Diary 2005: Irritable Bowel Syndrome

6 Jul

Note: I no longer have Irritable Bowel Syndrome, thank fucking God:

I have Irritable Bowel Syndrome.

It’s a stupid fucking disease to have because:

A) It makes me swell up like a pregnant sow and shit hot acid and

B) It has an impossibly stupid name with a you’re-just-cranky connotation that compounds the embarassment of having a chronic medical condition that revolves around shit.  That makes you take shits of bizarre consistencies at highly inappropriate times and renders said shit-taking just ridiculously painful.

It’s actually pretty much gone now but back when I had it I didn’t know what it was. That made it worse. Doctors talked about cancer, colitis, Krohn’s– the type of stuff where they have to slice out your colon and your asshole, drill a hole in your side and sew in a plastic pipe attached to a shitbag that you have to empty by hand. What effect this would have on my already limited ability to get laid I dared not speculate. But for months I would just at random have horrible clawing pains in my belly, and then some appallingly discolored substance would fly out of my ass on very short notice and with no regard for my surroundings. I shat myself at work, for instance, several times. Once in a meeting. I shat myself at home and on my bike. You’d think that with repitition any experience becomes normal but shitting oneself in front of one’s peers is an exception.

For months there were two dramas going on: one where I was trying to lead a normal life despite the fact that my belly was swollen like a watermelon and I might at any time shit my pants, and another where I was constantly going to doctors and hospitals and being told that it might just be some random infection or it might be some monster cancerous tumor that would kill me very soon. Eventually I had to go to a special lab for some final tests, a hardcore battery designed to ferret out even the most obscure bacteria. They gave me a kit with a series of different scoops, smear cards and jars– the idea was that I had to take samples of my shit for four days and preserve them in all these different media. They recommended laying saran wrap over the toilet, but when the time came to take the first sample I decided to hot dog it and just hold the cup under my ass.

Over the course of these procedures I learned an awful lot about shit. Measuring out precise amounts with little medical swabs and spoons I got to know it in a very intimate way. For one thing, shit stinks. You knew that already. But the stink of shit when you’re practically holding in your hands, the stink when you’re concentrating on it up close and not neatly dropping into a sanitized porcelain pool is truly gut-wrenching. It’s like poison gas, a fume so offensive you can feel it infecting your eyeballs and tongue. You come to loathe and fear your own body for creating such an abhorrent thing. The warmth it radiates through the plastic sample bag foully conjures the stewing heat of your insides. It makes the finger-sized lump feel like a living being, a vulnerable little mammal trembling in your hands. The composition surprised me: it’s thicker and harder than you would think. And it’s fibrous, permeated with wiry hairlike strands that hold the mass together. As such I had to saw through the chunks with my blunt little spoon to get the right size, straining and gagging while my roomate pounded on the bathroom door.

These new tests didn’t work either, though. Back at the doctor’s I was told to see a specialist for a special screening, a sigmoidoscopy. Nothing to worry about he said, but when he handed me the referral card the word “CANCER” was pencilled in about eight feet high.

The specialist was Iranian. Being from Iran he had been pressganged into trench warfare, gassed by Saddam’s army, had his fingernails ripped out by both the Shah and the Ayatollah, etc. As such he really didn’t give a fuck about my nancy-boy complaints. We’re going to put a camera in the “S” curve (thus “sigmoid”) of your colon, he said. We’re going to make a movie of your insides. It’s really nothing; we’ll be in and out in no time. For emphasis, he gestured with a hand so hairy he could have been wearing a gorilla puppet.

When the day came I was naturally nervous. After a night of endless diarrhea I had spent the morning giving myself the requisite pre-test enemas. I was wheeled into a room on my side, naked in back, and positioned in front of a monstrous bank of video equipment and machines.

If you’ve never had anything serious put in your ass it’s a hard thing to explain. Before this endeavor an experimental spat-on finger was as fas as I’d gone. This was much, much different. In a sigmoidoscopy they put a snaking metal camera and spotlight into your ass, and twist it around to make a movie of your colon. In order for the camera to have good view, though, they also have to plug in a high pressure hose and inflate your intestines. A second before it went in my ass I heard the jet-engine drone of the industrial air compressor. Then the nozzle penetrated me, and there was a hellish splitting pressure as my intestines inflated like a bicycle tire. In front of me a monitor showed the camera’s POV swooping in on my ass, and then it pierced me– a horrible hard, spindly thumb-thick wire coated in cold, oozy gel. I screamed as the Iranian fed the twisting metal more and more deeply into me, coiling it forcefully around the delicate labyrinth of tissue. In front of me the video feed plunged though a ridgy raw-meat tunnel as it angrily quivered and convulsed. Ungodly cramps ignited my bowels and I felt like I had to take a shit made of glass, fire and steel. My ass began to clench down on the device with inhuman strength. “Relax, relax!” the doctor screamed. “I can’t get it in further unless you let me!”

After the test I was allowed to recuperate on a cold toilet, squeezing out blasts of air punctuated by soupy burts of bloody lube and chewed-up bits of flesh. When I finally emerged the doctor was smiling. “We found nothing.” He said. “So no virus or bacteria from the tests, no tumors or polyps. This leaves only one thing: Irritable Bowel Syndrome.”

So this was it then. When people asked me what I had, instead of some grim Latinate death-pronouncement I would say “Irritable Bowel Syndrome.” What the fuck is that? I pictured a little cartoon colon with corncob pipe and beard, angrily shaking its fist.

IBS won’t kill you but it never really goes away. There is no cure and no meaningful treatment. 20% of the population has it, which means that 1 out of 5 people around you thinks about nothing but his bubbling, squealing guts all day long. Like I said, though, mine’s in remission. So if you meet me on the street don’t worry. I’m not about to fall over in pain and shit myself on the spot.

I hope.

7 Responses to “Diary 2005: Irritable Bowel Syndrome”

  1. Anonymous July 6, 2012 at 5:18 pm #

    This is the best entry in a while, but I really wish I hadn’t read it during dinner. I’m really glad I have a strong stomach.

  2. Anonymous July 6, 2012 at 5:44 pm #

    i could truly barely get through this–i skipped whole parts of sentences–dropping clauses like when you cover your eyes at a movie and miss the key frames. i’m not very sensitive–but i was tortured by your descriptive ass, ass story.

  3. Another Mary July 6, 2012 at 5:46 pm #

    One of my co-workers has a colostomy bag. When she returned to work after having her surgery, I talked to her about her illness, her bag, her new routine involving her bag. I wanted to be someone she could talk to about this new development in her life since it was naturally, a major blow. I’m like that. However, I once went into the restroom while she was in there emptying it, or changing it, or whatever you do and the smell was so terrible, so absolutely stomach-churning, just… so…so….bad, I ran out of the bathroom. I could feel the bile rising and would gag throughout the day when I thought about it. I always make sure now that when I go into the restroom she’s not in there. For some reason, this has made me dislike her. I hate to say that. But not really.

  4. nikolhasler July 9, 2012 at 7:30 pm #

    Know what’s weird? I HATE shitting in your bathroom, because the cat litter box is right next to the toilet. But, why does that bother me? My shit is somehow better? Anyway, it doesn’t really deter me. For some reason I always get the urge to drop a mean one as soon as I’m two blocks from your door.

  5. Hailey July 26, 2012 at 11:18 pm #

    Yes, good God, Iranian men are hairy! Oh so hairy. I still have a thing for them, for some reason. Probably because one rejected me once (actually twice… same guy, though).

    This post was disgusting but hilarious. You have a unique gift for being simultaneously hilarious and something else bad–by turns disgusting, appalling, offensive, depressing, mean-spirited, etc. It makes reading your blog a really interesting experience. Keep up the good work.

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