My Story Dealing with IBS for 10 Years Now.
Posted 24 April 2020 - 05:38 PM
In writing about and sharing my story, I'm hoping my story will relate to some people and that I have had similar experiences to some people. Maybe my story can help others and maybe others can even help me. IBS is a constant syndrome that I will deal with for the rest of my life.
Before I begin my story, my IBS is 100% related to severe depression and anxiety; so, if your IBS isn't related to depression and anxiety at all, this story may not be helpful for you.
I first started experiencing IBS symptoms when I was thirteen years old in middle school. It started with severe abdominal cramping, constipation, acid reflux, a feeling that I could never fully evacuate my bowels, severe bloating, and a feeling that liquid was leaking from my anus all the time. My symptoms became constant and it got to the point that after I would eat, I would force myself to vomit, which would actually help alleviate some of my symptoms - mainly bloating and acid reflux. I began seeing many IBS doctors for the next 5 years. Many of them stated I had Irritable Bowel Syndrome, some said Functional Dyspepsia, and I heard some other suggestions throughout the years that I can't even remember now. I remember one GI doctor tell me that I had these symptoms because I was chewing too much gum. I was told to eat more high fiber diets, to exercise more, to try different fiber supplements, but nothing would work. I tried cutting out different groups of food and writing a food journal. I even tried every natural remedy you could think of; I remember specifically - a lot of products with peppermint. I became a vegan for awhile. I realized that eating less food and more healthy foods would help some of my IBS symptoms a little; however, no matter what I ate, the symptoms still persisted. It really didn't matter too much what I ate. I then began trying a bunch of different medications that were supposed to help my IBS including: Amitiza, Linzess, Bentyl, and many more. I've also tried dozens of over the counter products that claimed to help IBS. None of them helped at all. When I was 18 and went off to college, I gave up all hope and accepted the fact that I would suffer forever. I began thinking that I had some sort of GI disease that wasn't discovered yet. When I was 19, in my 2nd year of college, someone suggested that I try seeing a therapist who specializes in patients with GI problems and irritable bowel syndrome. I thought it would be a waste of time, like with the hundreds of other people I saw. After a few sessions talking with this therapist, I learned that I had been dealing with severe depression and anxiety all of these years. I honestly was never really aware. I was extremely bad at being self-aware. Even to this day, it's hard for me to pinpoint what exactly I get anxious about. The therapist explained to me that the GI symptoms I was having were from my depression and anxiety. She explained the whole brain-gut connection and how there's serotonin in the gut. I think 90% of the body's serotonin is made in the digestive tract. She referred me to a psychiatrist and told me that going on psychiatric medication that affects serotonin would help my IBS or GI problems significantly. When I was 19, my psychiatrist prescribed me the anti-depressant: Pristiq and the Benzodiazepine: Klonopin. He told me that antidepressants take about 4-6 weeks to work; so, during that period, Klonopin would help my symptoms and then he would wean me off when the Pristiq started working. At this point of my life, I had never tried any drugs besides marijuana. I had no idea what to expect.
I'll never forget the day until I die. On this day, I took my first dose of Klonopin. Within 30-45 minutes, I suddenly noticed that all of my GI symptoms were gone and I mean COMPLETELY gone. It felt as though, after all these years of suffering, I was finally cured and that I was alive for the first time. I was the happiest person in the world. I continued taking Klonopin for a month with no GI symptoms at all. After 6 weeks, my psychiatrist told me it was time to start tapering off Klonopin to see if the Pristiq was working. I really didn't want to because it was working so well, but he explained to me that benzodiazepines are dangerous and should only be used short-term. After tapering off the Klonopin, my GI symptoms came back full force. And at this point, I was even more miserable than before. The Pristiq didn't work at all. The psychiatrist put me back on Klonopin and I got better again. From here, I would end up trying a numerous amount of different antidepressants and anti-anxiety medications that would take the place of Klonopin and help my GI symptoms alleviate completely, like Klonopin does. Besides Pristiq, I tried: Lexapro, Effexor, Prozac, Zoloft, Buspirone, Trazadone, and Wellbutrin. I felt Lexapro helped a little, but nothing too significant and it made me drowsy all day. I didn't experience too many side effects on Effexor or Prozac, but they didn't help at all. I also felt no side effects from Buspirone and Trazadone, but again, they didn't help either. I thought Zoloft worked the best out of all of the SSRIS and SNRIs; however, the sexual side effects were horrific to the point that I would never try that medication again. I am currently on Wellbutrin right now. Wellbutrin is an interesting drug in that it doesn't affect Serotonin like other antidepressants - it affects norepinephrine and dopamine. Wellbutrin also doesn't cause the same side effects as the SSRIs and SNRIs like weight gain, bad sexual side effects, or drowsiness. Wellbutrin made me feel much better: more motivated, more willing to get out bed everyday, and just overall, happier. Just being on Wellbutrin and nothing else: I still have GI symptoms, but they are improved. I'm not sure if it's related to Wellbutrin chemically helping my GI symptoms or that, psychologically, because I am happier, my GI symptoms have reduced psychologically and I am more accepting of my symptoms. However, despite this, even though it helps, I still get constant GI symptoms. I am now 23 years old and I am still taking Klonopin also. I've been on Klonopin for 4 years now. I started taking .5mg 2x, then that stopped working - I went up to 1 mg 2x, and that dose has been helping my GI symptoms very well ever since. I've never needed to raise my dose and I don't take the medication because I feel 'high' from it. I literally take a Klonopin and 90% of my GI problems go away. Not 100% like the first day I went on Klonopin but 90% is good for me. People tell me all the time how dangerous Klonopin is. They tell me that I need to get off of it because I will build a tolerance and the 1 mg 2x a day won't help me eventually. They explain to me the withdrawals, the dependence, addiction, etc. - all of the negatives Benzodiazepines can bring. And I agree, Benzodiazepines can be dangerous. However, Klonopin has literally provided me with a life. Without it, I wouldn't be where I am today. I am able to function normally and have relationships with other people, something I was never able to do in middle school and high school due to the severe pain and embarrassment of dealing with my GI symptoms. So, my response to everyone is this: I understand the risks of taking Klonopin, but you only live one time, I am willing to take the risks that may come with Klonopin down the road if it means I can live a normal life now. I will keep trying different antidepressants and alternatives and if any of those help like Klonopin, I will wean myself off. However, I haven't found one. Also, for 3 years now, I have felt no need to raise my dose. 1 mg 2x has been extremely effective for me for 3 years and its effects on my gut has never reduced my symptoms less than 90%
Currently, today I am on Wellbutrin (which helps my mood and a little bit my IBS) and Klonopin 1 mg 2x which has pretty much cured me. I really hope one day I don't develop a tolerance and have to raise my current dose, but everyone around me seems to think that I will. So, currently, I am working with my psychiatrist to try another antidepressant to pair with Wellbutrin in hopes that it will be just as effective and I can get off Klonopin. I might try Paxil next, which I have heard works well for anxiety and for people with IBS - anxiety symptoms, although Paxil has the worst side effect profile out of all the SSRIs overall, so I'm hesitant to try it. Remeron has also been discussed, which doesn't cause sexual side effects but does cause sedation and weight gain in a lot of people. So, we'll see what route I'll take.
If anyone has a similar story than me, any suggestions of other medications would be great. For those still suffering tremendously with a similar story to me, my message to you is this. If you have anxiety and depression with your IBS, try different antidepressants. They could work for you; they work for many people. They unfortunately haven't worked too well for me. I don't want to recommend Klonopin to anyone because of all the horror stories I've heard about addiction, tolerance, and withdrawal I've heard. However, everyone's brain is different and everyone reacts differently to mind-altering drugs. I am hoping my brain will allow me to stay on the same dose of Klonopin for the rest of my life while still helping my GI symptoms to the same degree. I know most people will say that this isn't possible, but I've read many stories of people being on a Benzodiazepine for decades and never needing to raise the dose.
To anyone suffering from this syndrome, my heart goes out to you. Untreated, I know how awful IBS can really be and no one around you can really understand because you appear normal physically. I'm hoping my story reaches some people and that for those suffering with depression and anxiety also, I am hoping that my story will convince you to possibly try different antidepressants, as they could really help.
Also, for anyone who has any suggestions for me to get off Klonopin and try a medication that has worked very well for your IBS / GI Symptoms / Anxiety / Depression, I am all ears.