How to Have Difficult Conversations About IBS
Difficult conversations are a fact of life, and no one enjoys having them. Nevertheless, they can be extremely important in the workplace, in families, and in relationships. For people with IBS, difficult conversations sometimes come with the territory, since stress, food, relationships, and schedules all take a turn being affected by the condition. Wondering how to talk about IBS with a friend or loved one can be challenging at the best of times, so today, we’re sharing tips for making difficult conversations easier.
How to Have Difficult Conversations 101: Don’t Catastrophize!
If you’re planning on sharing a diagnosis or discussing your own dietary or scheduling needs, you may try to map out the outcome of the conversation. However, rule number one of how to have difficult conversations is don’t start thinking about potential bad outcomes!
The technical term for thinking about the absolute worst case scenario and spiraling into it is catastrophizing. It’s easy to start imagining the worst-case scenario as soon as you realize you need to talk about IBS, and to become mired down in the bleakest potential timeline. Examples of catastrophizing include thinking things like:
If I tell this person X, they won’t like me anymore!
If I try to talk about IBS with my date, they won’t want to see me anymore…
If they don’t understand, I won’t be able to handle it.
Catastrophizing helps nobody, and it doesn’t make having a difficult conversation any easier! If you’re wondering how to talk about IBS with a loved one, friend, partner, or even your boss, it’s important not to wind yourself up in your head beforehand. The truth is, you can’t know how anyone is going to react! Trying to project is a way of trying to control the situation, but it can lead you to needlessly worrying. Hope for the best, prepare for the worst, and expect nothing!
Don’t Put It Off Just Because It’s Scary
It’s tempting to find excuses to avoid thorny subjects. We all naturally avoid pain and seek out pleasure, so it takes courage to dive headfirst into something we’re afraid of. Do any of these excuses sound familiar?
Today isn’t a good day…
I’d rather just enjoy my time with them…
I’ll know when it’s a good time, and that’s not now.
Tomorrow I’ll definitely do it!
If you don’t know how to have difficult conversations about IBS, you may want to put it off; but like many things in life, the more you put it off, the bigger it gets in your head, and the bigger it gets, the more you’ll want to put it off, and so on.
It’s important to have difficult conversations about IBS sooner rather than later. After all, you may be putting it off, but your IBS symptoms aren’t! Talking about IBS can be important for several reasons. Perhaps you find that you need accommodation at work, such as shifting your schedule or finding a way to reduce symptom-triggering stress. Perhaps you need to talk to your romantic partner about your IBS because of dietary needs when you eat out, or symptoms manifesting themselves at (ahem!) the least opportune moments.
Or maybe you just need to talk about it with someone! IBS can be an isolating, lonely condition, and this feeling can be exacerbated by what feels like the indelicate nature of the subject. The truth is, IBS and its symptoms are nothing to be ashamed of. Talking to a trusted friend or family member about what you’re going through can be a good way to cope with the experience. After all, you deserve support!
Know Your Facts!
Finally, know your facts! You’ll feel much better about your discussion if you know what you want to say ahead of time, and you’ll also be able to answer any questions that may arise. If you’re really nervous about a difficult conversation, you can even write out a script ahead of time–this article provides some great starting points for talking about IBS, as well as some key questions to ask yourself.
You can also check out some of our resources to get more information about the condition! If you know what you’re going to say ahead of time, it can greatly increase your feeling of control and your comfort in the situation. Remember, IBS is nothing to be ashamed of! It’s an extremely common, if inconvenient, condition, and you are not alone in experiencing it.
At Fody, we’re all about knowing what your body needs and living your best life, IBS or not! To learn more about living with IBS and following a gut-friendly diet, check out our blog, and visit our recipes section to find inspiration throughout IBS awareness month and beyond!