You know when you walk into a public toilet? One that other human beings use as well as yourself? And you are met with an aroma that stings the nostrils. An unpleasant odour. The toilet almost smells like…let me see if I can get this right…a TOILET?
With IBD we encounter this more than most. We tend to spend a great deal of time in the toilet. Because of this, we are, and I have thoroughly researched [made up] this fact), 99.9% more attune to smells, cleanliness and hygiene. We are also more accepting of other people’s bodily functions because we are consistently judged on our own.
In my handbag, where most women perhaps carry a phone, purse, tampons and a lipstick, I carry all of the above, but also wet wipes (ONE DAY I WILL BE THE WORLDWIDE FACE OF WET WIPES), a small spray to eliminate potential odours, a lorry-load of medication for every eventuality, spare pants, spare tissues (in case of a lack of loo roll), a sick bag and E45 cream in case excessive-wiping is required.
Bet you’re screwing your face up at the thought of all this. Maybe you’re even imagining me ‘having an accident’ and thinking less of me. That’s ok. It’s your first reaction and you can’t help that. But its learned behaviour. We’ve been taught from birth that going to the toilet and performing the most basic function in order to help us remain alive, is a dirty thing which should be kept hidden; and certainly not openly talked about! Heaven forbid!!
We applaud our children when they learn how to use the toilet for themselves. Mothers excitedly tell other mothers about this exciting milestone after weeks or months of back and forth frustration. But when it comes to discussing matters of the rear that’s where it ends. As soon as we are grown we are designed to be ashamed. Go quietly into the toilet. Sit in stony silence until the other person next to you leaves. Don’t FOR GODS SAKE open your bowels when someone else is within ear-shot.
I encounter this daily. I don’t feel self-conscious anymore, for the most part anyway. I calmly do my business and carry on with my day. It means I can successfully function at work, get on a bus without fear, and stand upright. It doesn’t really matter if a stranger is ‘offended’ by me using the toilet, because I understand it’s their programming. With a little bit of their own self-consciousness thrown in. They WISH they could be as laid back and relaxed to drop their drawers in public as I am.
Some people of course, and many of them YOUNG PEOPLE with or without IBD, cannot use the bathroom in the conventional way and require life-saving procedures which leave them with colostomies on their bodies. You perhaps can’t see this so you judge someone for taking what you consider to be too long in the toilet. You assume.
All I’m trying to say here is try to remember that visiting the bathroom is a normal bodily function that everyone performs. You are not special. You do not expel gold-dust scented of the rarest flower.
Going to the toilet is not ‘disgusting’; it’s essential. You being a tit about it is wholly optional.