A man stands as if he has just finished using the toilet, in the iconic pose from The Shawshank Redemption. A framed image of flowers with alarmed faces hangs on an adjoining wall.

My Shawstank Redemption

As someone with IBS, I’ve found dating to be a really fun game of how little can I eat before they catch on that I’m dying inside? ESPECIALLY when I make the mistake of eating anything even remotely filling on such an occasion.

I remember going over to a friend’s house that I really liked (I had a crush on the friend, not the house, though it was a nice burly house all things considered). She was smart and silly and I was trying everything I could to jump from being a best friend, to perhaps something more? With my wit firing on all cylinders and being incredibly charismatic with her parents and siblings, I thought that I was putting on the best airs that I could, only I made one huge, monumental miscalculation.

I ate a cookie

Now we’re not talking any old cookie. We’re talking warm and soft, oozing with supple chocolate roundels. All washed down with a swig of hearty milk like I was some sort of Oompa Loompa. This sugar high lasted for only a fraction of a second before I realized what I had done.

Now before I became acclimated to what my body hated; milk was a tricky companion. Sometimes, in cereal, I could survive without a trip to the toilet, but on its own, it was like I was chambering a milk bullet right into my butt gun.

I broke out into sweats and stumbled to keep my cool. Talking and joking while my internals raised hell. My body does this cool thing, where I lose cognitive function when I’m either starving or need to poop. All I can do in these moments and focus on my ETA before I need to evacuate… only…

I’m at my friend’s house? What was I going to do, Use the toilet and hope I make it out unscathed?!

So I did what I had to do – I just held it in

Like Hoover Dam and Fort Knox, I clenched so tightly and held on as waves and waves of pain and cramping pummeled my colon. SO severe, was this discomfort, that I focused our hangout around laying on the floor.

You know what would be fun, what if we lied on the carpet completely motionless and talk about our favorite music? Isn’t that just really cool and normal?

I couldn’t take it anymore. Every thought was overtaken by anxiety and cramps. I rushed to the bathroom, saying I have to be, quite abruptly. Of course, this was the guest bathroom right next to the kitchen. Every time someone spoke, which I could hear clearly, I went. I timed it like Andy Dufresne in the movie, Shawshank Redemption. Every lightning strike would conceal the sound of my shame. Luckily, there was some lemon spray under the sink to mask my crime. And after not too long, I emerged from the bathroom and became a new man! A changed man who reeked of lemons!

I was free

I think looking back, I probably would have absolutely acted differently with medication and hindsight at my back. Since getting my diagnosis, I have taken pride in knowing what I have and acting accordingly. Why suffer and live with more anxiety if I can embrace a part of who I am? Does this mean I’ll stop pooping in people’s houses? Probably not. Only next time I’ll be a little bit more prepared.

What stories do you have? What would you have done differently?

“Hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies.” — Andy Dufresne

—Shawshank Redemption

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