I decided to write this post because it’s a topic that not a lot of people want to discuss, and yet I feel it needs to be talked about. If you’re uncomfortable with bodily functions, you might want to come back on Monday, when I promise a scat-free post.
Yes, we’re talking about poop today.
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I suppose the first time I realized that I had a serious problem was when I took a tape measure into the bathroom with me to measure the space for a desk.
The bathroom commonly referred to as “Kevin’s other office” is one of those pocket rooms that just holds a toilet and not much else. But there’s about 30 inches or so between my stomach and the door, and I figured I could make a hinged platform that would rest across my lap. Then I could put my laptop there (next to a thing of hand sanitizer, naturally) and work while I continued to lose time to the devil that controls my bowels.
It seemed like a good idea at the time.
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I’ve always been a guy when it comes to No. 2. Like most men, I have a “home base” — a spot that I prefer to do my most personal business. For years, I was regular like a finely wound clock, but in 2005, something changed. It became a problem for multiple reasons. Either I was going too often or not enough, and the problem amplified when pain entered the equation. I decided to see a doctor about it and try to determine what exactly I had.
After taking a test and getting a camera put down my throat, they determined that it was irritable bowel syndrome brought on by stress and exacerbated by lactose intolerance. I was given a prescription, told to take Lactaid before meals with dairy and sent on my way.
For a long time, that was fine. When I’d get stressed out, the frequency would step up in my daily regimen, but it wasn’t the end of the world. I just dealt with it and moved on with my life — the symptoms usually passed pretty quickly. I even took myself off the meds at one point because it just wasn’t a problem.
But recently, that hasn’t been the case. In fact, my IBS has been flaring up so much that I’ve become a bit of a shut-in. I try to schedule things around what I hope is my usual schedule, and pound down the Pepto Bismol on days when I know I have to get out the door and have no other option. This isn’t healthy for me, which is causing more stress, and that just makes the process worse. It’s not fun at all.
For a long time, my wife didn’t really understand what my problem was. She knew that I used the restroom a lot (and spent a lot of time in there in the process), but didn’t quite understand what was going on. Hell, I didn’t know what other people were experiencing, and I understood the frustration of feeling alone with this problem. That’s why I decided to write this post.
Let’s face it; no one wants to talk about poop. We all do it, from celebrities to janitors, but discussing the function is considered taboo. It’s part of the reason why I’ve been putting off talking to a doctor — embarrassment. But if I can muster up the courage to talk about what’s happening to me here, well maybe I can help someone else out, too.
There are a few different components of my particular strain of IBS that make my life more difficult. Let me see if I can tackle them one by one.
The pain — Typically, the routine starts with a surge of pain. It’s similar to the usual feeling we all get when the urge comes, but the intensity is substantially stronger, making me feel like it might be diarrhea or something similar. I can sometimes push back this feeling, but it’s always present, making me feel like I’m sitting on a marble pressing against my ass. When I do go to do the deed, the pain is omnipresent — I can’t get away from it, and it makes me feel nauseous when the symptoms get really bad. It’s that feeling like I’m going to throw up and go No. 2 at the same time, and that makes me panicky.
The part that makes my IBS different than a regular bout of the trots (my father’s favorite way to describe diarrhea, since you’re trotting to get to the toilet), is that — without getting too graphic here — everything is solid. So it’s not like I’ve got the squirts (my father’s No. 2 way of describing No. 2), I just have the urgency. That makes for an unpleasant experience.
The frequency — The next issue starts almost immediately after the first time stops. I never really feel like I’m “done,” it’s always like things are still on the verge of happening again. But once it does subside, that doesn’t mean it won’t strike again. It could be 30 minutes, maybe four hours. But it will happen again, and usually with just as much ferocity. The volume isn’t always there, but it sure feels like it is, and it’s always a surprise when I finish and the fruits of my labor are more like raisins than the watermelons I thought I was producing.
To put this into perspective, there were four days a few weeks back when I went three times before 10 am. Three. And each time was at least 15 minutes, because of a sub problem involved in this process. I started adjusting my shower time for right after lunch, because otherwise I was just too busy in the bathroom.
My wife wonders why I’m in there for so long. Most people assume its because I’m in there with the latest copy of a car magazine or a crossword, but it’s the waiting. Usually I’m done with the act within a few minutes, but there are times when that’s very much not the case. Wave after wave of pain come over me and I’m in there sweating like a mouse in a cat kennel just trying to end my suffering. Just when I think I’m done, it happens again and the next thing I know it’s been 45 minutes. So instead of finishing quickly and cleaning up, I wait. If it clears up quickly, then I clean up and go on my way. If not, well, I deal with it.
The peripheral problems — Wipe your ass thirty times a day and tell me how it feels. It’s not pleasant, and eventually it feels like sandpaper on every motion. To complicate things even further, I feel dirty after I’ve done what I’ve done, and often I want to shower afterwards. There’s a joke that Daniel Tosh once said about pooping. I’m paraphrasing, but it was something to the effect of “If you took a shower and then took a dump, you might as well start your day all over again.” That’s exactly how I feel.
Then there’s the constant, unending hunger. On the days when I’m feeling the pains, I also have this unquenchable desire to eat that just keeps going and going. I know that eating anything I can won’t help me with my overweight figure, and I compensate with low calorie but filling foods. Still, nothing helps.
The triggers suck, too. Some days it’s caffeine. That’s obviously a problem for someone who works late like I do, and when I try not to have the coffee or Red Bull that makes it happen, I get mammoth headaches from withdrawal. Since I’m lactose intolerant as well, milk kicks me over, which is both a blessing and a curse. I love milk, so I have a bowl of cereal every morning. It means that almost like clockwork, an hour later I’ll be taking care of my morning duties, and that gives me some sense of regularity. But if I have a bowl of ice cream after dinner, it can toss me into a spiral that causes me nothing but problems for the next day and a half. The other night it kept me up for three hours.
And of course, there’s the complete time suck that sitting on a toilet for hours a day creates. I’ve got multiple clients and lots of deadlines to work within, I just don’t have the time to lose in the bathroom. The desk in the bathroom was legit — I could work and work at the same time, and although it’s a really gross concept to me, it’s also the idea of a desperate man. I’ve got to do something.
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The solution, as it seems, may be to just live with it. I’ve adjusted my dairy intake, fiber, tried vitamins, taken pills and seen doctors, and it’s still one of those problems that just never really fixes itself. Some claim it’s my weight, but there were spells back in high school when I was 6’1, 175 where I never had any problems. And besides, there are lots of people who are skinnier and more active than I with the same issue. There just seems to be nothing that I can do about it.
I do plan on seeing a doctor soon — the same one with the fun camera — to get back on my prescription. At the bare minimum, that should help regulate my life and keep things on an even keel. I’m not sure it’s the best answer, but right now, it’s the only one I’ve got.