I have a lot on my mind and heart right now. So much, in fact, that I am currently writing this at 5:49am on a Saturday morning. Why, you might ask?
I'm not sure. I couldn't sleep. I've been tossing and turning, in and out pretty much all night, and it's not something new. I've been having a lot of trouble falling and staying asleep on exchange. I think it might be due to the lack of discipline required every day, and due to the severe lack of work, productivity, and sense of daily accomplishment I'm used to.
Nevertheless, I am up way before the sun and wide awake with too much on my mind and few places to direct that energy, other than the internet - clearly.
When I share things on social media/online, I always ask, "How does this help the reader? Will they feel inspired or learn something? Can they relate?" I know this post isn't very helpful or relatable. Honestly, I don't know how to add a section to help you because before I help you, I need to help myself.
I am sharing this now so you can see the genuine and honest place I am coming from. Dealing with IBS is not easy for me either, and if you are dealing with it too, I want you to know that you are not alone.
I haven't posted a lot about my IBS lately because I don't have any way I can help other than saying I can relate. I really wish I had a solution I could offer you. I wish I had some way to fix the root of your issues because I really, really know what it feels like to suffer.
My stomach hasn't been great on exchange. Obviously, I'm in a foreign country and it will take time to adjust to new foods. But, I've been bloated everyday, constantly gas-ey, I know my GI tract is fighting to adjust to new foods, and I've been feeling guilty for not having fresh veggies readily available to feed it. I've been trying to take a probiotic, but it has to be refrigerated, which is SO not conducive to the ~exchange lifestyle~. I've had the Bali flu weak havoc on my intestines. I've had stomach aches and many sleepless nights. Yes, I'm okay, but no, my stomach isn't great.
What inspired this IBS update is a random dm on Insta about two weeks ago from this sweet girl, who works for a MLM company. If you're unfamiliar, MLM stands for Multi-Level Marketing, which is a company wherein "independent consultants" recruit new people to join their team sell the company's products. They then make a commission off of what the people on their team sell. As a business model, I think it's a pretty brilliant concept, but personally, I am skeptical. Many of these companies often make flourishing claims about the life-changing benefits of their products that seem dramatized and SO incentivized by sales or commission.
However, It's not all bad. I follow numerous of people that work for fitness MLM Team Beachbody and they are some of my favourite fitness influencers. I love them because they are so real and motivating; I just have no interest in doing what they do.
Anyways, this girl reached out to me - like many others from other skincare, fitness & wellness companies have since I "went public" on Insta.
"Girlfriend, I love your account and I think you'd be so great at what I do. Are you interested?"
Haven't heard that before...
I was about to send back my standard, "Omg love your page too! Thanks so much that's very kind of you. I'm not interested in joining an MLM right now, but best of luck in your business!", but something made me look at her profile.
It was a company that I haven't heard of before called Plexxus, which is another health supplement company. Company related things aside, her page was filled with information about gut health, what it is, and why it's important. I did this little quiz in her bio and realized my gut health SUCKS.
I spent SO long in my head justifying why or why I shouldn't entertain the idea of trying these products. Ultimately, it wasn't even about the products, it was about the way I've been dealing with my IBS.
Things I will not do:
Sell myself out
Sacrifice my integrity for profit
Promote something I don't believe in or haven't fully tried, tested & would put my back on the line for
Some things I also won't do:
Wear jean shorts, or really any shorts except ~athleisure~ because they are SO uncomfortable with my bloating
Wear crop tops when I go out because they look so bad with my bloating
Enjoy treats or highly processed foods because of the potential trigger
I've not only been hiding my IBS by way of loose-fitting clothing, but I've also been hiding FROM it. I have spent so many years training myself to not eat anything "unhealthy" and potentially triggering that I have become afraid to enjoy ice cream in Bali with my friends.
And being afraid to eat ice cream in Bali with my friends is not how I want to live my life.
I've been living with IBS for four and a half years. With the whole "new decade - 10 year challenge - 10 year goals" things that have come along with the end of 2019 and start of 2020, this year is coming up on five years. You're probably thinking, yes Jess, when you round up 4.5 you get 5... great math. I'm not a quant, okay?! My point is, I've spent nearly HALF of the last decade living with constant gas, daily bloating, avoiding foods, stomach pain, and other *shitty* situations (if you have IBS, you know exactly what I mean).
I've become so used to not feeling 100% that I honestly don't know what it would feel like anymore.
Maybe it's rash or silly to ship some product off the internet internationally and try it while on exchange. It certainly would make a lot more sense to wait until I get home from exchange to try (yet another) proposed solution.
Irrational? Yes. BUT, I've also spent so much of the past 4.5 years waiting for a "more rational" time. I've waited for a "less stressful time" when I can eliminate other factors so I know the "solution" is working. "Until I...
I finish the semester
I graduate high school
I'm not exhausted from working crazy hours with crazier children at summer day camp
I'm settled in university
I'm finished "Tour Season"
I'm home from Madrid
I'm used to living alone
I'm home from my reading week vacation
I'm home for the summer
I go back to school because I have no time to see doctors with my ridiculous commute
I'm home from exchange... oh wait
Clearly, my life is just an ongoing cycle of moving, changing, and stressful times.
If I keep going the way I'm going, I can already foresee the next 3 to 5 excuses, "until I
Finish the summer
Find a full time job
Start full time job
I can't continue hiding behind these opportunities. Don't get me wrong, I am extremely, like EXTREMELY, grateful for the educational, work, and travel opportunities I've had over the past 5 years. I've seen some incredible places, met many incredible people, learned some incredible things. I love my life, and I wouldn't trade these opportunities.
BUT, I need to do something. I would rather try something for a few weeks or months and it completely not work, than continue doing what I am doing, which is hiding from the root issue.
I have become so complacent. I joke about my bloating constantly, and sometimes I don't even notice it because I have become so good at picking clothes that don't bother me. I would way rather joke than complain about it, but at the same time it has become a coping mechanism.
I need to get emotional and angry about it. I need to decide that I am NOT okay with living like this. I need to convince myself I will find a solution. I need believe to the root of my being that I deserve to feel amazing every day. I need to get comfortable investing in my gut health and IBS the way I invest time into exercise. I need to have hope.
I was so apprehensive, and I asked myself why?
Was I afraid the products wouldn't work? (Yes, but not that afraid)
Was I afraid of wasting my money? (Yes, but not that afraid)
When I took a deep look in the mirror, I was afraid of what other people would think.
"She's joining a pyramid scheme". "There's no way products from the internet will work". "Trust a real doctor".
Am I a person that cares more about what other people think than I do about my daily health issues?
Believe me, I have no interest in joining a pyramid scheme. If I learned one thing from the drudgery of two years in economics class, is that pyramid schemes are ineffective and illegal. That might be the only thing I learned.
Honestly, I don't even have an interest in joining an MLM. I don't care about starting a side-hustle or making residual income from commissions.
Products from the Internet
I have no idea if products from the internet will work. What I do know is they can't make me worse off than what I have tried.
Last month? A probiotic, which I think has been largely unsuccessful because "good" probiotics need to be refrigerated and I can't be jet-setting with refrigerated probiotics and bringing it on weekend trips. I need something that fits MY lifestyle.
Last winter? Quitting ALL processed sugar for 100 days, which turned into a nearly-permanent elimination.
Two summers ago? A naturopath and an elimination diet that ended in tears every night about what to eat, and caused so much stress that is actually made my symptoms worse.
Three summers ago? Eating more veggies. Regular, almost obsessive, exercise. "reducing stress" - whatever that means.
Maybe so many failed solutions is where my fear and skepticism of processed food comes from. Obviously it's not the best thing in the world for me, but most NORMAL people can enjoy ice cream or bread with dinner without worrying.
If you're concerned or skeptical, I not only was too, but I still am.
Partially why I'm so skeptical is claims like "it fixed my IBS", "I no longer face any issues", and "I'm cured". Maybe part of it is also traditional doctors who have told me that it's something wrong with ME and my system.
And believe me, I have tried the "real doctors". In fact, many of them. All different kinds of them. And I strongly believe that the vast majority are not equipped with the information I NEED about gut health.
When I was laying awake, two memories from this summer played through my head. One was of getting an endoscopy. I took the day off work, went to this fancy clinic, was put under for a very nice doctor to stick a tube down my throat and tell me four weeks later I looked "normal", and there was no foreseeable cause for my stomach issues.
The second was a few weeks later when I took more time off work to see my family doctor for a regular checkup. She asked how my IBS was and I gave her all the updates on quitting sugar, my self-diagnosed fructose malabsorption problem, and job as a fitness instructor. She seemed sympathetic and kind of just looked at me with pity that I was trying all of these wacky remedies. When I declined her offer (again) for medications for bloating and cited not wanting a "band aid solution" for a deep internal issue, I remember she said,
"Honestly Jess, you might just be dealing with these symptoms for the rest of your life."
Cut, call the producer, I'm in the wrong movie. I was 19; I am now 20. I may have been living with these symptoms for the last 4 years, but I am not spending the next 81 with them.
Hannah's message was a wakeup call that
I can joke all I want, but underneath it all, I have a serious gut health problem
I don't have to continue living the way I'm living
So, here's to taking action. Here's to making an irrational decision and shipping products halfway across the world. I would rather share it with you than do it behind your back. I always try to show the "process", and that comes with both successes and failures.
I've been stuck in analysis paralysis searching for the "best solution" or waiting for the "right time" instead of taking action. Moving forwards, I am going to accept that there is no right time and there is maybe not a best solution. Instead, I am going to use trial and error.
Maybe they're not the best products on the market, and maybe they won't work at all. Maybe the company promotes other things I don't believe in (hello, weight-loss supplements), but bricks & mortar companies do that too. For example, I don't support 36-80g of sugar in Frappucino's, but I still love me a good Cold Brew...
I suppose the true worst case scenario is we look back in a few weeks and joke about another failed solution.
I am far from there yet, and I have A LOT of self-education to do on things that I don't really want to, like gut health, the ~microbiome~, and "science-y things". If that's what it will take so I don't have to, "just deal with it for the rest of my life", then bring it on.
I am doing this to prove to myself that I still have hope. I am doing this because I want to remember what it feels like to feel amazing, and not just "managing", "okay", or "good enough". I am doing this because I am NOT OKAY with living for the next half decade the way I have been for the last. I am doing this so that maybe, one day I too can say I've "cured my IBS", and that hopefully I can help you fix yours too.