There’s something about bleeding out of your butthole that really makes you question your life choices.
Wait, I’m getting ahead of myself. We need to get to the bottom of this and work our way up. (Fair warning, I go absolutely HAM on the poop jokes in this post)
Around this time two years ago, as I was gearing up to leave an abusive situation, I started to read The Body Keeps The Score in my quest to understand trauma’s impacts on my body.
I had started paying closer attention. See, I was teaching full time for the first time in seven years, in person, under bananas conditions (lunch was 20 minutes, ten of which teachers had to supervise students and make sure they weren’t–gasp–talking to each other instead of focusing on inhaling their food), and in a relationship with a narcissist whose other partner (did I mention I was attempting polyamory for the first time? lol, I’m an idiot) hated my guts and really loved to do the white-woman-damsel-in-distress act.
So anyway, for about two months, I was having nightmares every night. They were brutal. I’d close my eyes and immediately have to watch my brother die by suicide, night after night. I couldn’t save him. I couldn’t stop it. If I stopped it in one way in the dream, he would succeed in a different way. I frequently woke up in tears.
My neck issues were so bad that for most of that time period, I also couldn’t really turn my head in either direction. I assumed it was stress from work and not the relationship I was in–hello, denial. I spent most days with an ache that felt like my neck was in a vice and then spontaneous shooting pains that left me breathless. Suffice it to say, it wasn’t the most fun pain experience I’ve ever had and I’m a person that consistently giggles while I’m being tattooed, because it doesn’t hurt, it tickles. (I know, it’s fucked up)
But reading The Body Keeps The Score as my partner refused to go to therapy with me but asked me to do homework for the third (fourth?) couple’s therapist for him and his other partner (again, idiot) that I DID (oy!) helped me realize that I had been stuck in a trauma response with him for ages and that my body was literally pulling all its tricks to try and get my attention and get me to leave.
There was one other physical indicator that I ignored, which was the loudest and most urgent of them, the most traumatic of the responses: every time we had a serious conversation about our feelings or our relationship, at some point I would have to leave and shit my brains out.
I thought it was because I was Bad At Conflict(TM) or that historically conflict hadn’t been safe for me.
It turns out, he was just a manipulative asshole who could manipulate my asshole, with his words. No one should have that much power. But on the other hand, poop is my super power. As a child with an undiagnosed anxiety disorder, I took Immodium basically every day because my home was not safe, and I didn’t feel the sweet, sweet release of a healthy poo until my dad left.
I left that abusive relationship hyperaware of my body and how it responds to people and places. I learned to listen to my body when it is in pain or discomfort, and frequently I can tie whatever symptom I’m having to some sort of stress in my life. For example, when I finally went no contact with Manipulative Asshole and his partner, Performative White Woman, my nightmares, neck pain, and upset stomach issues stopped. Overnight, they were gone.
I did a lot of healing work and started some healthier relationships. When one of those relationships started having moments of conflict similar to that with Butthole-Whisperer (shouter?), my stomach started getting upset again. He’d text me and I’d get nervous about it, and then I’d have to poop about it. So, I ended that relationship.
But then I did a Thing at work, a thing I will stand by as the Right Thing for the rest of my life, and, uh, I got punished for it. I got gaslit for it. I pushed up against a system I thought was one thing but was really another, and for my trouble, my life started falling apart. My stomach kept it together, though, because I wasn’t in immediate danger, or something.
I held on as long as I could. Sure, my neck pain was back with a vengeance, and sure, I couldn’t walk the dogs regularly, and sure, I stopped working out, and sure, I had no appetite, and sure, I couldn’t focus. But I loved my job, and my students, and the school, and so I did my best to ignore everything and chalked (heh-a teacher pun!) it up to seasonal depression and the stress of the fallout from my actions.
I started EMDR therapy and decided to take Fridays off. Then I started noticing that Fridays and Saturdays were the only days I didn’t have neck pain.
It’s almost like, to quote Megan Thee Stallion, my body was present when I was absent, speaking when I’m not there.
It was building up to a scream. I turned in my resignation after a week where I had a raging fever for three days, went to work one day, got zero sleep that night, threw up at work the next day and had to go home to sleep, and then threw my back out at the gym on the Friday I had off.
So, I’m still slow to listen. I’m trying to get better at listening sooner. My body is keeping the score, and it’s not subtle about it. But I have decades of ignoring my body in favor of humanizing the people who are hurting me. I’ve decided that my colon is my weathervane, indicating safety or a storm, whether the shit has hit the fan, or if I’m in a shitty situation, or if I’ve put up with bullshit for too long. I’m not sorry for these poop puns. You’ve got to know I’m just talking out of my ass.
Sometimes, though, bodies just go through things. Last week, I got hemorrhoids for the first time in my life and I couldn’t trace this awful thing to any stressor; in fact, I had just returned from a week in Hawaii that had made me like my life again! What could have caused this?
So I thought about it for a long, long time, and listened to the message from my body. The message was:
Whitney, don’t be so aggressive with your bidet.