I Hated School Bathrooms, Then Destroyed My Pants
Before I was officially diagnosed with IBS, I’ve had a long-running history of misusing and abusing my body. Whether I was divulging in an entire pack of sugar-free cinnamon Altoids for the thrill, or downing a bowl of shrimp alfredo on a dinner date, I would put my body through the wringer. I mean, I was young and reckless, who could blame me?! The amount of stress I put on my bowels and sphincters was commonplace in grade school. Amounting to one very special seventh grade day.
IBS in middle school
Middle school was a waking nightmare. A time where puberty and social stigmas restlessly collided to provide the worst possible backdrop for my undiagnosed bowel situation.
I hated using the toilet in school. For example, one time, this really rude dude at my lunch table told me I “smelled like the bathroom.” I mean to be fair he was a personified 'lil rat, to put it nicely, but it still dug in. I remember thinking, "What does that even mean?"
He could have said I smelled like piss, farts, or something more concrete than such an abstraction. Did I smell like the room? Like cleaning supplies, or lingering toilet paper? I still fret about it to this day. That being said, yes, those smell-based confrontations were anxieties for sure, but nothing was worse, rather than being heard in the bathroom.
Embarrassment of IBS
Every time I excused myself to the bathroom. I would sit and slowly let my farts out for fear of being loud and obnoxious. I’d sit there, shaking, holding my composure. Until other kids left the room or released every time they flushed or washed their hands. This social nightmare isn’t like most public restrooms, filled with anonymous nobodies. These were kids that I actually knew! Ones that would hang out and do cool vape tricks with each other. Um excuse me, bathrooms are supposed to be a place of butt acts, not the raddest chill spot for the local youth.
I would clench every day, all day, from homeroom until dismissal. I could usually hold it.
Eventually, my bowels would catch up
It was the last period of the day: tech class. I was finishing the wiring for a project when it hit me. Like a steam engine, my stomach dropped. I did what I normally did, I breathed heavily, rocked back and forth, and tried to focus but no, I had to go. I rushed out, asking my teacher to go, then started for the nearest bathroom. Fun fact, when you run, your body stops holding like anything in. I broke into a dead sprint just as it was too late. Sitting down in the gym locker room bathroom gave me only momentary relief, as a student came in and asked if there were any kids left before their gym class started. Like a MOUSE, I sat there and cleaned myself up, until this boy SHUT OFF THE LIGHTS.
There are few such moments, so hysterically awful (in hindsight) which you just sit and track your bad moves to get you to the mistake you’ve made. I pulled out my iPod and used its dimly lit screen to illuminate myself as I got up and left. It’s times like these, looking back, that I wished I had treated my body better; that I listened to what is needed of me. I also wish I threw out my underwear instead of wearing them out like a monster. From that moment onward, I knew that I couldn’t do this anymore. I had to take steps to find peace with my gut, even if it meant one accident at a time.
Do you have a good understanding of what triggers your flares?