Anger Burger

In Which We Discuss Toilets

Posted by Sunday on May 30, 2012 at 8:22 am

I haven’t been discussing Crohn’s disease much lately, mostly because I don’t have anything new to say about it; I am sick some times, and not others.  When I am sick it isn’t critical (and in this I am profoundly lucky, and I know it).  I still don’t have health insurance, and therefore do not pursue treatment.

But something happened last Saturday that made me think about what I thought was a carefree, Crohn’s-having lifestyle.  I realized that what I’d actually done was to craft an intricate and rigid framework to live within, and totally without realizing it.  Anyone with bathroom issues does this, but I know where the bathrooms are in each and every store, and which are preferable.

  • The Trader Joe’s bathroom is easy access but a single-stall and people will rattle the door while you use it.  B-
  • The bathroom at Top Foods is easy access and large enough to never have a wait, but are sometimes closed for cleaning and are next to the employee entrance and there are often workers standing outside the door chit-chatting. B+
  • The Co-Op is no good on almost every level. D+
  • The bathroom at my work is off the main work floor, which means that we keep no secrets from each other.  We know one another’s poop schedules and occasionally comment on them.  No score, as it is like going to the toilet at your friend’s house.  (Super F from anyone else.)
  • The book store requires that you ask for a key, and then the bathroom is an uncomfortably large, echoey single-staller, and people rattle the door, giving rise to that tension that it’s not really locked well enough and someone is going to open the door straight to the bookselling floor and there you’ll be, pants dropped around your ankles, the sound of a hellmouth opening beneath you. F
  • Target’s bathrooms are perfectly accessible, perfectly large and always, always open. A+

Except for this last Saturday, when they weren’t.

Whatever it was that required Target to close their toilets on a busy Saturday I cannot say, but the look of horror on my face must have been sufficient for a staff passerby to approach me and say “There’s a restroom next to the pharmacy!”  Really?  I was aghast.  How could I not have known of a second toilet option at Target?

Of course the pharmacy was like 100 miles away on the other side of the store, the side I’d just walked from after abandoning all my purchases in the sudden and urgent need to find a toilet.  (As an aside, I truly expect to be accused of shoplifting one of these days for my tendency to try and hide my purchases-to-be in a store just before using the toilet, since I’ve tried just leaving them outside the bathroom and come out to find them partially or all taken away.)  Back at the pharmacy I found it: a single-stall handicap access toilet recessed back in the blood pressure monitor area.  Well!  I had no idea!  Also: there was a line to use it.

I sat on a nearby bench and waited, focusing on remaining calm and loose.  If I tense, the urge increases.  While I sat and my turn came, a young girl of maybe eight darted by me and into the bathroom as her father shouted “Jenny! You’re cutting in line!”  He apologized to me, genuinely embarrassed, and I told him I understood.  I did and I didn’t.  I get that she really had to go.  But I’m 32 and if anyone is pissing or shitting themselves in Target, it is her.

I made it safely to the bathroom, but had plenty of time to wonder about my self-brainwashing.  I had essentially forgotten that I still had this issue.  I rarely go places where I can’t easily find a bathroom and in the back of my mind, I know which ones to hedge my bets on.  I swing between finding it frustrating and comforting that I could achieve a mental place where I forget that I have agonizing bowel movements that strike without warning, and leave me exhausted and shaking, headachy and weak for hours afterwards.  So I guess I still have Crohn’s disease.

May 30th, 2012 | Crohn's disease

17 Responses to In Which We Discuss Toilets

  1. Jackie says:

    I’m sorry that this has to be something you deal with constantly. I want to thank you for posting this. I’ve recently started working with kids with Crohn’s/UC. I don’t have either myself and your posts on this help me have a little more insight/understanding of the challeneges of living with IBD.

    • Sunday says:

      As a young teen, before I was diagnosed, I honestly assumed I had cancer and was dying. It didn’t make any sense what I was feeling, I was so utterly ashamed at my body and how it conspired to embarrass me. Kids shouldn’t have to make the choice between shitting their pants or showing strangers their butt as they drop trou and poop on a busy ocean beach, as I did (I chose to shit my pants). I was really lucky in that my family had a good sense of humor and that I was already a quirky kid, and didn’t have too far to go to get to the mental place of understanding that this is all pretty funny, when you get a little distance on it.

      I’ve described the urgency and the following bowel movements as being very similar to violently throwing up, like having food poisoning. One minute you’re fine, the next your body it it’s own thing and your head is just attached for the ride. The sensation is helpless and violent: muscle spams so intense that they’ve made me throw up from the pain. One time I nearly lost consciousness, though I’m pretty sure because I’d been holding my breath. Afterward, like post-vomiting: sore abdomen, exhaustion, dehydrated and lacking in minerals and elecrolytes. Sometimes I forget that this isn’t normal and can’t figure out why I am so cranky or tired, and I think my friends and family forget as well, since I rarely blame it. It’s important to remember that Crohn’s and ulcerative colitis and IBD have drastic, non-visual physical symptoms that are hard to identify and describe.

  2. I get it says:

    I totally get it. Completely. I don’t have CD, but I do have MS and occasionally the urge overtakes me and MS is notorious for random acts of incontinence, of both kinds. I was in a Rite Aid and struggled so hard to get to the ladies room in time. Like you, I just have to chant. Be loose. Don’t tense up, which makes it worse. There is no problem. But, there was — a woman darted ahead of me into the one stall that was open, and the other stall was out of order. So, I didn’t make it. I was so absolutely horrified — to date I’ve never had the Perfect Storm in a public environment, but, this week I did. I just had to slop my way out to my car, crying, and go home. Later, I was remarking to my mother via phone how horrified I was, how miserable I was, and how much I regretted leaving that for an employee to clean up, but what could I do? I tried as hard as I could to use seat liners, etc., but I was in agony and had to leave. Now, my mother is just a very neat, tidy, soft-spoken woman who seldom, if ever, curses, so when she does, it really has impact. She said “You know what, honey? Fuck Rite-Aid. They got mops.” I had to laugh,and just put it out of my head. But in short, yeah. I get it. I really do.

    • Sunday says:

      Oh man. This is precisely the kind of experience I mean when I joke/not-joke about shitting oneself in public. Like the irritation of conspiring events, the helplessness, the ability to recognize how absurd it is, but how that doesn’t help with the guilt of making someone else clean up after you. And as someone who has cleaned up a stranger’s vomit from a bathroom before (I knew it was an elderly woman that had done it, and she’d clearly been unable or unwilling to clean it herself, though a small effort had been made), I can tell you that your mom is 100% correct: fuck Rite-Aid. They do have mops, and rubber gloves, and potent chemicals. Someone technically got paid money to clean it up (not enough, but still).

  3. Becca says:

    Barnes and noble- A- easy to find, rarely a line, minus because it’s clear at the back of the store which can be far sometimes.

    Old School- D+ often a line, but lovely to look at the graffiti when you’re in for a while and usually loud enough to cover weird sounds.

    Cafe Vita- B+ rarely a line, 2 private, quiet either or bathrooms.

    Jakes- f dude.

    Burial grounds- B not private but it’s always dead in there. (like that? huh huh?)

    The mcminimans smoke shop place, can’t think of the name – A. Clean, quiet, apart from the restaurant.

    The drive from Delphi to the westside via black lake? That can take a flying leap.

    • Sunday says:

      Yeah, the Pizzeria gets a F from me because it requires a key, people can and do constantly rattle the handle, and I’m pretty sure you can get ebola from touching any surfaces in there.

      Darby’s gets a D for similar reasons: opens DIRECTLY to the dining area (blech!) and people rattle the handle. And the ventilation is bad, and lord knows I need some of that. And for some reason I always have to go in Darby’s – ALWAYS.

  4. Alison says:

    While I don’t have Crohn’s, I have been smote but the autoimmune gods. I can totally relate to the feeling of being of out and suddenly knowing that I am not alright. That moment of panic where I am unsure of what I need or If I can make it make it to safe a place before total meltdown. The worst part for me is trying to explain it to people. The ones who look at me and see a healthy twenty-eight year old. At first they are understanding, but eventually I get labeled as lazy or flaky and unreliable. That is when I even bother to explain how I am feeling. So I get being aware of your surroundings, unconsciously planning for the worst. I understand looking at a kid and thinking, better you then me. I get the harsh reminders that even when things are going well it is all relative to how bad it could be or has been. And now that I have been a horrible sappy downer, I will stop and go be my normal sarcastic self.

    • Sunday says:

      I had an employer accuse me of doing drugs because of how frequently I went to the bathroom, and in her words “Your tired eyes speak the truth.” I stopped trying to explain it to people not long after that. I’ve even repeatedly blamed it on something normal so we could move on in the conversation (“some stomach bug” got a lot of sympathy, as did salmonella). I just have to focus on seeing it from the outside, seeing how totally absurd it is and finding something about it that is funny, even at my own expense. Most days that works.

  5. Kavey says:

    I was tested for Crohn’s disease many years ago, but they ruled it out and pronounced, in the end, after myriad tests, that it was simply IBS. But unlike many sufferers, my symptoms are strongly in the “very urgent and often sudden need for the bathroom” category, as opposed to the “gosh, I wish I needed the bathroom” category.
    It goes through phases when it’s particularly bad and not so bad. When it’s particularly bad, then I too am much much much more aware of where I can find a bathroom and how quickly I can get to it than most people going about their business ever have to be.
    Just one of those things, though it sucks.
    I have friends with Crohn’s and I know it sucks even more.

    • Sunday says:

      Clearly the sympathy level rises as these things affect us personally. I don’t typically have the achy joints that many with Crohn’s have, and when I do I think “Aaaah yes. This fucking sucks.”

  6. Heather says:

    I used to work with a lovely woman who would take her lunch but then spent 15 min afterwards in the bathroom. Every lunch. Fast forward five years and her doctor asks her to cut dairy out of her life…and now that never happens, turns out she was lactose intolerant. I’m glad it’s not anything more serious, but all her co-workers (including me) used to get annoyed, but we tried real hard to be patient. and your work story just reminded me of that. I’m trying to be patient with co-workers but sometimes it’s hard. I think that if any of your co-workers who accused you of doing drugs took cigarette breaks, that would be too ironic. :)

  7. ashley says:

    That sucks Beethoven’s balls.

  8. Jenny Foust says:

    I have these moments. For me, it’s watching other people eat. I work in an office with a 60 year old woman, who eats like a college student. She will eat onion rings, a bacon cheese burger, and drink a coke. The coke alone would make me sick enough to want to die. I can’t eat anything like this without being sick for like a week. I have constructed a diet that works for me, eating pretty much the same thigns every day, and sometimes eating just an avacado for dinner. I don’t realize how much Crohn’s disease limits me, until I watch other people eating and drinking whatever they want.

    Also. The building that I work in, it has an outdoor bathroom. Single stall, you have to have a key to open it. I feel pretty safe about it, it’s far removed from the building. This summer, they’re renovating the building, and we’re getting indoor bathrooms. Everyone is so happy, except for me. I don’t want a bathroom that’s right next to my office.

  9. Kate says:

    Some people are very understanding and kind about chronic illness and some are not. I have Meniere’s Disease, thankfully manageable at the moment. When I was diagnosed about 16 years ago and having more frequent vertigo attacks, people would say incredulously, “Isn’t there a pill you could take or something?” like I was some kind of slacker in seeking treatment for my own affliction. Yes, you jerk, I secretly adore laying on the bathroom floor and puking uncontrollably for days. You got me!

  10. Ami says:

    As someone who also has bathroom issues, I sympathize with you and totally relate to your quest to find a good bathroom when out in public. My ideal situation is to find the elusive single stall toilet. I dread having to use the bathroom when out but faced with the possibility of a oopsie-poopsie in public, common sense prevails. I am forever telling friends to never take for granted pain/embarrassment free bowel movements.

  11. meg says:

    I don’t have any sort of diagnosable condition, and for that I am thankful, but I have a persnickety tummy that I probably owe to severe adolescent food issues. There have been times when I haven’t made it to the bathroom quite soon enough. On long car trips, I’m worse than a child.
    Mostly, it’s just really nice to hear someone else talk about it so willingly and openly. It’s not something to be ashamed of–it’s just a reality.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *