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Toilet paper roll jumps out of a jack in the box

How My Bowel Fakes Me Out

My bowel often seems to play cat and mouse with me. It goes like this.

Responding to a sudden urge

I am going about my business when I get a sudden urge to evacuate my bowel. Sometimes it is a pretty strong urge, so I take care not to dawdle. Being disabled with MS, I don’t race to the bathroom, I hobble, but at a pretty good clip, if I do say so.

After years of practice, I can scoot to the toilet, clutch a grab bar while I maneuver into a squat, pull down my leggings and underwear at the same time, and have my butt hit the seat in record time. Honestly, I always pat myself on the back for this and wait for the floodgates to open. Sometimes they do. But sometimes, the urge completely disappears!

Sometimes the urge is a false alarm

Me: Ugh! [shaking my fist in the air] Damn you, bowel! You made it seem like an emergency! What gives?

Bowel: Ha-ha, made you do it, made you do it! Just wanted to see how fast I could make you move! Wheeeeeeee! [laughing maniacally]

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Me: [muttering] Yuh, that was a real hoot. Obviously, nothing is going to happen, so . . . [I stand and pull up my pants, only for the urgency to return] . . . Ugh.

Bowel: He-he-he!! The sit was bland till I made you stand. What are you going to do now? Ho-ho-ho, ask Santa to make you go? Bwahahahahaha!!

Me: [face palm, mutter, sit down again—and the urgency goes away again]

Bowel: [laughing hysterically] You’re killing me. Seriously, I’m gonna pop an artery. [Stops laughing and gets quiet] But if I did--you would too! [Breaks into more hysterical laughter] Now, don’t strain. Good way to pop something! Yeeeeeeeee!!

Me: I’m sick of this. [I stand, hike up pants, walk out of the bathroom.Urgency comes on strong again, I ignore it and walk around the apartment, paying close attention to stomach pressure and urge to go]

[Muttering] It's all in the timing…gotta wait until I’m sure it’s gonna pay off…Now! [I rush to the toilet and sit. My bowel immediately empties.]

Bowel: What took you so long? Bwahahahahahaha!!

The dark comedy of my dysfunctional bowel

It seems to help me, seeing this situation in terms of a fraught serio-comedy. A battle between a do-gooder (patient advocate trying to help others) and a sadistic, maniacal trickster (my dysfunctional bowel).

Think Batman and The Joker. The 1960s Joker, played by Cesar Romero, possessed a maniacal laugh and sadistic playfulness. In the Christopher Nolan film THE DARK KNIGHT (2008), Heath Ledger’s Joker is much darker and deadlier. We never find out what led him down the path to psychosis. He tells a story about horrific child abuse at the hands of his father, but changes it every time he tells it, thus becoming an unreliable narrator. It morphs from possibility to fabrication, ultimately becoming part of the cat and mouse game he plays with Batman.

My bowel keeps me on my toes

My Joker, if you will, is more like the 60s incarnation. A big kid in clown make-up, cackling and taunting, causing mischief, discomfort, and near-accidents. Immature, prankish, less focused, and less rational than I am. Harmless, yes, but a royal pain in the you-know-what! It literally keeps me on my toes. A challenge to my MS-related foot drop, wonky balance, and leg weakness.

It also kind of reminds me of how a pet cat will walk diagonally across my path in the house, practically tripping me up. That isn’t its intent, of course. It’s trying to herd me in a particular direction, either for food or play. It's just being a cat.

Communication breakdown between mind and gut

I’m trying to think of my bowel in similar terms. It’s just acting according to its nature and circumstances. Both nature and nurture, if you will. Its nature is to break down waste and expel it. But IBS causes a breakdown in communication between brain and gut. So, it responds to this dysfunction in a way that feels like it has a mind of its own. And not just a mind; a criminal mind!

Try as I might, it’s hard not to characterize my bowel as playing an up-down-up-down game just for the ugly fun of it. But I think doing so serves an ultimately positive role in my IBS management. It has entertainment value. It’s funny. And, after all, I’m a writer. A storyteller. It’s in my grain to turn an event into an entertaining narrative, either for myself or for an audience.

What about you? Do you give your bowel a personality? I would love to hear about it!

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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