“Please change your plans so everything can be all about me”. It’s a hard thing to say, isn’t it? Even if you’re the most confident person in the world, there’ll be times when you don’t want to make a fuss, or know that it’s definitely someone else’s turn in the limelight. For most people, it’s awkward, and for anxious people, it’s excruciating.
And it always seems to come to a head around food. So much socialising revolves around food – much more than drinking. I’ve gone long periods without drinking before (in my final three months of university, I barely drank at all because of persistent kidney problems), and while yes, there will always be some (drunk) arsehole who asks “Oh my gawd, is it because you’re in AA?” or “so, do you just like, never have fun?” most people will be fine with not drinking. Pro tip, for anyone who finds it intimidating or hard: drink lime and soda or diet coke rather than water – after the first two drinks, no one will even think to notice that your drink doesn’t have alcohol in it. If you’re really that shy, you can even say it’s a vodka soda, or a vodka diet coke. After all, you’re the one drinking it – they never need know.
You can even go to the pub without drinking anything at all. Sure, it’s kind of rude to not even spring for a single lime and soda (50p in many places – or free if the bartender likes you). But there’s no rule that says you have to endlessly chug soft drinks until you explode.
But you simply can’t do without food. You need it to live, to function. You need it at least twice a day, probably three times a day. And, when you’re on a diet like FODMAPs, you need it specific as all hell.
I’ve been a vegetarian for nine years now. I know all the rants from meat-eaters about why I should eat meat (and yet, if I suggest they become vegetarian, it’s an outrage – some people!). I believe that being a vegetarian is a good thing, I’m confident in my diet, and I know that it keeps me healthy. I’ve never been anaemic, and before I developed IBS, I would eat almost any vegetarian food, except radishes, which are the devil.
Being on FODMAPs is so much more restrictive than being a vegetarian. It’s so much more restrictive than being gluten free, which I tried just after being diagnosed with IBS. And it isn’t making me feel healthy, and I don’t have all that much faith in it. Yes, it has made my stomach feel better, and this week, when I’ve been too busy to manage to eat FODMAPs free at every meal, I’ve definitely felt worse.
But the difference isn’t enough to make up for the embarrassment of drawing attention to myself at every meal. Of having to apologise and suggest Pizza Express or Prezzo, because they do gluten free options for all their pizzas (shout out to both places) rather than the more interesting places, where the gluten free options will all have beans in, or meat in. (I have been advised by my dietician that adding meat into my diet again will make me feel worse for at least 3-4 months, so is ill advised at this time)
I feel like a burden, because everyone has to change their food plans to fit in with me. I feel like a loser, because I can never try out the cool new places. I feel pathetic, because I can no longer drink anything at all on an empty stomach, so I either skip drinks, or turn up late after having eaten a solitary meal on the way there. But most of all, I feel terrified that I’m going to be stuck like this forever. Since I cut out beans, chickpeas, lentils, and other pulses, I’ve felt a million times better – much better than just cutting out gluten made me feel. They’re obviously my biggest triggers, and they’re in everything. The idea of giving them up forever, and being The Fussy One out of no fault of my own – forever, is seriously grim.
I’m going to keep working on the diet, especially as it’s becoming obvious that it’s working. But three weeks in, the going is becoming much tougher.