever forget it! I often think back to my days at FN and your smiling face always pops up in my thoughts – the girl with great style and a great appetite! Keep being your wonderful self and breathe through that anxiety, it’s a waste of your time and energy x

  2. Avatar Chris says:

    So good to hear that someone else pretty much has gone through what I have, & I’m not the only one 🙂
    I think I’ve had panic attacks before I knew what they were, the hot/cold flushes, light headedness, & the anxiety of being sick causing the diarrhea. For me it feels like the it was the stress of having a baby to look after & be responsible for combined with a really bad stomach bug, combined with less time for hobbies & myself that created this vicious circle, of anxiety attacks most days causing IBS symptoms causing anxiety etc etc etc!
    I got prescribed anti-depressants but had one tablet felt nausous for about 5 hours, had to get some anti sickness pills & decided to not have another pill.
    I then phoned up the steps to well being team had an assessment where she asked all the things that might be causing the anxiety, afterwards I was completely drained as I cried quite a bit! but I haven’t had another anxiety attack since & I’m going to try the Symprove probiotic to see if that can help with the IBS symptoms.

    Thanks for sharing

    • Jojo Jojo says:

      Hi Chris, welcome to the anxiety club! It can make you feel incredibly alone can’t it. It wasn’t until I wrote this post and spoke to family and friends that I realised how common it is. No one wants to be the first to bring it up! Anxiety brings on IBS and IBS brings on anxiety, it’s a vicious cycle that I’ve spent a long time trying to tame. It’s definitely worth giving Symprove a go, I’ve found it’s definitely helped get my IBS under control and made my life a tad more normal. I’m happy to answer any more questions you might have. And just remember, you’re not alone. Jo xx