Three women stand in line for a bathroom in an airport. One woman has her eyes closed and back pressed against and the wall and arm over her stomach with her face scrunched in pain. The other two women are looking back at her with confusion and judgement.

Shame: A Horrible Side Effect of My IBS

I am embarrassed by bathroom issues. I do not like talking about poop, and I do not like public restrooms. Even after being married for over 20 years, I do not allow my husband in the bathroom with me. In a strange twist of cosmic irony, I also have irritable bowel syndrome.

Discussing anything poop-related makes me cringe. It makes me uncomfortable. This is a really bad issue for someone with irritable bowel syndrome to have, but I have it nonetheless. While it may sound strange that a person is envious of the way others are so casual with bathroom-related conversations, I am. It is not because I want to talk about poop freely in conversation. It is because I envy their lack of embarrassment over natural bodily functions. I should not be embarrassed about such things, and the shame of irritable bowel syndrome is worsened by a deep shame of all things related to pooping.

Fear of public restrooms

When I say I do not like public restrooms, I do not mean I simply do not like using them. It is far more than a simple dislike. Avoiding them completely is my goal, even if it includes fasting or not drinking anything when I am on the go. It is easier than trying to predict a flare. This creates a lot of problems by compounding the anxiety of dealing with a chronic digestive illness. It also means I have to be very creative to avoid being forced to rely on public restrooms when I travel. Fasting and abstaining from fluids is a bad idea, and I do not recommend it to anyone. It is not healthy and could result in dehydration. Do not do it. This is my outrageous response to one of my ridiculous restroom hang-ups, and I have not yet found any other way to handle it.

People find it odd that I refuse to allow my husband in the bathroom with me. I find it odd than anyone wants to have their spouse in the bathroom with them. If I had it my way, even I would not have to bear witness to some of the issues my IBS causes in the bathroom. I am terribly embarrassed by it, and this results in a great deal of shame. Now that I have mobility issues, I occasionally have to allow my husband to be in the bathroom with me. It is not easy for me to do, but perhaps this will help me get over some of the embarrassment. Who knows? It might even lead to a decreased fear of public restrooms.

The shame of being ashamed

Yes, my bathroom hang-ups are out of control. Having a chronic digestive illness like IBS coupled with a ridiculous amount of shame, fear, and embarrassment seems like a cruel joke. Others do not understand why I have so many issues with going to the bathroom. They think it is weird that I cannot use a public restroom. Eyebrows are raised when they find out I will not allow my husband in the bathroom with me. All this does is make me feel even more ashamed of my quirks and of irritable bowel syndrome. I feel like I am stuck in a no-win situation. If I talk about my issues, people think it is weird. If I cannot talk about my issues, it results in even more shame.

I am certainly not trying to ignore my quirks and continue living with relentless shame. Little by little, I am trying to regain some dignity and feel more comfortable with bathroom issues. You certainly will not hear me detailing the horrors of what goes on in the bathroom. My hope is I can get to a point where a casual conversation about IBS and public restrooms do not spark intense fear and anxiety. If you have some of the same issues, know you are not alone. Maybe we should have a support group for those of us with shame. Let’s not talk about poop, though.

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