We need to talk about poop

September 18, 2015

There are certain things we don’t talk about publicly, but we know that they aren’t being talked about. Or maybe they’re occasionally mentioned, but only in vague terms or to certain people. You’re probably thinking about things like money and sex right now. Would you ask a stranger, or even a friend, how much they earn for a living? There are some friends I’d ask, but very few. Would you ask them which sexual positions they prefer? How about asking where their erogenous zones are?

But there are things we talk about even less than money or sex, and one of those is poop. We just don’t talk about it. But we need to.

My doctors over the years have asked me about my sex life. We don’t get into details, but they ask if I’m sexually active, if I’m care, if I need testing for STIs, etc. But they never asked about my poop. You’d think a primary care physician would ask at a checkup, “How often do you have bowel movements?” But no, not once.

I was an adult before I learned that I’m supposed to poop Every. Single. Day! Who knew? Not me. How would I know, when it’s something no one talks about? Around that time I also learned that loose stools aren’t normal. Sure, I felt lousy and pooped erratically, but I had no idea these were signalling a problem that needed to be addressed.

As it turns out, poop is important! The frequency, color, density, and shape of your stool says a lot about your current health. It’s something that I believe every doctor should ask about at an annual checkup, and certainly every gastroenterologist should ask these questions. Patients should be encouraged to keep a poop diary for just a few days each year, right before their checkups, so they can accurately answer these questions.

In my case, it would have been helpful if someone had realized much sooner than days without pooping and then a half dozen bouts of diarrhea in a day were, you know, a Bad Thing! And that’s just me. What about the thousands of other cases out there? I know some of you have had gastrointestinal problems. How long did it take for someone to realize there was a problem? Would they have figured it out sooner if they’d been asking you about your poop?

Of course, the problem isn’t just the lack of discussion at medical appointments. We don’t talk about it in general. It’s not like I ask a friend about their poop habits or tell them about mine. There’s no common knowledge here. There’s a running joke on The Big Bang Theory about Sheldon scheduling his daily bowel movement, and how he finds it very odd that others have bowel movements whenever the urge strikes them, without any schedule at all. Ok, maybe Sheldon’s approach is unusual, but at least he makes sure he has a daily, healthy bowel movement and he isn’t afraid to talk about it. The part I find interesting is how off-putting it is for everyone else when he discusses it. Sure, maybe it isn’t something to bring up at dinnertime, but aside from that, what’s so bad about it?

There’s less embarrassment around a bloody nose, burping, hiccuping, crying, peeing…. all things that involve natural bodily processes and/or fluids. Why is that? Why is it that someone can say, “I’m going to pee,” or “I need to take a whiz,” and that’s ok? But the moment someone says “I need to go poop,” or “I need to take a dump,” it’s considered inappropriate? Hell, some people try not to poop at their date’s house for the first several months of dating!

I think our society has gone way overboard on its aversion to any discussion whatsoever of poop. It’s time for that to change. I say, let’s discuss pooping just like any other bodily process. I highly doubt it will hurt anyone, but it may just help a whole lot of people.

What do you think?

The inconvenience of diarrhea – even at home

February 5, 2020

No one likes to talk seriously about poop. It’s something we all* do, yet it’s treated as an unsafe topic. Commercials for diarrhea medications are laughed at by people. Folks snicker at farts. No one feels comfortable on the phone saying, “Hey, let me call you back in a few minutes. I just need to run to the bathroom.”

For most people, it’s easy to avoid the topic. They don’t think about their poop much. But then there are those of us with digestive issues. I talk about poop with a lot of my doctors. Color, size, consistency, frequency, and odor are questioned and explained. I keep an eye on things. For too many years, I didn’t realize how abnormal my bowel movements were. If I had, maybe I could have been diagnosed a lot sooner. If my doctors had asked my questions about it, I’m guessing I would have been diagnosed sooner.

Well, here on Chronic Rants, we talk about poop. And today’s rant is about the inconvenience of diarrhea. I was having a perfectly fine day yesterday. I was being productive around the house. I wasn’t feeling motivated to work on a project that I’ve been trying to get done, but aside from some reduced motivation, everything was normal. I was on track to go out in the afternoon and evening.

In the afternoon I felt off somehow. I’m still not sure how. Maybe a bit low in energy? I decided to stay in for the afternoon and only go out in the evening. My stomach started to feel a bit off. Again, I’m not sure what exactly felt wrong, but something did. I pushed myself to go for a walk. It was a nice walk, with a clear blue sky overhead – a real treat! I stopped to chat with a neighbor and pet her dog for a while. I wasn’t feeling quite right, but I pushed through; at least I was petting a cute dog!

When I said goodbye to the neighbor I continued on my walk in a big loop that would end up at my apartment building. Then I felt that feeling and I knew: I better get home. Quick. I cut back to take a shorter route home. There wasn’t much I could do. I was walking within my apartment complex, so there were no public bathrooms around. I walked faster. I saw a neighbor that I know up ahead. I slowed a bit so we wouldn’t cross paths. I hated to slow, but making small talk would have been worse. I knew I was walking funny, trying to clench certain parts and walked quickly at the same time. I got into my building and felt that bad feeling. I fumbled to open my door. I tore off my coat and rushed to the bathroom. In my anxiety, I fumbled with my pants. I got them down just in time.

I think a few more seconds could have been my downfall. But I made it. Explosive diarrhea isn’t fun, but having it in public and in my pants would have been so much worse.

I felt a bit better after that. I had gotten the bad stuff out of me, whatever that might have been. But here’s the thing: I felt messy. I cleaned my ass area the best that I could, but it wasn’t good enough. I don’t have a bidet. Chances are, I was clean anyway. But I didn’t feel it. So I jumped in the shower. I had already showered that morning. The diarrhea had left me feeling weak and tired. But what else could I do?

I got undressed, then found myself back on the toilet. Eventually I took that shower. The hot water felt great. After a while, I got out, exhausted, but feeling better.

Obviously I wasn’t going out. I couldn’t be sure the diarrhea was over and, even if it was, I was now too weak to go out. I put on super cozy cloths and settled under a warm blanket. I spent the night watching tv and knitting. At some point I wanted food and decided to keep it simple. I cut up some garlic onions, and carrot. I added homemade chicken broth from my freezer. I threw in shredded chicken that I keep in my freezer. I added gluten-free ramen noodles. Voila! An easy home made chicken noodle soup. It was just the right dinner for that kind of night.

I woke up feeling like shit, no pun intended. That diarrhea could have been so much worse. Still, it stopped me from doing so much yesterday, and today as well. It’s frustrating as hell. And it’s not something I can talk about in a socially acceptable way. I can talk about a recent sprain and my friends shower me with sympathy but bring up diarrhea and suddenly I’m persona non grata.

We all* poop. For some of us it’s more of a struggle than for others, but it’s something we all* do. So maybe it’s something we should all be able to talk about? What’s your experience been with this type of situation? Let’s talk about it!

*Folks with colostomy bags still produce feces, though the verb may not apply.

What would you say is “real” about chronic illness?

July 10, 2014

I thought about starting this blog for a while before I actually did it. What finally pushed me to get started was one too many “inspirational” stories. You know the kind. Someone who had a leg amputated climbs a mountain and we should all be inspired blah blah blah. Now, I think it’s great that someone can do that. What bothers me is that it gives the impression that 7-10-2014 5-46-47 PMwe can all get over our disabilities if we just try hard enough. Yeah. That’s just not how it works.

I didn’t know how many others felt the same way, but I wanted to write about the reality for me. I wanted the people close to me to understand a bit more about how it really works. And at the same time, I wanted other people with disabilities and chronic illnesses to see that they weren’t the only ones suffering on the couch instead of climbing mountains. It turns out I wasn’t the only one who felt that way; my most-viewed and most-commented on articles are the ones about things we don’t usually discuss publicly, like pooping on a guy during sex, boob growth from Prednisone, feeling guilty about making others worry, the frustration of not knowing why I feel so crappy, the frustration of seeing doctors who won’t or can’t help. I bet you’re nodding along to at least one of these. And I bet at one time, or maybe even before you read this, you thought you were the only one who felt that way. I know I did. It’s sad how alone we can feel with these illnesses.

That’s one reason I love the idea of a bunch of people sharing stories all in one place. Blogging is great, but I think we all know it can be hard to follow multiple blogs. And when you don’t even know what’s wrong with you, how do you know which ones to follow? That was my problem for a long time (but with books, in the days before blogs came out.) Plus, maybe I’m old-school, but I love the idea of a book. So I don’t know about you, but I’m going to participate in this project for an anthology about chronic illnesses. The hard part will be deciding what to write about! There are so many possibilities to choose from!

I don’t usually write posts about projects like this, but I also don’t usually participate in them. And this is also my way of helping out with a signal boost. Anthologies usually don’t get published unless there’s significant participation (dozens or even hundreds of articles submitted) and under “How you can help” she asks people to pass along the word about the project, so at least by writing this, I’m doing my part (plus I’ll post to Facebook and Twitter, too.) If you want to help spread the word, you can share the link to this blog post or to the project itself: http://chronicillnesstruths.tumblr.com/aboutthebook

If you’re thinking about writing, consider this line taken from the “How you can help” section at the end: ” If you want to see more voices like yours in books like these, here’s your chance!” That’s good enough for me!

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