I'm not sure why we as a culture like jokes about, well, I might as well just blurt it out . . .
. . . poop, pee, and farts. I can understand children finding humor in these natural body functions, but you'd think that by adulthood we'd have outgrown this silliness. Apparently, that's not the case.
If you thought this was going to be a long list of jokes, I'm sorry to disappoint. Those of us who live with chronic digestive disorders, such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), Crohn's disease, or ulcerative colitis, know all too well that our bathroom habits are no laughing matter. Our bowels have minds of their own and are often a source of constant stress, which can negatively affect our symptoms. For many of us, our condition means living in constant fear of embarrassment and humiliation. No one craves to be the center of attention for all the wrong reasons! And while we may laugh at bathroom humor like a child, nobody wants to be an adult who poops their pants like one (or smells like a child who did!).
I always check out the lavatory locations first thing wherever I go, even when visiting someone's home. When I'm out and there's a long line to the loo, I look for backup options. When someone is taking forever in there, I remind myself that they could have a digestive disorder . . . or worse. When someone hightails it to the restroom, I cringe, as that could easily be me. It's no laughing matter.
Sure, everybody experiences bowel distress from time to time. But for people with chronic digestive disorders, we deal with it every day. Although we can manage our symptoms to some extent through diet, exercise, medication, and certain lifestyle changes, the problems never disappear. Of course I can occasionally laugh at myself and my condition with a few select loved ones, but really, it's no laughing matter.
I know people with Crohn's disease who have needed to have portions of their intestines removed and people with ulcerative colitis who required an ileostomy to save their lives. You might be mortified at this prospect, but these beautiful, courageous people wouldn't be alive if they hadn't had these surgeries. No amount of dietary or lifestyle changes could have saved them. Would you have the fortitude that they do if you were in their shoes? For people who have needed colectomies, the shame extends beyond the embarrassing sprint to the bathroom, as their bodies and the supplies needed to maintain them are stigmatized and viewed with disgust. Bowel diseases and the critical surgeries they often require are no laughing matter.
I don't find the topics of diarrhea, constipation, incontinence, gas, or ostomy bags funny, whether in films, TV sitcoms, comic strips, or standup routines. And they certainly aren't appropriate in social or work conversations. Chuckling over these processes and vital medical supplies only makes it harder for those of us with chronic digestive disorders to speak openly about them, and it pushes us further into hiding. It's not fair for people (both children and adults) who have done nothing wrong except to have been born with or developed a medical condition to have to deal with this stigma and shame.
It's difficult to call others out when they're laughing at vulnerable people or groups, but whenever I've attempted to speak up, the tables were cruelly turned on me (yes, even by so-called vegans). This. Needs. To end. While I'm not saying that you have to totally stop laughing at bathroom humor if that's your thing, I am saying that as a culture (and as human beings and activists) we need to do a better job of being sensitive, compassionate, and thoughtful. While few of us with chronic digestive conditions want to provide a play-by-play of our bathroom activities, allowing us to share our feelings and frustrations, and standing up for us (rather than laughing at us), would go a long, long way. We would welcome your support.
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