Fighting the chronic symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome is never easy

IBS is a long-term battle for Benjamin Teo that overturned many aspects of his life.

Brenda Teo

Published: 4 February 2019, 4:49 PM

Imagine living your life with symptoms such as unpredictable cramps and uncontrollable urges to go to the toilet.

For Benjamin Teo, 22, living with the chronic disorder called Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) has kept him largely home-bound for the past three years. The disorder affects the large intestine and can often feel akin to food poisoning due to the unpredictable nature of the condition that brings about urges to pass motion.

Youth.SG visited Benjamin at his home in Pasir Ris, where he shared about his condition and how he has been coping with it.

Benjamin was holidaying in Australia in 2016 when the symptoms of IBS first starting acting up. PHOTO CREDIT: BENJAMIN TEO

“I won’t know when my cramps and Tenesmus (the urge to go to the toilet to pass motion) would act up, which is why I’m almost always at home,” said Benjamin.

When the symptoms of IBS were most severe, even leaving the house would make Benjamin so exhausted he would need three to four days to recuperate.

This was a huge blow to Benjamin, who had previously been very active in sports, going out for floorball training every day.

“Before I got IBS, I landed a full-time job where I coached two schools in floorball. I had the means to be independent and I could even give money to my parents,” said Benjamin.

Benjamin’s cabinet is filled with countless medals from floorball matches he used to participate in. PHOTO CREDIT: YOUTH.SG/BRENDA TEO

Just when he thought life was going well for him, Benjamin was suddenly diagnosed with IBS in 2016. This effectively cancelled his plans of pursuing his passion in floorball as a coach.

Furthermore, he had to drop his regular floorball training to dedicate time to check-ups and resting at home.

These setbacks affected Benjamin so much that his previous condition of depression resurfaced.

Benjamin was in and out of the hospital for check-ups for a period of over four months when his IBS relapsed in 2018. PHOTO CREDIT: BENJAMIN TEO

Benjamin said: “I felt suicidal because of my IBS and was ready to say bye to everyone.

“At that point of time, I didn’t feel selfish about considering suicide as my solution. I thought to myself, ‘What if my child gets IBS from me in the future?’. There was so much I couldn’t do and that made me feel horrible.”

Thankfully, Benjamin was helped out of this slump by the unwavering support from his friends and family.

The immense support and understanding from his friends was what kept Benjamin (first from left) going during some of his worst times battling IBS. PHOTO CREDIT: BENJAMIN TEO

Even when his condition forced him to cancel plans at the last minute, his friends would always be understanding and even offer to meet him at his block’s void deck for his convenience.

“I’m grateful that my friends understand that I’m not well, and still choose to come over to my place to spend time with me,” said Benjamin.

Benjamin’s “therapy” dog, Sushi, also gives him emotional support by always being there for him and providing comfort and solace. PHOTO CREDIT: YOUTH.SG/BRENDA TEO

Determined to not let his chronic condition stop him from enjoying his life, Benjamin opened his own leather-crafting business as way of earning some income while keeping himself occupied with something he enjoys doing.

“I do leather-crafting in my home office. It really helps to pass the time and allows me to enjoy myself at the same time,” said Benjamin with a smile.

He now has an online store called Bens Leather Crafts where he sells his handmade products like luggage tags and wallets. PHOTO CREDIT: YOUTH.SG/BRENDA TEO

With Benjamin’s family sending him for both Western and traditional Chinese treatments, Benjamin’s condition has been improving lately. He can now go out of the house for floorball training at least once a week.

To earn the extra bit of cash, Benjamin has also been freelancing with GrabFood deliveries from around his neighbourhood whenever he feels well enough.

Floorball still plays a big part in Benjamin’s life and Benjamin (top left) tries his best to attend training whenever he feels well. PHOTO CREDIT: BENJAMIN TEO

Benjamin’s parents have also been supporting him as much as they can, by purchasing insurance plans for him due to the high treatment costs of IBS.

“I’m fortunate and lucky to have parents who have been helping me so much by buying insurance for me and searching for more effective treatments for my IBS,” said Benjamin.

“I have lovely parents, a dog and a good brother. What else could I ask for?” said Benjamin (top right). PHOTO CREDIT: BENJAMIN TEO

Throughout Benjamin’s journey with IBS, he has learnt that life is never perfect for anyone.

In a solemn tone, Benjamin said: “Everyone has their demons. I had a seemingly perfect life with a set path that I wanted to take. But because of IBS, I had to divert my path.

“Despite the challenges that you’ll face in life as a person, I believe that there is still a way for success to take place, in one way or another.”

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