A little under a year ago, everything I ate started making me feel sick. Even after removing the most obvious trigger, I still couldn’t get through a meal without stomach cramps, nausea, or diarrhea. Turns out I have Irritable Bowel Syndrome, or IBS. At this point, the only thing that makes me feel better is an Instagram meme account created by another sufferer.
I take a lot of comfort from food and cooking. What better way to share your love than by making sure your loved ones are well fed? Unfortunately, I pretty much can’t eat anything without feeling intense pain, nausea, or having to take a huge dump. The foods that can trigger IBS are expansive and include some of my cooking staples like onions and garlic. On top of that, I’m lactose intolerant. This limits my diet pretty severely.
Having IBS can be miserable. I once broke down crying, falling to my knees in my boyfriend’s apartment, because I couldn’t figure out what was possible for me to eat for dinner. Even though I knew other people who have IBS, it was hard to find a way to vent my frustration. It’s a pretty gross disease—people want to avoid talking about their bowel movements if they can help it. Then my friend, who also has IBS, showed me the Instagram meme account MyIBSLife. It didn’t cure my illness, but it did help me start to laugh about it.
Meme accounts on Instagram are an intense subculture, mostly run by teens and young adults. The goal of these accounts is to be relatable, finding commonalities between people who often have very specific life experiences of interests. No matter how intense the subject, though, the goal is to make the reader laugh. I never thought memes about how I can’t stop shitting would make it easier to endure the moments when I justfucking can’t stop shitting, but here we are.
Navigating menus at restaurants or even trying to find a recipe I can make for dinner now requires me to consult a mental list of ingredients that I simply cannot eat. There’s no way to get around how much it sucks. Finding a group of people who also share in this frustration at the very least makes me feel like it’s not impossible to live like this. It’s nice to be able to laugh about the things that cause me pain.