This entry is not for the faint hearted, nor for anyone who doesn’t find toilet humour remotely funny. It is however, for the coming of age, the awkward teenager, the now adult who was once an awkward teenager; and anyone dealing with a potentially life-changing condition.
Coast right back to circa 1995. Pre-diagnosed Kayley, desperately trying her damnedest to fit in in this world before even considering a widely-unknown inflammatory bowel disease that could literally blow her cover at any minute.
I wasn’t particularly remarkable at school, I studied hard and didn’t find myself in the right place at the right time, but I just about managed to bridge my social identity across both the academics and the athletes; resulting in me being invited to many a sleepover. This would become a regular occurrence each Friday night, and sometimes in the week from the age of 8 or 9. Straight after school, I would head to one of my friend’s houses, eat rubbish, drink dandelion and burdock, coo over Take That posters, and pretend not to be remotely frightened by Pet Cemetery or some other mediocre 80s horror.
The real fear with these weekly social events however, was the impending doom of what my guts were likely to do amongst company. I of course did not know at the time what would be my downfall in front of many a giggling girl-friend back then, but I was becoming increasingly aware that within an hour into my evening, and around 20 minutes after a hearty home-cooked meal, I would be in total agony and the main source of entertainment; as my stomach swelled to 3 times its size.
Soon after, if I hadn’t already lost momentum with my smiles, songs and quips thanks to extreme discomfort, I would be in the toilet meticulously letting out the built up gas I had so desperately held in amongst my peers hoping no-one would hear. I hope you are giggling as you read this as I am doing whilst typing. Do also imagine the absolute horror of the situation for the much younger, more insecure me, along with no idea as to why it keeps happening. Some nights I woke up on the bathroom floor after my eyes had gone black, and on one occasion, I cut my throat and head as I hit a radiator on the way down.
After several trips to the toilet with griping pains and the intermittent taunts of “you look like you’re pregnant”, the pyjama party would involve my friends sleeping soundly while I try to not let any slip, literally.
Saturday morning would come after a sleepless night tossing and turning, and the last thing I would want was the epic breakfast that was usually planned. I just wanted to go home, safe in my own company, hoping that no-one heard/smelt/tasted a thing. I like to think that I got away with my gut wrenching evenings pretty successfully, and this was unfortunately the way I chose to live for years to come.
Even long-term boyfriends would have limited explosure to my symptoms; that is until recently and what a revelation that is; poor Joe….. I would visit the doctor, they would prescribe medication, it would work minimally to suppress the spasms and the less desirable bodily functions, but as we now know, this was only a teeny tiny plaster on a more substantial, and permanent wound.
Final thought: Anyone reading this with an allergy, irritable bowel syndrome or undiagnosed but chronic symptoms affecting their daily life keep a diary of experiences before seeking help from your GP. This seems to speed up the pathway to help and support and you may be able to pick out what makes things better or worse.