An adult’s digestive tract is about 30 feet long. It takes a piece of food up to 66 hours to traverse it all, making it the shittiest (literally) slide ever constructed. Given the length and inevitable complexity of such a system, it’s no surprise that a lot of things can go wrong with it. One of the worst, non-lethal things on that list is Crohn’s Disease, a subset of IBS with a variety of unpleasant symptoms. Holly knows about it all to well because she suffers from the disease, which manifests itself in the form of mouth sores, cramps that go on for hours, fatigue, anal fissures, diarrhea, joint pain, brain fog, and migraines. Put them all together and you end up with one of the most pain-in-the-ass diseases you could ever come down with, especially seeing as…
You May Have To Shit In A Bathtub
The thing about Crohn’s Disease is that it doesn’t half-ass shit. It either gives you runny diarrhea that the Niagara Falls could take lessons from, or it impregnates you with the biggest shit baby since Joffrey Baratheon. Holly explains:
“Crohn’s is fickle, most days I have diarrhea but there are those special weeks that something changes. Ether I take too many pain killers or [because of] dehydration my normal waterfall gets plugged with a log. For normal people this wouldn’t be much of a problem. For me though, with a few days-worth of shit floating around my belly, this becomes hell.”
Crohn’s has a tendency to create anal fissures and fistulas at the rear entrance, so even a regular crap can turn your toilet bowl into an Everybody Poops remake directed by Tarantino. But add to that some constipation and you end up with literally more crap than you can handle. And that may require some drastic measures.
“For me, it’s pooping in the bathtub,” Holly admits. “You take a dry bathtub, a warm water enema, and a whole lot of screaming as the shit flies from my ass like muck from a hippo … There’s nothing more humiliating when you have a friend who bursts in to the bathroom thinking the screaming is you dying but it’s actually you giving birth to a foot long amalgamation of turd and blood.”
With Crohn’s Disease, Every Meal Is A Gamble
Eating on Crohn’s can be a challenge. In Holly’s case, she has to avoid foods with a high fiber content because she doesn’t want to end up doing a toilet impression of a chicken laying an ostrich egg. So that disqualifies most vegetables right there. Anything spicy is usually out too.
“With Crohn’s, the best way to keep from having a flair is to go on something called a ‘low residue diet.’”
“This basically means that all of my food is so white that I’m sometimes afraid it’s going to shoot an unarmed black kid in a hoodie.”
”Chicken, rice, potatoes, and bread. Anything too spiced and my stomach freaks out. Anything with fiber in it and I have cramps that last hours, keeping me bedridden. If I drink cold water on a bad day, the cramps come and I’m gone.”
What’s worse, all of that can change on a dime and Holly might suddenly feel like she’s being kicked to death from the inside when she merely looks at a bowl of porridge. “I actually get afraid to eat because of that … Some days I can have milk, some days it kicks me in the tummy. Canned corn is perfectly fine (you’d think, considering how often those little yellow kernels come out fully intact), but popcorn isn’t.” It’s like living with the world’s most finicky polar bear in your stomach that mauls your insides if you eat the wrong thing. What’s the wrong thing? It’s a surprise that keeps life so interesting for people with Crohn’s!
“Also, I can’t have alcohol of any kind. I had a few screwdrivers last Halloween and ended up with my ass on the toilet and my head in the bathtub for a few hours. I ended up having to run from the murder mystery I was at like I was the one being murdered.”
Some Days, You Barely Have The Strength To Move
“There are days when the joint pain is so bad that I have trouble lifting up my tablet. My joints swell up and everything becomes ten times more painful, ten times more tiring.”
This type of joint pain is known as seronegative spondyloarthropathy (sad fact: every time someone says the name out loud correctly, a bat bursts into flames somewhere.) It’s a type of rheumatologic disease that causes severe inflammation in the joints, rendering you immobile for long periods of time.
“There was a day that I was stuck in my tub after a bath for forty minutes because of both the pain and the fatigue were too much to get up.”
Unfortunately, the pain also often spreads throughout the entire body: “You see,” Holly explains, “when I say joint pain, I mean every joint is in pain. From my fingers to my toes, everything burns like an icy sun is sitting in it. It’s an insidious pain that feels dull but lasts for weeks, sucking the life from you one moment at a time.”
“With the joint pain comes swelling as well. So much swelling that I’ve had to take my engagement ring off because I’m afraid that it’s going to become stuck and cut off circulation to my finger. The same goes for all my joints, it’s not enough to see but it’s enough to make me wear baggy clothes most of the time.”
The Disease Can Easily Turn You Into An Addict
Between the colon-shreddings and feeling like someone punched all your joints in the balls, it’s no surprise that people who suffer from Crohn’s are often in considerable amount of pain. Fortunately, that pain can be managed with medication. Unfortunately…
“The unfortunate thing about most pain meds currently on the market is that they’re opiate biased, at least the ones that work are … I’ve had a friend with Crohn’s who ended up having a major addiction to that, I saw what it did to him.”
“It started with my doctor prescribing me small amounts of hydrocodone weekly for the pain. I was already on some morphine because of a surgery I’d had earlier that year and we just continued that when things got bad. Then I went to the hospital for a small colitis attack. They gave me the good stuff, an IV drip Hydromorphone right to the arm. When it’s in it sings and makes things drift off into pain free wonder. After I got out, they gave me a prescription for hydromorphone tablets that I continued with my doctor afterward.”
In the beginning, Holly didn’t think anything bad was happening. On the contrary – the meds finally put out the raging ice-fire in her bones and guts, giving her some peace. And then three days passed and Holly didn’t even notice.
“Since then I’ve asked my doctor to stick to things non-opiate biased or at the worst T3’s (with Codine). That’s not enough most days, though. I supplement the rest with pot when I can afford it. Thankfully for the new stoner in me, Vancouver has a lot of semi-legal medical cannabis dispensaries that make things safe for me.” It turns out that the way for Holly to deal with all the shit surrounding her shit was to hit that shit.