I have been open about a significant period of stress in my working life in previous blogs. The fact that I got through it all those years ago, that I’ve learned a considerable amount from the experience, and that I now feel ready to share some of it shows that there is always a positive corner to turn. Wellbeing is a big part of my daily life and it is turning into a recurring blog theme – I guess you never really know what is going to surface until you start writing.
So here goes. I now recognise that I had been going through a low level of continually rumbling stress (probably the most damaging kind because you think you are functioning normally) that was slowly rising in a crescendo for about 18 months.
I can see that I had all kinds of symptoms. For example, I would sit in the weekly SLT meeting and literally itch all over. I’d buy nit shampoo on the way home because I was convinced that I must be totally infested. My body was screaming at me that there was a problem but I chose to be practical and stalwart, chin up and keep going.
Eventually, in an effort to be heard, my body tried a different tack and decided to introduce IBS.
Before you can be handed a diagnosis of IBS you have to go through a whole raft of tests. Over the testing period I had 3 endoscopies, a cystoscopy and a CT scan, and I saw a lot of consultants. Eventually, probably because they hadn’t found anything tangible, I was told; “You have IBS, take these drugs for the rest of your life”.
By the time I was diagnosed, however, I was actually in a much better place emotionally. I had a new job, a supportive Head and colleagues, I fitted in and was happy (and there were no more skin issues). So I decided that there must be an alternative to a life of popping stomach calming pills after every meal and I hit Google.
Basically I just stopped eating what my digestive system had decided it doesn’t like. That is gluten, dairy, eggs, fresh grapes; and it is also much happier when I’m not eating sugar (real or synthetic – including fruit!)
Yes it can be rather limiting sometimes (I’m not popular in restaurants) but if I fall off the ‘wagon’, boy do I pay the price!
I guess in the back of my mind I thought that my digestive system would heal itself and I could go back to a normal diet eventually but I’m still waiting for that. The good news is that I’ve been referred to a specialist IBS clinic later this year so maybe they can help repair me on the inside.
So, in true blog fashion, from my experience I’d like to share two pieces of advice;
1. Listen to your body. It knows what it is doing. It will protest in a myriad of ways and just keep upping the ante until you stop and take notice.
2. Take the time now to research ways to manage stress, build yourself a toolkit and use it all the time. Stress symptoms creep up slowly. If you get to the point, as I did, of being overwhelmed, you’re too late.
Finally, I hope you’ll now understand my dislike of ‘cake culture’. I think it’s only because I can’t have it that I see how much my colleagues are eating and it’s taken my SLT 2 years to stop apologising that I can’t eat the cake they’ve made!