Tiegan’s Story – IBS
Tell us about yourself
“My name is Tiegan, I’m 24 years old from the South Coast. I live with my parents and have a wonderful friendship group and boyfriend. I work in a school doing the breakfast and after-school clubs, but also have a small business for my baking, which I really enjoy. I love photography too and doing my nails.”
Can you remember when your Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) began?
“I’ve had IBS for as long as I can remember. As a child/teenager though, whenever I became stressed or anxious, I’d feel very sick, nauseous and bloated. It was only as an adult that it began to affect my bowels, and affected my life more. I think this is because as a child, I just thought my symptoms were normal. But as an adult, I realised not everybody lives like this.”
What are your IBS symptoms?
“My IBS affects me mostly in the form of diarrhoea, with bad bloating and a cramping pain in my stomach too. The diarrhoea is hard to predict, but happens at least weekly.
I have anxiety too and have always known that when I’m anxious, stressed or nervous, my IBS becomes so much worse. Of course, the gut and the brain communicate and it’s a struggle to find the right balance. Sometimes the smallest things can make me anxious, and I feel it straight away with my IBS symptoms! I’ll be running back and forth to the toilet more.”
When were you formally diagnosed with IBS?
“Members of my family have IBS, so growing up we all suspected I had IBS too because our symptoms were very similar. As IBS affected my life more than I wanted it to in the last few years, I finally took myself to my GP for a formal diagnosis.
My doctor ran some tests to rule out other conditions, and then diagnosed me formally with IBS. I think I needed this. Sometimes I worried people might think I’m lying, or I make it sound worse than it is. A formal diagnosis for both my IBS and my anxiety was what I needed, as a validation to myself more than anything.”
What do you find helps you and your symptoms?
“When I have flare-ups, I find heat is my best friend. A hot water bottle is so comforting and soothing, and of course it eases my cramping pains too. Taking time out and time for myself helps too, like putting on a face-mask, having a relaxing bath or a shower. It’s important to calm my brain down, because I know that this will in turn help my IBS.
When I feel that my gut really isn’t going to be my friend today, and I know I’ve got a busy day that involves leaving the house, I’ll take loperamide. Especially if I know there’s limited access to toilets. Plus it calms my nerves, as it’s a comfort to know I’ve done all I can to prepare myself for the day.”
How do you feel about your IBS now?
“I used to be very embarrassed to talk about my IBS and would shy away from talking about it altogether. It’s been a journey for me to get to the point I’m at today, where I’m much more open and confident in talking about my symptoms. I think this is because I’ve accepted my IBS now. Nothing I can do is going to get rid of my IBS, but I know I can work with my body to alleviate it as much as I can.
During my late teens, my relationship with food was affected by my IBS. There were times I’d skip meals, going hours without eating just so I wouldn’t get symptoms. I realise this wasn’t healthy, and although I’m not 100%, I’m better than I was.
I’m grateful to have supportive friends and family. When I’m sat in a slump getting all upset, wondering why I can’t just be normal, it helps having family who understand how I feel.”
Is there any information about IBS or diarrhoea that you wished you had sooner?
“I wish the realisation that I wasn’t alone came sooner. I follow people on social media who talk about their IBS, and realised there are people out there like me – I’m not on my own!”
Why are you sharing your story today?
“If I could help one person feel more comfortable in themselves, that’s all I want. At times, I’ve felt so lonely. I’d hate to think anybody growing up now would feel the same as I did back then.”
What advice would you give to people with IBS or diarrhoea?
“Open up to people. It can feel embarrassing and hard at first, but as long as you find the right, supportive person, you’ll find that talking can help you so much. Whether it’s a friend, family member of a charity like Guts UK – just talk. There’s nothing worse than being stuck in your own head, thinking you’re the only one struggling.
Secondly, don’t waste all your time and money on the miracle cures. If there was a cure for IBS, everyone would have it!”