I’ve been entertaining the idea of throwing out a periodic entry on The Impossibility Movement about dealing with the chronic condition known as ulcerative colitis. You can thank my defective, rotting gut for the inspiration. Calm your life. It won’t be loaded down with force-fed anatomy lessons or sultry emotional agony that would rival angst-filled teenyboppers thrown headlong into premature menses at the news of Zayn’s departure from One Direction.
I’ve been inspired to share a little personal nugget about my life that you may not know about me. It might inspire you. It might give you the warm fuzzy tinglies. Or it might make you want to vomit.
Anyway, I shall tell you the story of my diagnosis. I will spare you the gory anatomical explanations. All you really need to know is that UC means “ulcerative colitis,” its symptoms vary between patients, and its most recognized defining characteristic is periodic “flareups” with lots and lots and lots (did I mention lots?) of shitting.
As it happens, I’ve been in and out hospitals a lot in my life. A torn ACL; a head contusion (twice); bloody noses (multiple); dislocated and broken fingers; deep foot laceration; complications from some rare bizarre bleeding disorder (for which I still have no diagnosis); and a host of hospital stays for the UC (amongst other things I won’t mention) have led me to the receiving end of medical care many times. It’s part of what inspired me to become a nurse.
One thing that happens when thrown into a hospital setting for the first time is that you lose certain parts of your dignity right swiftly. Many people resist it. Me, I chose to embrace it. It’s actually quite liberating to stop giving a fuck about how you look. For example, during my first hospital stay for UC, multiple nurses and medical staff bore witness to my numerous sprints to the bathroom, open butcher paper gown traipsing merrily upon my exposed naked ass, breaking wind and/or other substances, left hand flailing violently in front of me as if to clear traffic, tips of right fingers crammed against my asshole like a mobile home versus a tornado, not a chance in hell of stopping the great deluge of Montezuma’s Revenge about to vacate my bowels.
When an imminent liquid bowel movement comes forth, your life’s priorities suddenly become quite simple. Nothing in life matters at that moment except making it to the nearest toilet; not bills, not looks, not relationships, not personal safety, not bare feet on germ-infested hospital floor, and you most certainly don’t give a rat’s rectal wart about the number of total strangers laying eyes upon your sunshine and biscuits.
During that particular hospital stay, I was scheduled for my first colonoscopy. That’s where they shove a small camera into your brown star to inspect around 80 feet of your colon. You have to prep by completely emptying the colon, hence the aforementioned sprints to the bathroom (as if I weren’t shitting enough as it was). Twelve years ago, prepping for a colonoscopy was simple. I’ll happily paraphrase the nurse’s instructions:
Only consume clear liquids the day before this fantastical, magical experience. Then twelve hours before, quickly drink a half gallon of this pasty-ass liquid that tastes like Vomit of Lucifer on a decaying possum carcass, with just a smidgen of skunk piss; you may add grape or lemon lime Gatorade to sweeten it. Try not to yark.
Absolute. Fucking. Bollocks. Lady, Wille Wonka and a Pope’s exorcism wouldn’t touch this forlorn concoction. I think I vomited more than I shat.
Anyway, the next day, after like 30 days of round the clock bloody diarrhea, my new GI doctor would report to my hospital room to deliver the official news that I had ulcerative colitis. Admission weight: 112 pounds as I recall (down about 30 pounds from my average weight at that time). I looked like Skeletor on Speed and Adipex. The doc would go on to explain all the wonders of this exciting new disease for which there was (and is) no cure, and with which I should be prepared to deal for life. So at 25, with no major medical history, I was thrown headlong into the world of chronic disease.
I must say that I’ve been blessed to have spent the majority of my life since my diagnosis in remission. That is to say, with some basic lifestyle changes, I usually only average a flareup about one to two times per year, and through some self-experimentation, I have developed some personal methods for quick recovery.
Over the years, I’ve been surprised at how much I’ve learned about life with a chronic condition. You learn that you can take much more than you thought, that you can find peace and happiness even in the midst of excruciating pain, and to pay particular attention to your inner spiritual state. If I’m having a flareup, it’s very likely that my zen is off, and I need to check my mojo.
My friends, true peace is possible in any circumstance or condition. I am the evidence.