WHY I DECIDED TO OPEN UP
The washroom is a lonely place. And it’s even lonelier when you’re spending the majority of your day in there. Throughout my childhood I just had this natural sense of privacy and discretion when it came to bodily functions and I was definitely never one to comment or make jokes about it. That was until soon after I was diagnosed with IBD, and very quickly no topic was off limits.
My openness almost began as more of an explanation to others. I found myself wanting to clarify why I had been in the washroom for so long, or why I needed to go so often. Before even asking, I was quickly offering rationalization as if to justify my frequent and urgent trips. It seemed more acceptable to explain I was dealing with a disease, rather than being someone who just poops a lot.
But then this need to share grew. As I myself learned about treatments, surgical procedures and medical devices, my vocabulary and knowledge expanded. And I again, found myself alone, trying to navigate next steps and unfamiliar jargon with only doctors or professionals. It became a necessity to explain my process and educate those around me, so I had people by my side understanding and advising on what to do next. The decision to go through with surgeries is a heavy one and by no means a weight I could carry on my own. So I needed to share and talk about it. I needed to be honest with my family and friends so in turn I could receive honest guidance and support.
And then I started writing, and advocating offering insight to a world that many are oblivious to. This openness expanded to a wider circle of not just family and friends, but coworkers, peers, old classmates and even strangers. People started asking questions and I was surprised by the willingness to learn and communicate about IBD. And before I knew it, I was in full disclosure mode. Nothing was left exclusive, and the boundaries to what was appropriate to talk about were pushed as I left it all on the table. Soon my frequent trips to the washroom turned into surgeries, an ostomy, leaks, mental health, sex, clothing, dating, diet and now recovery. My vulnerability turned into empowerment and my need to share also turned into my need to listen.
I found that as the more I opened up about my journey, the more others opened up to me. I’ve connected to people I had never met, who can relate or offer support, but also people who I have met, but didn’t know struggled. People have reached out to me in confidence knowing it’s okay to talk about it, and before I knew it, this little IBD community around me grew. We started building relationships and sharing stories that developed into “baggage” beyond an ostomy.
I no longer feel secluded. I’ve distinguished my own sense of compassion and empathy towards others while I hope also inspiring a sense of kindness and consideration in others. The washroom isn’t so lonely when you know there are people waiting for you on the other side of the door.
Brought to you by: Centre de stomie de la Mauricie