Updated: Jan 8
Shame Can be Experienced Over Anything
I grew up in a family of artists, but there was no hippy vibe of body acceptance. Instead, my family vibed on tiny art and always had something to say about how I looked. If your family can't accept that you're not perfect, how do you think they feel about bodily functions? Gas, poop, mucous, or anything coming from the body which could cause shame . Despite the rules and regulations for public toilet usage given by my mom, I was forbidden to admit to strangers that our family “made” ie pooped. Not sure where the word "made" came from, but it has proven to be confusing for anyone who knows me. This includes friends parents, friends, school nurses, and pediatricians.
The first time I realized that "made" wasn't the vernacular for pooping was while working at a veterinarian. One morning I went to check on a bird who was placed in a box with food and water the previous evening. The next time I saw the veterinarian I let him know that the bird "made" and seemed alert. Because he was a bit of an asshole, I thought he would appreciate my being proactive with regard to the bird doo. He turned around and stared at me for enough time to want to disappear into the shame-tinged ether. In disbelief, he asked, "Made? Made? What the fuck? What did he make? You mean he took a shit?" I had to collect myself and my shame so I could start processing the fact that now everyone at my job will know I have shame issues. Although I wanted to say, yes he took a shit, I couldn't. I smirked and said yes, he has evacuated his bowels.
Despite my mom being obsessed with public toilet protocol, which included taking envirornmental nightmare's worth of wadded-up toilet paper for use between my fingers and any plumbing, she didn't want to talk about using the bathroom. I'm not saying that we need to discuss it at length but maybe we could come to an agreement that shit happens. Possibly mention that defecation is natural and nothing to feel shame about. She never wanted anyone calling the house to know that we were human. Not only could we not admit to callers that we didn't use the bathroom we also couldn’t admit it to each other.
If a family member was in the bathroom my mom wouldn’t acknowledge it. Instead, I was told they were busy. Technically this was correct, but if I knew what they were busy doing then maybe I could have estimated how long they would be. An added benefit to being honest could be that I wouldn't assume a parent was trying to avoid me. In lieu of saying we were in the bathroom, we would admit to being indisposed. Do you have any idea how difficult it is to use a word in a conversation when you have no clue what it means or even how to pronounce it? If I was speaking with someone who I didn’t want to talk to in person or on the phone as a child, I would say, “I'm sorry, I have to dispose of myself.”
An event took place today that drilled home the shame I have around body functions in a pretty spectacular way. I didn't need anybody to remind me, but I was reminded. Wednesday is my busy day and I don't have a lot of time to eat so I went to McDonald's. I only order one thing, which is a large number two (ironic) cheeseburger meal without the meat. I find it enjoyable to live at the poverty line and pay for things that aren't even there...like meat. When finished I drove to my next appointment and let the dogs out. Watching them do their business made me aware that I'm going to need that opportunity too and soon. Naturally, going number two in a client's house is unacceptable to me. However, I was about to get violently ill so I made an exception. I brought the dogs into the bathroom with me not to punish them but so I didn't have to worry about what they were doing outside.
After 30 seconds it was obvious I was experiencing what I thought was performance anxiety and convinced myself I was fine. I'm also aware that I have great difficulty pooping unless in my apartment. Experiencing shame so profound that I couldn't even poop in front of animals who live to do it, smell it, and roll it was unbelievable to me. I put the pups in my car and began to drive them to their puppy playdate. While there I decided my former decision to not go was a wrong one. I called a friend to ask if she could stay with the dogs in my car so I could go upstairs and use my bathroom. She obliged and I ran upstairs to what I thought would be an opportunity to relieve myself of horrendous cramps. Uhhmmm...after 30 seconds I realized even having a friend waiting for me in the driveway was anxiety-producing. Unfortnunately, my body and mind connection was getting so confused walking was difficult.
I had sweat pouring from my face, arms and legs and looked like I was a kidnap victim. I get back into my car and try to will the pain away. I drove to the dog's friend's playdate, waited a few minutes, and told my friend who was talking at the moment, I needed to use her bathroom and it was an emergency. No joke, I ran to her bathroom and was sweating so much I kept sliding off the toilet seat and of course, I still couldn't make. How could I be so uncomfortable and not be able to seal this deal? Even if I left my friends home immediately I didn't think I was going to be able to drive the dogs back home, pick up the yard and give them the obligatory, "what did you roll in?" shower. Defeated I thanked my friend and told her it was a no-go. Because I'm trying very hard to "adult" I began to finish our earlier conversation. Nope, couldn't participate. I ran back to her bathroom.
Off to the races for the fourth time, yes I said fourth. I was mad at myself for ruining the playdate and fearing I could crap myself. Not shockingly I couldn't go and wondered what was it going to take for my brain to let my body know it's ok to let go...literally...let fucking go? Mad, sad, and still sweating like I was in a sauna I leashed up the dogs and headed back to their home. As quickly as I could I washed and dried them, checked their water, and left all while being hunched over. If youre assuming that when I got to my own toilet all was ok, it wasn't. My brain and body were resentful and both were telling me I didn't deserve to not be in pain. I sat on the toilet long enough to have fallen asleep with my head leaning to the left. I woked up in twenty minutes, was able to use the facilities and then went straight to bed. Orndinarliy my shame would have convinced me to take a shower and then a nap, but there was nothing ordinary about me, or my bowels.