Social anxiety caused by IBS is normal.
As soon as you realise you are not annoying and that waiters don’t really hate you, life will seem a little bit easier and your social anxiety about IBS will reduce.
Here’s how I counter-act any social anxiety about my IBS and actually live an awesome life.
Living in Spain right now, eating out is kind of what everyone seems to do all the time. You have breakfast out, coffee and low fodmap cake dates, brunch, lunch, tapas dinner, and post dinner snacks. The Spanish like to live & eat freely and so do the majority of my mates here. I have slowly developed the skills to successfully eat out and follow y fodmap diet planl anywhere. It’s really not the ‘what can I eat?’, that worries me so much anymore.
It’s the social anxiety.
You’ll know what I mean, the anxiey, fear that your IBS is going to ruin an otherwise very notmal occason. Worst still, your new mates don’t know your IBS situation. What if you eat something wrong because you feel rude not eating it? What if you don’t even feel like eating at all ‘cos actually your food intolerances or irritable bowel syndrome are making you feel a bit shit today, what do you do then?
We all have these thoughts and experiences when struggling with IBS and on the low fodmap diet.
Here’s the thought stream I used to go through ( and still sometimes do) leading up to a food date with my mates or fam and how I stop the social anxiety before it starts
#1 I’m going to be ill and won’t be able to go!
My first thought; ‘What if I have to cancel and miss out ‘cos I’m having a lovely vom inducing wave of nausea, bloating, wind or fatigue?
This is one of my biggest worries, it might even be yours. Especially if its about a special event. In fact, when I was visiting the UK for a recent wedding, I stressed subconciously about it so much, that I actually caused my own stress-induced IBS nausea and felt horrendous on the morning of my bestests big day.
Imagine how scared I was that I wouldnt manage the church service, let along the whole thing?! This thought just added to the nausea. My hairdresser was like, ‘ are you alright lass?’ whilst I sat chewing on pieces of ginger with my eyes closed, not speaking!
Guess what? As soon as i arrived at the church, the nausea dissapeared.
I know ,that personally, stress or anxiety from a limiting belief or thought is enough to trigger my IBS and nausea. As soon as my body realises it’s safe, happy and theres nothing to worry about, it vanishes. Funny isn’t it?
What do I do about it now?
So you’ve probably guessed that this happens frequently, especially when I meet new people and am having an internal mini panic about always having no friends in a new country or missing out on spontaneous events and adventures.
I imagine the positive outcome. If the negative thought ‘I hope I don’t feel sick/bloated/too tired for dinner cos I’m gona be a friendless expat forever’, enters my head I counteract it with ‘dinner/lunch/brunch is going to be fab what shall I wear hmmmm…’ I try and visualise being totally fine and even if I don’t feel that great, I go along anyway and usually perk up as soon as I am there.
What do I do if I really can’t go?
I am honest. If they’re interested in beign my friend/new boyf ( HA, who am I kidding?!) they will arrange to see you again soon
#2 The waiter/waitress hate me
My next thought is: Arghhh they don’t know how annoying I am about my IBS/ the non English speaking waiter will actually hate me.
Is this you? If so, just…remember: You are NOT bloody annoying! Your food intolerances and IBS are, but you, no. Thinking this only creates more social anxiety, believe me. Your IBS is YOUR annoying grumbing little misbehaving monster that you have the tools to tame. Who actually gives a hell what anyone else thinks?! Even if you piss the waiters off slightly with your no onion/garlic/grains bla bla, so bloody what? I’ve learnt, especially having had my own food business, that what’s important to them is having paying, happy customers. The owners of the restaurant would rather you leave full and satisfied, recommeding them to others, than leave angry, hungry and upset. Some of them even find it pretty interesting when you tell them why you can’t eat high fodmap food. I had an awesome experience at Mic Moc in Tarifa recntly. You can see the pics over on my Facebook Group.
#3 My mates think I am a self-centred n*b head.
Well, firstly, if they’re mates they really don’t give a shit about the fodmap diet and your IBS, they just want to see you!
If they’re new mates, then they also don’t care and won’t actually notice. ( Remember you’re hypersensitive to it, they have their own thoughts and are probably sat eyeing up the hot bod sitting behind you.)
Also, if they are paying attention, think about it this way; imagine if you were allergic to nuts ? They wouldn’t think you were a douche for requesting no nuts in your dish, would they?
So order confidently, and if they ask questions or ask you why you can’t try their food, just say ‘I have certain foods I cant eat and that’s one of them!’
#4 My family think I’m a total mess
The last thought that’s unrealted to dinner dates but can cause social anxiety about my IBS when back home, is the negativity that escalates just by thinking my loved ones have to ‘put up with me.’
In fact, a frequent limiting belief used to be ‘ my family only hear about my shit when im travelling, they must think im a total loser who can’t cope with life and is always ill.
I will say this only once. You are dealing with IBS, a chronic illness. Travelling, be it on holiday, back packing or living abroad. Doing that is tough alone when you’re healthy, not to mention when you have IBS or chronic gut issues. You will have bad days, just like you do in your home town. Remember, that your family are your family and you’re allowed to piss them off, that’s what they’re there for, Ps. Your IBS doesn’t piss them off.
A few restaurant scenarios that made me lol and you can probably relate to.
The other week, me and my fellow biz gal were sat half melting in Cadiz. All we wanted in life was a cold mixed tuna salad. The waiter wasnt having a good day and obviously was not ready for my autopilot listing of off limit fodmap foods.
After a longgggg wait, the waiter returmed with what looked like an oil soaked oniony, garlicky tomato dish.
He was already slightly irritable. ( It was about ten thouand degrees and the sweat was dripping into his eyes) but, because I knew there was no way I would even consider eating it, I took it back, pointed at a bowl of salad and said ‘para mi ensalata sin cebolla por favor!’ Salad no onions. Off he goes like ‘wtf this gal she is cray.’
He brought the bloody salad though didn’t he ( can’t have been that annoying!)
Topped with lots of finely sliced onions. I just LOL’d. My mate was like ‘yeah don’t think he can cope with your IBS life today Em’s.’
I ate it, obviously ( I’m always hungry!) after picking off all the onions. I could have just not said anything, because I was already thinking, this guy HATES ME, but I decided my health was more important. You should too.
Another recent hilariously bad situation was in a local tapas bar frequented by the expats here. My mate Nat was visiting and he likes to eat all the time. Just like me. It’s great, but maybe not so much when it’s blowing a million mile per hour winds and we wanted to sit and have a nice relaxing dinner ( hey, I live at the Kite Surfing Capital of Europe. ) It does have the potential to stress you out abit, though.
So, Nat has to go get his jacket ( not that I didn’t warn him it gets a bit breezy- hey Nat 😉 ) I order dinner, obviously it comes before he gets back. It’s tuna, meant to be without garlic. Looks fine to me so I start eating it. GARLIC OMFG WTF IM GONA DIE OMG. Nathan is back. I’m like, NATHAN how hard can it f*kin be?! Fry the tuna, put it on a plate! Where does garlic come into this equation pelase??? Tell them Nathan!!! The reason I get so sressed is due to my scary histamine intolerance ( which causes a full on allergic reaction to garlic strangely) on top of the IBS. So I send it back, get pissed off, Nathan gets pissed off and goes home. I go home and am like, wait. I’m fine. Like actually, I have survived. No side effects, nothing.
They don’t call me princess Emily for nothing…
My advice to you in situaions like this is, stop. Don’t panic, assess if there is actually any damage going on and just chill the hell out. You will not die, all will be fine, one bite is nothing, don’t get angry, life is good ok? Ok. P.s this is why you need good friends who forgive you for being slightly OTT.
What to do if you are getting stressed
Realise there really is nothing to get stressed about ( read the above.)
See, really social anxiety caused by your IBS is totally normal. Obviously I still get it, like you will, but hopefully if we just use these tips, and your own learnings it will start to get easier. One day, it will be a distant memory, just start believing it.
If you’re struggling with Low Fodmap travel plans or not coping well whilst away right now, sign up to my Facebook Group for on the go support & to my mailing list for regular low fodmap travel updates including; places to eat, tummy safe destinations and ‘no details spared’ insights into life on the road with IBS.