Murder in a Public Bathroom– Just Kidding This Post is About Poop

I have a story to tell. It’s not the story of me murdering someone in a public bathroom and hiding the evidence, but I wish it was. That would have probably been less traumatic.

Anyone played Indigo Prophecy? If you answered yes, I’m sorry.

So let me take you back to when this actually took place: I was in college, living in a one-room apartment with my husband. I had decided to investigate my gastrointestinal problems, and my new gastro doctor needed a stool sample. Ok. So I scheduled a day to go to the diagnostics lab. I’m thinking it’s a lab, they do this all the time. I’ll go and do it there, just like when you do a urine sample. Right? Right?

No.

I can’t blame them for not wanting this dirty work done on the premises. But I don’t want to do it in my one-room apartment either. We don’t have an outside trash can, I’d have to transport everything to the dumpster. And that was one trek I didn’t want to make with this particular cargo. Plus, I was, ahem, prepared. I didn’t want to drive all the way home.

And at this point, I am still pretty naive about what all this will entail. Well, next door to the lab is a gas station. I think, this is an industrial restroom that has probably seen worse. I will go here.

And now let me just flip over to talking about murdering someone there because like I said, that would have been less traumatic.

Of course, when committing murder in a gas station bathroom, you’re going to be scared someone will walk in the entire time. So adrenaline levels are running high to begin with. You also pray it will be quick and quiet, but no matter how well you prepare, you just can’t be sure.

Once the deed is done, the real work begins: disposing of the evidence. There’s a lot more evidence than you might initially suspect. Even with an industrial-sized trash can and a near-infinite supply of toilet paper and paper towels, it’ll take time and craft to get it not only in the trash, but hidden and without staining yourself with any suspicious materials.

And once it’s all done, you must rush out and try to avoid turning your face towards any security cameras.

I delivered the goods to the lab and went home and took a really long shower.

I stand by the idea that this would have been just as traumatic at home. I would have had to tell my husband to just stay on campus and not come back until I give the word. A diagnostic lab should be equipped to handle this, really that’s the only solution I can come up with.

Am I just going to go radio silent and then post every few months about weird things like poop? Um… that’s not my plan, but I can’t rule it out.

More posts coming soon.

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Sometimes People Suck

I love participating in WEGO Health’s twitter chats (follow @wegohealth on twitter to check it out). And each time, no matter what the topic that week is, the subject of losing friends seems to always come up. Chronic illness, whether physical or mental, tends to encroach on our social lives and that can bring out the worst in people. We don’t want to cancel plans or spend all of our time talking about our illness, but when we do, it would be nice to be met with understanding. Unfortunately, it can often break a friendship or even a romantic relationship.

Sometimes one too many cancellations causes a friend to give up on hanging out with you. Sometimes one too many suggestions to “think positively” or “try yoga” or “maybe if you just…” causes you to hit the unfriend button. Sometimes, after an awkward encounter with your illness, a friend or loved one “ghosts” you, falling off the face of the earth. Maybe they can’t deal with facing the idea of mortality when they see an incurable illness. Maybe their desire to “fix” you has made you feel unloved or unvalued, because as much as our illnesses don’t define us, they’re still a part of us. Maybe it was simply more baggage than they signed up for when they decided to be your friend/significant other.

It’s harsh. But it’s also true. Sometimes, people just suck.

A while back, I wrote a post on the story of Job, specifically looking at misguided attempts at “comforting” friends in hard times. Job is a bible story I think many people with chronic illness can relate to, and there’s verses that apply to losing friends as well.

Check out these excerpts from Job 19:

“He has alienated my family from me;

my acquaintances are completely estranged from me.

My relatives have gone away;

my closest friends have forgotten me…”

“My breath is offensive to my wife;

I am loathsome to my own family…”

“All my intimate friends detest me;

those I love have turned against me.”

When we go through something really tough, like an illness, sometimes it feels like everyone abandons you right at the moment you need them the most. Loved ones may be visibly drained by your experience, making you feel like a burden. When you stay home ill, it’s easy to feel forgotten. Illness is alienating. Healthy friends don’t know how you feel, and maybe you don’t know how they feel, either.

A more modern quotation that captures this can be found in the song “People Just Ain’t No Good” by Nick Cave.

“It ain’t that in their hearts they’re bad.
They can comfort you, some even try.
They nurse you when you’re ill of health.
They bury you when you go and die.

It ain’t that in their hearts they’re bad.
They’d stick by you if they could.
Aw but that’s just bull, baby.
People just ain’t no good.”

***

I know that it’s not everyone. I often say that, especially when it comes to dating, illness can be a good thing because it weeds out the insincere. At the end of the day, you’re left with people of heartier stock. True friends, true love. But when you care about the ones you lose, you don’t want to hear that.
Sometimes, people just suck.
Listen to some moody music, wallow in it, get mad, get sad, but then remember the true ones. Find them, because they’re out there.
But if you’re reading an article called People Suck, you’re not here for that, so yeah, people do suck. Most people.
But you don’t suck.

Doing What You Can Even When It Seems Too Small

There’s all kinds of things wrong with the world, and everyone has some issue that they get fired up about. Recently, the Women’s March made waves around the world.

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And lots of women were out there marching for lots of different issues. Pro-choice, Pro-life, women demanding equal pay, women demanding a safer world, women standing with Standing Rock, women who won’t tolerate being talked about they way certain Presidents talk… almost any issue you can think of.

BEN GARVER — THE BERKSHIRE EAGLE  A sign carried in the Washington DC Women's March was delivered by Paul Johansen to the Shire  City Sanctuary for Febuary exhibit of art from the women's marches.

This was a march for like…everything. It seemed like every issue that people get fired up about was represented, even both sides of arguments showed up. Pro-lifers were marching right along with pro-choicers. Yet there were still some who just couldn’t find an issue to cheer for, so they protested protesting!

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But all of these people all over the world with all these views have something in common. They all went through a series of universally human steps:

  1. They felt a fire in their belly about something.
  2. They made up their mind to take action towards real change.
  3. They took whatever action they could think of.

Take me, for instance. I was diagnosed with endometriosis as a high school senior, but it wasn’t until my senior year of college that I started feeling the fire in my belly for health activism. At the time, I didn’t know a word for it, but it was health activism. I saw the discrimination of myself and others who don’t “look” sick, and were written off as liars, party girls, drug addicts, or attention-seekers.

Once the fire in my belly got hot enough, I reached step two: I NEED TO DO SOMETHING.

I cannot accept the way things are. I know that people can learn. I want to teach them. I want them to learn the science of these illnesses and health in general! Health education is so, so lacking in America. I can tell you exactly how a plant uses water and sunlight to create energy and grow and what makes a plant healthy or unhealthy, but I graduated without even knowing what all my lady parts are even for and how diet can drastically affect how your body functions. As Trump would say, “SAD!”

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But here’s the kicker. Everyone everywhere has gone through steps one and two, but so many people give up before step three. Why? It’s not because the fire has gone out. It’s because any action we can think to take often seems too small. I’m just one person. I’m not a politician, I can’t control laws. I’m not an educator, I can’t change what people learn in school. I’m not a doctor, I can’t cure people. I’m just one sick person. There’s nothing I can do.

Either that, or we reject the ideas we do have. I could start a fundraiser, but it would annoy my friends and family. I could protest, but what if I’m alone? I could donate money, but where does it go and what does it do? I could write things on the internet, but literally everyone does that and it would be a drop in the ocean.

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I decided to go for it. What could I think to do? Well, I was a creative writing major. I could write something – what? A blog. Because it’s free and (in theory) the whole world could read it. Could. Probably wouldn’t, but it was possible. And what about my school? The discrimination that put a fire in my belly all happened at my university. I needed those students, specifically, to read what I had to say.

How? I decided to make posters. Just black and white, 8 1/2 by 11, self-printed posters.

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Aww look at my old url. Anyway, I posted these all over campus, occasionally getting scolded, and feeling quite sure no one would ever read them or my blog but whatever. Like I said, I had to do something.

I got an email from an anonymous person thanking me for bringing this issue forward, but it was one out of the dozen or so emails I got telling me to please stop so it seemed like not a lot. But then a really crazy thing happened – a girl stopped me on campus and said “I recognize you… you’re on those posters!”

We ended up having a seat on a bench and talking for upwards of thirty minutes. She had a bone marrow disease (I wish I could remember exactly what) and had struggled so much with faculty and other students not believing how sick she was. She was vibrant and full of life and of course, didn’t look sick. She told me that seeing the posters made her feel less alone. And she thanked me.

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So this one little thing that I was sure would make no difference… made a difference. This dumb thing that was the only thing I could think to do actually did something. What I thought would be too small to notice was noticed.

I did what I could and it made a small difference.

I did what I could and it was worth doing.

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Nowadays, I’m still pretty sure everything I do for this fire in my belly is too small. Womens’ healthcare costs remain high (LORDT that is always on my mind) and we have some lawmakers now making things harder. People still post hateful notes on cars parked in the handicapped spot if they’re driven by a healthy-looking individual. This blog has won some awards, but I get about 50 views a day, post super irregularly, and still get a lot of hits from people looking for info on David Bowie.

Most days, this feels too small to be worth doing.

But occasionally I get someone thanking me and telling me how much it’s meant. And I have to think that for every person who says something, there must be more people who don’t speak up, but who glean something from this. And hey, I even had the head of the UNT disability office call me to chat and make sure they were doing all they could for their students.

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So just know that even if it seems too small, do it. Do it for the fire in your belly, do it for yourself, and do it for the world. Think of how much better a place the world would be if everyone did what they could!

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Taking A Sick Day

It’s not quite fall yet and here in Texas temperatures are still in the 90-100 degree range, but that doesn’t mean it’s too early to talk about cold and flu season! Know how I know that?

BECAUSE I FREAKING ALREADY HAVE A COLD/FLU.

So I wanted to blog today but I really need to take a “sick day.” My husband needs one too, but he’s at work anyway because that’s how it is around here. So I thought I’d share this awesome infographic from Masters in Healthcare about the benefits of paid sick leave.

Sick Days Infographic

This is predominantly about sick days for acute illness, like a cold or flu, but a lot of it applies to chronic illness as well. I’m lucky because my illness still allows me to work, and all things considered, I don’t need sick days very often. But they still occur more often than most, and it’s not unusual for me to end up at work on pain medication. I have felt that calling in sick could cost me my job, and that’s not great. Texas is a “fire at will” state, so if I did get fired for being sick (hey, come to think of it, I have!) that’s technically illegal I guess, but since there’s no requirement to give a reason for termination, I can’t prove it or take any kind of action.

But some states have better situations, and with our recent observance of Labor Day, it’s important to remember how far we’ve come. Unions and workers rights have come this far, and they can come even further. 🙂

Have you ever gone to work sick? Well, of course you have. But why? What could improve this situation? Leave your thoughts in the comments and I’ll catch you when I’m feeling a bit better.

Born This Way Vs. Consequence: How Some Illnesses Are “Deserved”

If you follow my blog, you probably know I have endometriosis. Endo is a chronic pain condition that one is born with. Researchers aren’t sure what causes it, and there’s virtually no way to prevent it. There’s no cure, either, so if you’ve got it, you’ve got it and that’s your life.

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Living with this illness sparked my desire to write this blog. Endometriosis was the hand I was dealt, and it seemed extremely unfair that I would face discrimination or humiliation for something I couldn’t control. I wanted the word “endometriosis” to enter the conciousness of the general public, and become part of household vocabulary. So many women suffer from it, but go untreated while being told that they’re “too sensitive” to “period pain,” when the issue is much deeper and more complex than that.

But it’s easy to be a social justice warrior for a cause like that, isn’t it? Chronic conditions like endometriosis are basically genetic roulette – from birth, your fate is randomly decided. No amount of exercise, healthy dieting, or good decision-making is going to make you well. In short – it’s not fair.

But what about illnesses that are a consequence of a choice?

It’s a lot harder to advocate for those.

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One thing I mention sometimes, but not often, is that I also have IBS – irritable bowel syndrome. No, I don’t avoid talking about it because it’s poop-related. No, I don’t shy away because the name is condescending and misleading (irritable? Really?). I almost never talk about it because I gave it to myself. It’s my own fault that I have IBS.

How?

Well, I guess I can’t definitively say I know for sure that IBS was a consequence of my actions. But I feel 99% certain it is. When I was in college, I got a very bad tooth infection. As in my face swelled up, my throat swelled shut, and I could have died. In the throes of all that, I was taking a lot of antibiotics – strong ones, the strongest there is. And I took all types. For those of you who don’t know, antibiotics are great at stopping infection but not so great for your stomach. Probiotics (the opposite of antibiotics) cause healthy bacteria to grow in your gut, antibiotics kill them. Beyond healthy digestion, the goings on of your bowels contributes to every aspect of your health- even down to creating hormones that keep your mood stable. In other words, an out of balance digestive system can make a person depressed, anxious, or even bipolar (with other contributing factors of course).

So I basically massacred all my good bacteria. And it kept my throat from closing and my tooth from murdering me. But it also made me severely underweight, and caused a lasting anxiety issue. And I was also diagnosed with IBS – a disease that flares and subsides but never really goes away.

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Was it wrong to take antibiotics? Of course not. Do I feel guilty about it? No. At the time, if my doctor had said “alright, there’s a chance this medicine will cause you to loose your appetite, loose weight too fast, and give you lifelong anxiety,” would I have taken the medicine anyway? Yes. It sounds dumb to say a tooth infection was a medical emergency, but it seriously was. Nothing would have changed my choice to take that medicine.

So I don’t talk about IBS so much. I don’t feel ashamed but I do feel… I don’t know, like I picked it? So complaining about it seems… unearned?

It’s similar to the way I feel about my PCOS – but my feelings towards that illness are even more complex. I wonder if I caused it, from being on birth control for so long. But it also mostly affects “voluntary” aspects of my life – mainly having children. The emotional anguish and financial burden of having PCOS was huge and affected every facet of my being – but again, complaining about it felt undeserved, and more like a first world problem than a real one.

And I’m aware of how detrimental this line of thinking is. I mean, it obviously isn’t healthy for me to blame myself for illness. I ought to love myself a bit better than that. But what’s worse is society at large’s tendency to think this way. Look at lung cancer – unlike breast cancer or lymphoma, lung cancer is rarely viewed as tragic or treated to fund-raising marathons. Rather, lung cancer is a punishment for smoking, right?

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What about AIDS? What comes to mind when you think of AIDS? It’s definitely sad… and definitely still associated with sex, drugs, and homosexuality.

What about suicide? Again, tragic. Tragic and so very preventable, right? A choice, rather than a death at the end of a long battle with mental illness. Not at all like death at the end of a long battle with any cancer that’s not lung cancer.

I don’t mean this as a guilt trip, either. These statements reflect my own mixed reactions to these stigmatized diseases.

What can be done to combat this unhealthy line of thought? What changes have you made in your own mind about these things? If you have an illness, do you blame yourself for it? Have you in the past? What changed that?

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I want to hear what your thoughts are. Tell me about it in the comments and let’s work through these stigmas. Changing one mind at a time is the first step to a healthy view of illness.