I have spent the last 4 years blogging about my life with IBD and MS and perpetually making a fool of myself in the process. IBD brings really embarrassing things into your life sometimes, and unlike most people, I put those stories on the internet. I don’t know why it makes sense to me to share the most humiliating moments of my life with the world, but it does. This time is no different. Recently, I may have experienced the most embarrassing IBD moment to date. Let me set the scene for you.
I recently started dating someone new. We are still in the "get to know you" stage, where everything the other person does is new and adorable and you are still on your best behavior because you don’t know where "the line" is. We’re talking no burping, no farting, and the less I can talk about my ass disease the better. Although there is a slight sense of walking on egg shells, this is supposed to be the fun part. In the grand scheme of life, I am relatively new to the whole dating scene. I’ve really only been dating for the last year, that would be years 28-29 of my adult life because previous to that I was in long term relationships. Hell, I didn’t even have a real first date until last year. So as I’m learning to navigate this whole dating thing, I’ve received all kinds of advice.
"Don’t say anything about being sick"
"Tell them right from the beginning"
"Lie through your teeth"
Dating is hard. It’s confusing and so far I’ve just been making it up as I go because there is no manual for "How To Date In Your Late 20’s When You’ve Got Embarrassing Chronic Illnesses" Man, I feel like I should probably write that book.
Fast forward to now. I have found one of those rare magical unicorns of a man, who not only doesn’t care that I’m sick but understands it in the best way possible: he is sick too. Now when I say "unicorn" I mean one of those mythical creatures that everyone hears about but no one has actually ever seen. The type of man that adult women spread urban legends about. I thought that by simply being in the sick boat with me, that made him great, but little did I know that he was great on a level I had never expected.
So this unicorn guy and I have been hanging out semi regularly and I have spent the night at his house twice at the point of this story. Each time we decide to have sleep overs, I skip dinner on the freak chance that my j-pouch decides to rebel against me and makes me crap the bed. My theory is, if I don’t eat past noon, and I make sure to use the bathroom a million times during the day, I will be fine. Do I need to foreshadow anymore or can I just tell you that it was not fine? On sleepover number three, I woke up at about 3 am to what I would classify as the most mortifying moment in my 29 years. I had, in fact, shit in his bed while he slept next to me.
I don’t think "panic" really explains the level of horror that I felt in that moment, but I panicked. I got up and went to the bathroom, and panicked in there for about 20 minutes going over various scenarios of what I could do to change the situation or get out of it. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t think about leaving all together, never to be seen again, vanishing like a fart in the wind. But in my panic, I had a real conflict. I liked this unicorn. A lot. I had told him the previous weekend that this scenario was possible and in my head when I told him it was purely out of unnecessary precaution. Who knows, maybe I was subconsciously testing him. But I never would have dreamed that I would be standing in a bathroom that was not my own, after having shit a bed that was not my own, debating how I could sneak out of a house that had an alarm set.
Turns out there really weren’t any option other than one; I had to wake him up and tell him. I walked through the dark, to this incredible unicorn man I was completely infatuated with, and proceeded to tell him that I had shit his bed and he had to go sleep on the couch while I cleaned. I think a part of me died in that moment.
I stayed up the rest of the night, frantically cleaning and scrubbing in hopes to cleanse the sheets, his mattress, and my soul of this horrible experience. Turns out there isn’t enough disinfectant in the world to clean away that type of humiliation. I attempted to go to sleep after I cleaned but that was futile. At that point I got my ugly cry face out of bed and got ready for work, completely avoiding him and the situation because what the hell do you say to someone who owns the bed you’ve just crapped in? When it is someone that you don’t really know, there isn’t anything you can say. You get ready for work as fast as you can, give a halfhearted goodbye and then despite your resolve to hold it together, you proceed to become a blubbering mess in front of the unicorn.
What did the unicorn do? He out unicorned himself in that moment and created a scene that might as well be scripted for the next John Green movie. He pulled me into his arms, kissed my face, and told me that this didn’t change the way he felt about me. He said that I was still the same amazing person who did the same amazing things (his words, not mine). I had a weird internal conflict at this moment where I wanted to stay there and soak up the beauty of that second, but also being so embarrassed that I still couldn’t look him in the face. I eventually left for work, called a friend and cried to her on the phone, and continued to cry for the rest of the day. He reached out to me again later that day to make sure I was alright and to reinforce that things between us were ok. And they were ok. They still are. Things between us are still very new, but once you shit the bed and they stick around, what else do you need to know about their character?
Luckily for the sake of my dwindling ego and his fancy new mattress, I have yet to repeat the events of that night but that doesn’t mean it will never happen again. And when it does, it will be just as humiliating as it was the first time, but the difference is I won’t be afraid of his reaction. We both know what we’re getting into, and that takes you straight out of the "on your best behavior" stage, right into the "I completely trust you" stage. And this, my friends, is a great place to be.
Jackie Zimmerman is a multiple sclerosis and ulcerative colitis patient and the founder and executive director of Girls With Guts. Since diagnosis, she has blogged her IBD journey at Blood, Poop, and Tears. Jackie has worked hard to become a strong voice in the patient advocacy community and pays it forward as Social Ambassador of the IBDHealthCentral Facebook page. In her free time (what free time?!) she spends time with her two rescue pups and plays roller derby. She’s online @JackieZimm.