I will always talk about my poo - and I ask my friends to tell me about theirs

I will always talk about my poo – and I ask my friends to tell me about theirs

When I got off the train that day, I already knew I couldn’t make it.

As I ran to the nearest restroom and frantically pulled the handle, a station guard approached me.

“This restroom is for people with disabilities,” he noted, surveying my apparent abilities.

At this point, I was dancing in circles, my stomach tightening. “I have an autoimmune disease. Please let me in, I begged.

After scanning me once more, he hesitantly unlocked the door and I dove inside – but by then it was too late. At 27, I got dirty.

I burst into tears and changed my underwear, wondering what I would have done if I hadn’t brought a spare pair. Then I cleaned up, walked the 20 minutes to my office, and went about my day as if nothing had happened.

It wasn’t until I returned home, free from distractions and responsibilities, that the gravity of the situation really hit me.

How did I, a 20-year-old professional, come to this?

I was diagnosed with Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) at the age of 18, a pivotal time full of excitement and change. I was going to college, finally got the green light to drink legally, and was excited about the future.

When I started seeing red spots in my stool, I dismissed it like a burst blood vessel and went on with my late teens like many have; drinking, partying and eating large amounts of microwave lasagna.

It wasn’t until the stomach pains got so bad that I couldn’t get up that I realized something was wrong.

After two weeks of hospitalization, the doctors identified the problem. I was one of 146,000 people in the UK with ulcerative colitis (UC), one of two forms of inflammatory bowel disease. Symptoms included bloody diarrhea, stomach pain, fatigue, weight loss and anemia – all I was currently experiencing.

I was pumped full of fluids and given steroids to fix my flared colon, but the biggest shock of all was to find out that this condition was incurable. For my 18 year old self, it was unfathomable.

Adjusting to this sudden change, a life that now included a lifelong illness, was tough. I spent my freshman year of college in total denial, partying excessively and paying little to no attention to my diet. At some point, I brazenly stopped taking my meds, thinking I could manage my symptoms out of sheer optimism.

Of course, it backfired and I was sent back to A&E with another flare.

Pretending I was fine was no longer an option (Picture: Caroline Saramowicz)

After this second visit to the hospital, my mental health suffered badly. For a long time, I hid my condition from everyone I knew, talking about why I couldn’t drink alcohol or eat dairy products.

Food poisoning, exhaustion from studying, the list was endless – I didn’t want anyone to know that I was weak, helpless or vulnerable.

Socially, I started to back down; I’ve always been a “yes” man. The life and soul of a social event, but I could no longer pretend to be the person I was. I stopped answering the phone and rarely left my room.

My body seemed foreign to me; it was designed to give me life, but instead it assaulted me, and I couldn’t understand why. I felt a lack of control that I had never experienced before – no matter what I did, ate or drank, I was always sick.

My friends began to doubt the authenticity of my apology. Autoimmune and/or invisible diseases are a confusing concept to many – one day a person may seem perfectly fine, the next day they are in bed unable to function. A few even accused me of faking my condition, saying I just needed an excuse to get out of social situations.

After years of punishing my body for attacking me, I began to realize that things had to change. Pretending I was okay was no longer an option; I cleaned up my diet, started taking my medications on time, and educated my loved ones about my condition.

They are now my greatest champions, supporting me through all the trials and tribulations that come with an autoimmune disease.

Initially they didn’t know anything about my condition other than it was stomach related. Details were always omitted; after all, who talks about poo to their friends?

I couldn’t find the words to tell them that everything I saw in the toilet bowl was red. Eventually I realized they needed to know what I was going through so they could support me in the right way, even if that meant keeping an eye out for loos when we went out, or making sure a hot water bottle was always there. lit hand.

I am also extremely lucky to have a tolerant, comforting and sympathetic partner in my condition. From the day I was diagnosed, she has supported every step of my journey; The experimental diets, the trial drugs and their horrible side effects, and the mental aspects (mostly me crying on the bathroom floor wishing I didn’t exist).

It took me a very long time to sit comfortably with my UC – 13 years to be exact – but I’ve finally learned to accept that while it doesn’t define my existence, it is part of me and always will. Before, I hated talking about it for fear of being seen as vulnerable or vulnerable, but now I do so very openly, which has benefited the world around me in more ways than one.

Several friends have come to see me with IBD symptoms because of my willingness to discuss my condition. I have no qualms talking about pooping, stomach aches, or farting – these are regular bodily functions that have become stigmatized by society, and it’s time we had candid conversations about them.

When I read the late Dame Deborah James’ bowel cancer story, I was struck by how easily it is possible to be misdiagnosed or to dismiss the symptoms of IBD as mere inconveniences. . It’s terrifying to think that if I had ignored the red flags any longer, I would be in a much worse position than I am today.

Neglecting even the slightest irregularity in your stool could lead to polyps or ulcers turning into cancers – testing your stool, however uncomfortable, could potentially be lifesaving.

Although there is a lot more information available now than there was when I was diagnosed, there is still a lot to do – so many people still don’t recognize the terms ulcerative colitis and disease of Crohn’s, while many confuse SCI with IBD, assuming they are treated the same way.

I hope that by sparking discussions around these conditions, we can break the stigma around poo, but also provide sufferers with the help and support they desperately need.

Do you have a story you would like to share? Contact us by emailing jess.austin@metro.co.uk.

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