Did you know I hold an elected government office? I’m a Council member in my tiny old suburb near Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Earlier this month, we were discussing parking spaces in town for people with disabilities. I won’t go into that conversation, because it could be an article on its own. Plus I’ve got to do a little legwork on that matter….
I bring this up to say I chimed in on when and how I use my own parking placard. I said in the meeting, “The last time I used mine was when I had an IBS emergency and I needed to park close to the bathroom!” Another Council member replied immediately with, “TMI!”
If you’re missing the acronyms, IBS=irritable bowel syndrome, and TMI=too much information.
It wasn’t the first time I mentioned my IBS in a meeting. I recall another time I referenced it as a reason I didn’t want to drag a meeting out with unnecessary venting on an unresolvable issue. I’m not trying to shock people and not even trying to be funny in those moments. I’m just doing my part to try to normalize the conversation about disability, even when that disability involves poop.
It is a shame how much we keep hidden because of … shame. We don’t talk about it, so we feel alone in going through it. Not talking about it may cause us to avoid social situations and miss out on opportunities for fun. It may even prevent us from seeking treatment.
A friend of mine is leading a movement to talk about poop more. His mission has evolved to an environmental one, but it still holds purpose of freeing us from shame about our bodies. Check out his website here: The POOP Project. I LOVE his work, except I do disagree with the bit in his website’s video about sewage treatment hurting the environment. It very well may in some places, but mine doesn’t! I chair our town’s sewer and stormwater authority (small town, all 5 of us must do our part) and have intimate knowledge of our sewage treatment plant, and our work actually improves the environment! Oh, another aside: I did a podcast with Shawn of The POOP Project, before I became chairperson and was still learning. I guess I did OK. Here’s that: It’s a Bird! It’s a Plane! It’s Christina Irene!!! SHHH: The Poopcast (aka S**t and Shame with Shawn).
Here’s what I want to say about it all. I encourage you to be brave and talk about poop or whatever symptoms you have that may be embarrassing. Even if your symptoms aren’t in the realm of bodily functions, I always encourage everyone to do what you can do help us normalize the disability conversation.
And I urge you to not shame anyone who talks about something you may think is “gross” or “inappropriate.” Communication is one of the greatest tools disabled people have. Please let us use it judgment-free so we can access treatment, accommodations, self-care, empathy, and life experiences.
Check out this article: 9 Common Digestive Conditions From Top to Bottom