I briefly mentioned in one of my monthly favourite posts that I was going through a diet change to determine what on Earth is going on with my digestive system. Two months later and everything is finally sorted and I feel better than I have in a looong time (hooray)!
My digestive issues story started back in 2017, I did write a post about it here so please read this first. To summarise: I felt pretty shit for around 6 months, went to the doctors to have a couple of blood tests, found out I was sensitive to gluten and was advised to cut it down a bit. Did I cut down on the gluten though? Of course bloody not. Fast forward to present day and I decided enough is enough and off I went back to the doctors. The doctor told me to go back on a gluten diet then after a month book in for a blood test, then come back to her for the results.
One word to sum up that month: shit. Shitty shit shit. If it wasn’t obvious before that something was wrong with my body when I eat gluten products, then my god did this diet kick it in to overdrive. I felt constantly bloated, sometimes even felt like I was a few months pregnant (not like I know what that feels like, but I’m damn sure this was a close enough feeling!), was constantly going to the loo, felt super tired and lethargic.. but the worst symptom was the gluten induced depression. I might be making fun of it now, but at the time I felt the worst that I’ve felt in a long, long time. A week and a bit into the diet and I became a complete shell of myself, I spent weeks not seeing anyone, just staying at home and playing Pokemon, I went to my exercise classes but that was only because I paid for them beforehand. I had no motivation at work, no motivation to see anyone, I dreaded having to leave the flat in general. I just simply couldn’t cope, I became a ball of anxiety, any little thing that went wrong was a HUGE issue and I basically cried myself to sleep every night.. it was hell.
The only plus side to being a hermit was I learnt to bake lots of different gluten free cakes and deserts, I wrote about that on my June Monthly Favourites post, I always thought I was a terrible cook/baker, but they all tasted great.. and I didn’t give anyone Salmonella, bonus.
Fast forward 2 months, as I had to wait a couple of weeks for the blood test and another couple of weeks for my appointment with the doctor.. and -drum roll please- I have IBS. My IBS is triggered by food products that have gluten in them, so.. basically all my favourite foods. For anyone unsure, IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome) is a disorder of the Large Intestine, it causes stomach cramps, bloating, diarrhoea, constipation and sometimes depression.
Now I actually have a proper diagnoses rather than “you are just sensitive to gluten”, I feel kind of free in a way. Although it’s annoying having to think about every little thing I eat and plan meals way in advance, I’m not hating a more gluten free lifestyle. I give myself a free pass on weekends to have a meal or two with gluten in, I’m not a glutton for punishment and I really don’t want to get back in to disordered eating. With a bit of research and stalking The Gluten Free blogger’s blog, I’ve found lots of gluten free alternatives to my favourite foods (banana bread, fish fingers, breaded chicken, bread rolls, pasta products, biscuits etc).
This time I had a much more understanding doctor and felt my diagnosis was properly understood, rather than a “lay off the gluten, BYE”. This current doctor really understood how I was feeling and also gave me tips on how to handle my IBS rather than just laying all this information on me without some guidance. She advised to keep hydrated (which I’m still working on as I’m a terrible drinker), take multi-vitamins and good gut bacteria yogurt drinks, take Peppermint capsules to ease IBS symptoms and when I do eat something that doesn’t agree with me – take Buscopan.
I did open up to my doctor about my mental health worries and she referred me to a couple of services, it was so easy to talk to her about it all and she was very understanding.. please see your doctor if you have similar worries, they are there to help (and if they aren’t, change doctor as that isn’t very professional). She referred me to Steps2WellBeing, a mental health service in my area that is free. It was a bit of a ball ache trying to get through to them over the phone as all mental health services in the UK are running on empty, however once I emailed them they were very prompt in giving me a phone call when I was available and then setting me up with a phone assessment the week after.
The phone call went really well, they sent me a questionnaire to fill out the night before with questions like “On a scale to 1 – 10 how anxious have you felt the last 2 weeks”, so the doctor went through all that with me and told me how well or how bad (depends if you are a glass half empty kinda person) I scored. We briefly went through my worries and concerns, a small background on worrying past behaviors, risk assessment and general chit-chat. The phone call lasted around 45-50 mins and let me tell you, I was so emotionally exhausted after that, can’t image what an hour session would feel like! After that assessment I scored mild for depression but severe for anxiety, she diagnosed me with Generalised Anxiety Disorder (or GAD for short). GAD is a form of anxiety that can vary from person to person which mostly involves bouts of extreme worrying about aspects of life and not feeling in control of situations. GAD is quite a big spectrum so my experiences of it can be completely different to another person’s experience.
After the diagnosis was found, the doctor went through a lot of options for my next steps in this wellness journey. First was that she will send me a booklet of exercises to do at home with my partner, this will help me find ways to manage my excessive worrying. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is the next step, this will be a mix of phone therapy and 1-1. She also asked if I’d like to attend a group session at a local space that they organise, but I didn’t feel ready for that so I will be joining in on a Webinar they are organising instead.
Deep down I always knew I was holding on to a lot of anxiety, but I hadn’t really accepted it until recently. I think I was always worried about being the typical, cliche young woman with issues – the stigma of mental health did in some way, push me away from getting help. I’m glad a found a sliver of courage to take the first steps in to getting help, I feel pretty hopeful for the first time in forever. I just wish I did it way sooner!
For urgent help: Samaritans on 116 123, Mind – call 0300 123 3393 or text 86463 (9am to 6pm on weekdays). Call 111 out of hours – they will help you find the support and help you need, 999 if it’s an emergency.
To find Psychological therapies in your area: Here
Mental Health app list: Here