That was the opening sentence of an email I received a year ago. In my experience, this feeling of being trapped in their house, too scared to go out because they don’t know when they might need to find a toilet or whether there will be one when they need one, is more common than you may think. Often these fears are accompanied by pain,
discomfort and bloating. This might even be the world you inhabit if you are reading this.
This poor chap felt totally and utterly miserable, he was unable to go on holiday, on a day trip out anywhere and even walked his dog up and down the road outside his house several times rather than walk further to the park, in case he needed the toilet. ‘I used to do all sorts of things and go anywhere’, he told me despondently, ‘but now I barely leave the house apart from a quick car journey to work and that’s always preceded by several trips to the toilet.’
The exact causes of IBS are unknown, but it is widely acknowledged that IBS can often start after a particularly stressful time in a person’s life. During periods of stress, the fight or flight response is activated. Blood flows away from the digestive system to all the muscles in the legs and arms so you are able to run away from threats quickly and easily. In caveman times this was essential for survival especially if a sabretooth tiger was after you, however in today’s times, although Nigel in accounts may be a little intimidating, there are more appropriate ways of reacting other than running away.
During the initial consultation, it became clear that this chap’s symptoms had started during his 20s, after he found out his wife was having an affair. Although now happily in another relationship, talking about that memory was still quite painful. I helped him reprocess that memory, removing the emotional pain, guilt and shame which often accompanies such events. Even after that session, he told me that he was feeling lighter and freer and had been able to let go of some of the emotional baggage. Working together, I taught him visualisation techniques to manage symptoms and ways to relax and remain calm during times of stress. During our time of working together, sadly his stepmother died. He told me that previously symptoms would have been ‘through the roof’ during this stressful time but that he maintained progress and handled the situation must better than he would have done before seeing me.
After six sessions, we reviewed progress. He had recorded symptoms of diarrhoea at 95% when we first met. After 6 sessions, this had decreased to 5%. Pain had disappeared and he had felt confident to go on the train to London for a day out and book a holiday to Italy. He even looked 2 inches taller! I also received a card from his dog, complete with paw print! He was so pleased to be taken to the park and for long walks all around the locality rather than just walking up and down the road where he lived.