Wednesday, November 24, 2010

In Which I Write About Diarrhea...Oh Yes, I Am Going There

One more HP thing and I’ll stop…it drove me nuts that Harry started saying You Know Who without an explanation.  Even in the movies it has been clear that he doesn’t fear saying the name.  I think it was a bad detail to skip.  Or did it happen and I missed it?  Will have to watch carefully the next time to find out…

Now if you don’t care to read about my bathroom habits this post is not for you.  Please consider yourself warned. 

An acquaintance from high school who has turned into a friend all these years later and I have been on a similar wavelength lately.  She wrote this a couple of days ago and it cracked me up, but it was a cool surprise because it is similar in bathroom theme to the post I have been trying to screw up the courage to write. 

Recently I wrote about not being completely comfortable at my sister-in-law’s house.  Why shouldn’t I be comfortable there?  I love her and my brother-in-law very much, and I like them to boot.  She is a lot of fun, and we can be snarky together.  He really has a good heart and I wish I was more like him in terms of how kind he can be.  The problem is the location of their guest bathroom.  It just isn’t far enough from their living room for my comfort. (And to my dear sister-in-law: this is my problem not yours.  You have a lovely home and I love visiting.)

Because the number one way my anxiety manifests itself is…just bite the bullet and do it, Karen…diarrhea.  Or, fear of diarrhea.  Or, fear I will not be able to control my bowels in front of others.   Um, I laughed as I wrote that sentence so please feel free to laugh yourselves.  I have Irritable Bowel Syndrome, like officially diagnosed and everything.  But my IBS is completely brought on by my anxiety, there isn’t any physical thing like eating dairy that triggers it.  Just good old fashion stress and fear.  It started about 20 years ago and there are periods that are much worse than others.  I feel I have single handedly kept Imodium AD in business.  I never leave the house without some on me, it is more important than having a chill pill close by.  

This is my deepest shame.    As someone who struggles with self loathing it is interesting to me that my body would choose the most humiliating way to manifest my anxiety.  I even hate myself subconsciously. 

I’ve been better since my first pregnancy, which is great.  And by better I mean it hasn’t been an every day issue like is often is.   After T was born I was sure it would come back, but then I developed the anal fissures.  And I believe my body recognized that it simply could not deal with the pain of anal fissures and diarrhea, it was literally impossible.  Taking a regular crap was torture enough.  It was fascinating how the anxiety was able to shift to nausea.  As much as I don’t love being nauseous, for once my body was kind to me.    

But when I travel it gets bad again.  I always need to know where the nearest bathroom is.  I am at my best when I feel like I’m in a “safe” place, which often means one filled with people who know about my issue along with a very private bathroom I can use.  Over the years I’ve had to miss many events because of this problem.  I am thinking of a wedding ceremony I continue to regret missing.  I’ve left many functions early.  And if I had a bad experience at a location I have one hell of a time rallying to get myself there again.  I have prayed that people never figure out what is going on.  So why write about it now?  Well, it’s pretty damn uncomfortable and completely honest.  And as I’ve gotten older I’ve realized a couple of things.  First, everyone shits.  Everyone.  OK. Maybe most people don’t have alarming diarrhea regularly, but everyone does, in fact poop.  And, maybe if I put it out there publicly I’ll stop being anxious about it.  A stretch, I know.  But Z pointed out to me once that I never actually have shit myself. 

OK, I did shit myself once.  But it was back in the late 70s.  The electricity went off one night, and I was a scaredy cat to begin with.  It was the one time in my life post potty training that I had the shit scared out of me. I was 3.

I remember having one of the people who is closest to me in the world call me and tell me she was sick with a stomach bug and had diarrhea.  “Karen,” she said, “I have no idea how you do this every single day.”  I laughed my ass off, but later I thought about it.  I really think you can get used to anything.  And it has made me develop a huge appreciation for bathroom humor.  Because if you can’t laugh at this shit (pun intended) it really would be unbearable.  That scene in American Pie where the kid is tricked into having diarrhea in the girl’s bathroom?  I literally laughed for hours.  Z thought there was something wrong with me.  But if you’d spent hours in the filthy girl’s room in high school trying to quietly have diarrhea as you were burning with shame you’d have laughed for hours, too. 

Tonight we went to a tree lighting ceremony in the town my parents just moved to.  I was anxious because we were going to a new place, I was anxious because we would be out past T’s bedtime, I was anxious because I was in the middle of writing this.  I’m really nervous to post such a personal thing that I’ve been tortured by and kept hidden for so long.    My stomach cramps were terrible and I warned the family I might have to be rushed home.  But once we got there I really started to enjoy myself.  And T was enjoying himself, which is always a pleasure to watch.  Z is now with us, my folks and sister and her boy where there and we were all having a great time together.  There wasn’t anything to worry about.  Small victory. 

This is what I woke up to this morning.  T was so excited to see his dad.  Pure bliss.


  1. I went to Mexico with a bunch of friends 3 years ago and I got really sick. *really* sick. I was sharing a hotel room with my cousin Andy, who ditched me for the gay bars (phew). Montezuma's revenge is no joke. I puked and puked like I never have before, for 6 hours and it clogged the toilet almost immediately. Which is no surprise since you are not even allowed to flush toilet paper in Mexico, much less everything I ate and drank for three days prior. Anyway, I was so weak from illness that I could not even lift my sorry ass off the bathroom floor to go find hotel staff and ask for a plunger.
    THEN it hit me. Diarrhea avalanche. Into the most clogged toilet in all of Mexico. Of course right after the avalanche, I had to puke again. Yup, had to puke into a puke clogged toilet soaked in diarrhea which only made me puke more. Could it get worse? Oh yes. Because I was so violently heaving over the toilet, there was no stopping the explosive diarrhea coming out the other end. There I was puking and then shitting all over myself, all alone in a hotel in Mexico. Having no strength, I just had to lay there on the bathroom floor, going through this process 3 or 4 more times. My cute J Crew drawstring pajamas pants were soaked through with diarrhea until it was over at about 5AM. I took all my clothes off, threw everything away, and showered off all the caked on diarrhea and literally crawled on my hands and knees to my suitcase, put on PJ's and climbed into bed.
    About half an hour later my cousin Andy came running into our room. I had to muster a lot of strength to try to tell him to STOP and not go ANYWHERE near the bathroom. But it was too late. He had reached the most disgusting puke/diarrhea clogged toilet in all of Mexico and let out a horrific scream just before the puke came flying out of his mouth. Montezuma's revenge had just hit poor cousin Andy. He spent the next 6 hours of his life puking and shitting in that very same toilet. I felt so sorry for him that I almost forgot my humiliation of leaving a toilet in worse condition than anything I have ever seen, including CBGB's.

    Have a wonderful Thanksgiving. No matter what happens, it will not be worse than this.

    There you have it, my most humiliating moment.

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  3. Karen, we all have bathroom issues. Wait until you're alone with T at, say, a pumpkin patch, and the only bathroom available is a porta-potty. And then you get sick. And then you have to figure out what to do with T while you go, because it's tiny and filthy in there, and T touches everything. Alwyas good to plan ahead. *Not that this has ever happened to me.*

  4. Jocelyn, thank you for making me laugh so hard couldn't breathe. That story ROCKS.

    Princess Tuesday, I'm a long way from every letting myself get in a situation where I was alone with T and only had a port a potty as an option. The outcome of that scenario seems predetermined, so best to avoid at all costs...I seriously don't go many places without having the bathroom situation sussed out. Hence the agoraphobic tendencies.

  5. Karen, I have tears running down my face. You're a champ. I was reminded of my own diarrhea story but your friend Jocelyn has stolen my ... diarrhea thunder. That was rich. Thanks for sharing, both of you.

  6. Jocelyn, that is the best poop horror story I have ever heard.

    Karen, I agree that it is totally liberating to actually be able to talk about poop with people! yay!

  7. I'm here to help.

    I should add that I lost 10 lbs in 2 days from Montezuma's Revenge. HA, who's laughing now? I would humiliate myself in a poop kind of way for 10 lbs ANYDAY Montezuma. I win.