We all poo. Whether we like to admit it or not we have to get rid of the meals we’ve eaten, because let’s face it; what goes in, must come out.
I know as I write this there will be people thinking…
“She shouldn’t have written this…”
“No one wants to know about anyone else’s bowel movements…”
“There are some things that you just don’t talk about!”
But isn’t that the whole point of this blog? Isn’t that whole point of me doing the things I do and saying the things I say?
I never asked for Bipolar and I never asked for a stoma but this is what I have and there’s nothing I can do to change it; so to echo my own mantra, all I’m doing here is making the best of a bad situation in the hope that some good might come out of it.
Today this isn’t about mental illness, today this is about poo; I’m sorry, but like I said we all do it and maybe it’s something we shouldn’t be shy about. No one bats an eyelid when people talk about growing a baby and childbirth…
“It’s the most natural thing a woman can do.”
“The human body is so amazing to be able to create a brand-new human being.”
I agree. It’s true. However, people fail to realise that a human’s ability to poo is also the most natural thing the body can do and it dictates how that person lives. The most incredible thing about the body is its ability to process food and excrete it. I can’t say it enough…
…we all do it.
Its a common misconception that the rich and famous don’t go to the toilet because they are too beautiful but lets set the record straight right now…
Chris Hemsworth does it…
So does Harry Styles…
Zac Efron does it…and if you think Megan Fox doesn’t poo, you’re mistaken…
…because so does Jessica Alba…
And as for Arianna Grande…she’s not that tiny for no reason, she has to poo just like the rest of them.
This is not for the faint hearted, if you can’t talk bodily functions then the door is where you left it, turn right around and walk back through it because I am not going to apologise for anything I write on this one.
So let’s cut to the chase, why do I crap in a bag and how did it get to this point?
Constipation, that’s all it was. I couldn’t poo. As a kid I’d go for days without going to the toilet. I’d get back ache, stomach-ache, eating was a nightmare because everything was backed up with a week’s worth of chewed up meals. Sometimes I’d get so blocked I’d throw up and sitting on plastic chairs at school was horrendous.
When I was thirteen I hadn’t been to the toilet for around two weeks. The pain was so bad my mum took me to the doctors who said there was something wrong with my Appendix but because they hadn’t burst there was no need to go to hospital. A few days later the pain stepped it up a notch so Mum took me to A&E. The doctor there was about to admit me until he realised there was nothing wrong with my Appendix, I just needed to go to the toilet.
Skip forward to 2010 when Bernard the Bipolar brain was rocking my world and my psychiatrist prescribed Quetiapine. He ran through the side effects with me and I remember constipation was one of them, I waved away his comments and said…
“Oh I get that anyway, I’m used to it.”
But this is where the journey really started because he wasn’t wrong, my existing problem got a whole lot worse. Bernard went back in his box and closed the lid but the nightmare of Connie constipation was playing out like a horror film with all the anticipation of fear but no scary resolution.
The GP said…
“Eat more fruit and vegetables…”
But it didn’t work. They said…
“There’s no cure for constipation. It has to be managed with laxatives.”
And boy did I try them all…
Senna max strength
Fruits & Fibres Chewable cubes
Califig – I could drink up to a bottle of that a day
Then I tried all the seeds and supplements you can imagine but nothing helped. It just got worse; pain, bloating, trapped wind and all I could do to ease the pain was have two hot water bottles, one at my back and one pressed between the desk and me trying to ease the pain of an air bubble that couldn’t pass through because there a mountain of fibrous fruit and veg standing in its way.
I was referred to a specialist, had a colonoscopy (that was fun), but the alleged cure he gave me didn’t help. I went back to him a year later because the GP just said increase the laxido. I was taking eight sachets a day when the limit was four and it still wasn’t helping. He said…
“I’ve done everything I can… so I’m sending to a specialist unit at Wythenshawe hospital. You’ll probably need a bag.”
This is probably someone’s worst nightmare. Poo comes out of your bum, it’s not supposed to come out anywhere else but I wasn’t fazed by this; within about 20 seconds I already knew this was the only solution to get rid of Connie constipation.
Then shit got real. After 32 years of people telling me to eat more fruit and veg and take more laxatives on top of more laxatives, suddenly I was actually being taken seriously.
I walked in to the Gastroenterology department like a deer in the headlights. How was this going to be any different to the GP telling me to eat more apples? How could I convince these people that I was at the end of the road and I couldn’t take any more? I was taking 10 senna tablets on top of 6 sachets of Laxido and at least 12 Buscopan doses a day to try and cancel out the trapped wind.
I never cried about my situation, I never shed a tear because if Connie was anything like Bernard and it wasn’t going away, then all I could do was deal with it.
So I sat in the waiting room and I looked at the people around me and I thought to myself…
“This is what the last chance saloon looks like.”
I didn’t care who saw me, doctor, trainee, top dog surgeon or a banana farmer because I had no expectations, at this point all I’d had was a stack load of false hope and disappointment so when a twenty-something year old guy stepped into the waiting room with a folder in his hand, said my name wrong and smiled, I smiled back because even though he looked about twelve, he looked kind.
In the consultation room he opened up the folder baring the referral letter from the specialist and he looked at me and said…
“I used to work with Dr Loganathan. He’s sent you to the right place.”
After that I can’t really remember what he asked me and I have no idea what I told him, but twenty minutes in he left the room and came back two minutes later with the top dog surgeon, Miss Telford. I could tell instantly that she was not a woman who messed around; she knew what she wanted and she knew what to do in order to get it.
She sat on a chair in front of me that had the height of a foot stool and she looked at me over her reading glasses, then she looked at the notes Dr Heywood had written and then back into my terrified eyes and said…
“We can definitely help you.”
I can’t explain it, that feeling of something so beyond relief whatever you want to say or however you try to say it, no one will understand because you’ll never be able to recreate that one single moment where you start to see there is light in the darkness.
That moment, hearing her words was like hearing the voices of a thousand angels singing and they were saying…
“Now you can cry.”
Treatment for any kind of health condition mental or physical is never straightforward and it’s never a short journey. I had to have the most bizarre tests and investigations that I’d never heard of and to this day I wonder to myself…
“Who the hell came up with that one?”
Now if you can’t handle this next bit, look away because this is not for the squeamish. I mean it, look away now because it is not pretty.
I had to have balloons inflated into my bum to see how strong the muscles were, it turns out my muscles no longer worked. I had to swallow 100 teeny tiny plastic pieces and then have an X-ray to see how fast they travelled. I had to stay in hospital for a day where I ate a meal of Smash and beans and had to blow into a tube like a drunk driver every half an hour to see how long it took to digest the meal over an 8 hour period. It never digested. I had to drink two cups of Barium Swallow in thirty minutes, it’s vile; it tastes like chalk with mixed with water, and sit in an elevated chair in front of a camera while people yelled at me and told me to clench my bum cheeks but then realised I couldn’t because I had no rectal muscles, a prolapse and a growth where I’d complained about a pain but it was never taken seriously.
When the nice young doctor asked if I would take part in some research he was doing I agreed because he’d been so nice and so helpful and I thought it was a…
“…you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours…”
…kind of situation. But if I’d known it was going to be two very young and admittedly handsome doctors stuffing balloons up my jacksy that wouldn’t stay up there, I probably would have said no. A lesson learned.
I have to say, at this point everything was laughable; it was the most bizarre situation I had ever been in and I had to work all the tests around my working week and the only saving grace was to be able to offload all of these ridiculous tales to my desk buddy Jayne, you may not realise it but you made the situation so much better. Had I sat next to someone with a poo phobia, I know it would have been a very different story.
At this point it’s April 2016 and I’m supposed to walk down the aisle in seven months time. Miss Telford tells me all of the crazy tests point to the only solution being an Ileostomy, so in technical terms they bring out a tiny blob of your small intestines which becomes the Stoma, it bypasses your colon and you poo from your tummy.
I wanted it done. I wanted it quick so that I could have some kind of normal life. I’d have cancelled my wedding. I didn’t care, I was in that much pain I was willing to give up the dress and the day and disappoint every single person on the invite list so that I could get my squidgy blob and I’ll admit right here, right now, in front of everyone who came to my wedding that I was devastated when Miss Telford said…
“Get married first, then we’ll do it.”
Unless you know what it’s like to need an operation for something you’ve lost your grip on, you’ve no idea what it’s like to have to wait twelve months for it. All I could think was…
“What if I’m walking down the aisle and I have to turn back because I need a poo?”
“What if I don’t make it?”
“What if I make a mess of my dress?”
“How the hell do you poo in a wedding dress?”
But time stops for no one. Life still goes on around us even though we might not want it to. Even though I really just wanted to stay at home and lie in bed where I was only a few steps away from the toilet, because at this point if I needed the loo there was no warning, there was no suggestion of it happening, it was a case of…
“Hi honey I’m hooooommmme”
And I had about five seconds to find the nearest toilet and hope I got to it in time.
People used to say that they never knew I was ill, they could never tell that I needed an operation or that I was in pain; when they saw the hot water bottles they just thought I was unusually cold. I’m a good actress, I can pull the wool over most eyes but now I’d like to apologise. I’d like to apologise to all the girls at STA who had to share the three cubicle toilet with me. When you thought you heard a trombone to your left or a tuba to your right, it was me.
To anyone who walked past the franking machine and thought someone had chopped a body up and hidden it in the cupboard where we kept the bubble wrap, that was no dead body, that was me.
I’d like to apologise to my parents in law who have always been unbelievably kind but when I stayed at your house for the first time in 2013 and my bowel decided to work unexpectedly, I blamed the smell on Matt but it wasn’t Matt; it was me.
To everyone at BAND before the move from the YMCA, when I ducked out of your training sessions without time for an apology, it was me using all that toilet roll.
To the guy who pulled his jumper over his nose on the Trans Pennine Express to Edinburgh, I lied when I said…
“I think the guy before me ate something dodgy.”
It wasn’t a guy… it was me and I didn’t eat anything dodgy.
I apologise with my hand on my heart to the two old ladies at the North West Regional Speaking Competition for the Association of Speaking Clubs, you would have thought the fancy hotel would have more than two toilets for us to use and I really did think that you wouldn’t smell my eight day old poop over the half a bottle of Anais Anais you’d doused yourself in that morning.
I’m sorry to everyone who ever encountered my bowel movements. To the houses I went to, the shops I mooched in, the cafe’s I ate in, whatever you saw, whatever you smelt … it was me. It was all me.
It’s the 11th May 2017. It’s surgery day. It’s bye bye old life, hello new one! It’s farewell to sitting next to the toilet at work, it’s a shrug of the carefree shoulders to planning out the daily dose of laxatives depending on how close the nearest loo is.
You have no idea what this operation meant to me. People thought I was crazy; how could I be happy about this? How could I want this? Was there really no other option?
Truth be told, I didn’t care what anyone else thought, it was no one else’s business. I’d had 12 months to get my head around the idea of having a stoma, a squidgy blob poking out of my tummy. A little red thing that looked like a weird willy.
I had to cope with this somehow because there was no chance of a reversal and this was going to be with me for the rest of my life so I gave it a name. I had this weird idea that if I gave it a character and a personality I could be friends with it, I could love it like I love any of my friends and it would make it easier to look at and to live with.
The first time I looked at her after the op she moved, like a little worm with a big head and I thought…
“Oh dear lord, why the hell is it moving?”
It’s the weirdest thing to get your head around. You no longer poo out of your bum. You don’t pump out of it either. Literally nothing comes out of there because it all comes out of your stoma. It pumps, it poops and it moves like your rectal muscles should. It’s the same game but you don’t have to rush to the toilet because your toilet is attached to you. And when I walk through the street and I feel my bag and it’s got last night’s meal in it I can smile with joy and I think to myself…
“Here I am, just shitting in the street.”
I love Wilomena; she has given me my life back and now there is laughter where there was once sadness. I am endlessly amused by the unfortunate burps and raspberries she makes and I am thankful to my desk buddy James for finding it funny and embracing it when other people were horrified. Thankyou for feeding her tea when she pushed my mug across the desk (oh yeah, sorry that was me).
Thank you to Nathan Langton for inviting me on your podcast back in August. I spend my life talking about mental health and living with a mental illness but no one ever wants to talk about poo. You have no idea how much the 45 minutes of poo related airtime meant to me. The freedom, the laughter and being able to go into intricate detail about a stoma to someone who has never heard of one was liberating.
Sh!T Talk and Banter
I don’t look ill anymore, I have freedom, I don’t take laxatives and I’ve taken about 6 Buscopan tablets in the last three years.
But sometimes life doesn’t always go to plan. It likes to throw you those curveballs at every opportunity, so here’s a letter to Wilomena to finish things off…
I’m sorry I sneezed. I’m sorry this made my stomach muscles flop and collapse but it really wasn’t my intention to cause either of us any harm.
I’m sorry we only had 16 months of matrimonial happiness. I’m sorry that you get tired. I’m sorry that something in there is wrong and it’s changing the shape of your face. I’m sorry you look like a really ugly tennis ball and I’m sorry you get the blame for all the pain; I know it’s not your fault.
I know we had a CT scan yesterday and that was an experience of its own but whatever the results are, if we have to part ways and another stoma takes your place just know that I have loved you. If we have a hernia and Miss Telford can fix it so that we can stay together, you should know I will always love you.
And if nothing can be done, if we remain in pain and you’re still as ugly as sin, don’t worry my dearest Willy, we will get through it together; the way we always do.
Lots of Love