The Shame Game: IBS and Accommodations
IBS often makes us feel that we need to accommodate others while we suffer through the bloating, pain, diarrhea, and discomfort.
Why are we always so ready to change ourselves to fit our environment? Why do we assume that it is our responsibility to make the world around us comfortable while we suffer?
Is it self-doubt? Shame? Embarrassment? Or just a sheer lack of accommodations?
Often, we’re part of the problem. We allow shame and doubt to control us. We allow society to form us, rather than permitting ourselves to shape society.
We’re used to it, we say. It’s not a big deal, we say.
Well, I say it’s time we stop; it’s time to make it a big deal. It’s time to shout from the rooftops - tell the world that we’re fed up with being shamed. We’re here, we’re bloated, get used to it!
Recognizing the problem
How many times have you walked into a restaurant or store and immediately felt anxious about the ‘bathroom situation’? The toilet is right next to the dining area and those doors don’t look too thick. Grrreeeaaat.
Remember when you were invited to a friend’s house and remembered that their bathroom is located directly beside the living room. Pooping acoustics for the win! Guess you’ll have to be careful about what you eat.
But why do we worry about these things? Why is it a big deal if people hear a few noises coming from the bathroom? Is it really a shock that the reason you’re going to the bathroom is to use the toilet? When’s the last time that the sound of a little *plop*, *blurp* or *furrrttt* really hurt anyone? OMG they’re pooping in the toilet - shame, shame, SHAME!
Honestly, when you really start to think about it, it becomes glaringly obvious that the shame we feel is not innate - it isn’t something we were born with. We didn’t feel shame in diapers. We learned to feel this way. We feel shame for our IBS because of those around us, because of society, or because we’ve been made to feel as though we are inconveniencing others.
So, how do we cope? How do we avoid feeling embarrassed by the way our bodies naturally digest food? We hide. We cover up. We accommodate others.
I don’t know how many times I’ve used a bathroom stall that didn’t fit me, waited in line for the bathroom at an establishment large enough to have multiple stalls, or simply decided that I would “hold it” until I got home because I knew I couldn’t be properly accommodated. When this happens, I internalize the shame. I often wonder if it’s my fault, if I’m the one who should be planning ahead, or making life easier for others. But recently, I’ve started asking why.
Why do I have to feel guilty or embarrassed for a natural bodily function? Why do others feel the need to judge me? Why should I feel shame for the discomfort of others?
It’s time we start asking for understanding, time we start demanding accommodations for ourselves.
I’m not asking for a lot.
How about mandatory bathrooms in all public locations? Let’s have stalls that fit different body types. Maybe include multiple stalls or gender-free bathrooms to allow for access. Oh, and maybe make sure that your bathrooms aren’t a mile away. Try not to have them located directly beside your customers - after all, they’re faint of heart and shouldn’t have to hear a toilet flushing (yes, that was sarcasm).
Ultimately, these aren’t really “accommodations” in the traditional sense - in fact, they’re more common sense. But alas, as long as natural bodily functions are considered shameful, there is little sense involved. Those of us with IBS will have to keep asking for accommodations. We will have to keep fighting for recognition and understanding. We will continue to demand change.
As long as human beings keep pooping, we’ll be here.
Have you tried eating smaller portions to manage symptoms?