Learning to Get Comfortable Talking About My Shit
On Crohn’s disease, desirability, and internalized disableism
CN: internalized ableism/disablism (and much of it); gastrointestinal disease/bathroom talk
It’s 4:30 on a Thursday morning when I type this.
I am in the bathroom.
I have Crohn’s disease.
Crohn’s disease, if you’re unfamiliar, is a “bathroom disease.” This means, first and foremost, that I spend a lot of time in the bathroom. Like on my first day in my new home in Nashville, when I knelt on the new bath mat and laid my head against the cool porcelain of the tub as I spent hours throwing up while my roommate/childhood best friend and my boyfriend chatted downstairs. It was hours after I arrived before I even saw my bedroom. It means I have spent at least as much time in here, in this bathroom, as I’ve spent in my bedroom since I moved in, if you don’t count sleeping hours.
It means I have symptoms that society generally considers gross, unfeminine, and irredeemably unattractive — I usually let people figure it out by having them Google the name of my diagnosis, which tells them absolutely nothing about my particular situation but at least usually does the trick and staves off any further questions.
It means that whether it’s my own doing or that of an ableist society, I have been made to feel categorically undesirable.
I have spent hours trying to learn to love myself and make myself more lovable by minimizing my disability.
It means this is how I begin most of my days. With stomach pain and vicious cramping, with my stomach gurgling as I try not to gag before I can make it to the toilet, where I keep a separate bucket and plastic bags ready for the special occasions when my body cannot decide from which end it wants to project last night’s food.
It means this is how most of my phone conversations end: with me saying, “I’m sorry, I have to go,” which all of my loved ones know means “I am hanging up right now,” as opposed to my other goodbyes…