Silent Suffering MAG

By Evan Rose, Rancho Santa Fe, CA

I was 14 when I first found blood in the toilet. I was 14 when I decided not to say anything, not to get help, not to look for an explanation. It was a silent suffering, and I took it very slow. Thinking nothing about my insides, or the wretched environment that was slowly developing in my bowels, I continued living as if nothing were happening. But every day my fear of the bathroom grew. I wasn’t getting better. The pain of a bowel movement would make my body shake, my arm veins would expose themselves like slugs under my stretched skin, and my eyes would close into a state of imagination, an escape.

I was 14, and the topic was embarrassing. Nothing in my rational mind gravitated toward telling them about my problem, my daily struggle. The act of going to the bathroom had become so ritualized and the pain so commonplace that my body had normalized the facts. It was simply a given that at least once a day I would have to endure an excruciating episode that ended with the clear water of the porcelain bowl turning a shade of crimson that I came to associate with my cowardice and ­insecurity.

At my sister’s graduation I broke down. I told my parents what was ­happening to me. Soon I was face to face with my doctor, who was baffled. No hemorrhoids, no nothing. “Stop weightlifting until it gets better,” he suggested.

“Serendipity,” I told my parents. “Everything got better.” I lied.

I was 16 when I began going to the bathroom more frequently every day than most do in a week. Going to the gym became a battle between my desire to train and the rumbling of bowels begging for acknowledgment. Running on a treadmill became an internal dialogue. Just two more minutes. I can do this. My body would respond with a low growl, a thud like the tapping of knuckles on wood. This sound would quickly escalate, accompanied by pressure, as if someone were standing on my abdomen. Then I was competing in a race, a 50-yard dash to the men’s room, as an ­audience of fortysomethings looked on in awe at the boy with diarrhea. Over the course of a workout I would go four or five times, and people next to me would inevitably ask what kind of training regiment I was doing where I spent more time in the bathroom than on the gym floor.

I never considered myself handicapped and never wanted to admit I was sick. When I was having difficulty sleeping because of the problem, I thought long and hard about bringing the topic up again. My parents had no idea what was going on, partially because I had lied, and partially because I simply could not articulate what was happening to me. I did not know how to craft a simile to describe this experience to my mother. No one had ever designated a time of day for these sorts of discussions. I knew it was not dinnertime conversation.

I finally broached the topic and was sent to a gastroenterologist. We talked. “Evan, I’d like to examine you, if you don’t mind.” Well, I do mind, actually. I’m 16, and I’d rather you not touch me. I’d rather you not discover my stigma, the one source where all my guilt and anxiety and imperfection manifests itself in crevices and scars. My parents left the room, and I was alone with only cartoon wallpaper to distract me. I closed my eyes and imagined I was home locked in my room. Eventually he finished, and what he described made me think of a small San Andreas fault. “We’re going to do a colonoscopy and an endoscopy to see what is really going on.”

Then I was staring up at the ceiling, a patchwork pattern of porous stucco paneling, and an anesthesiologist handed me a mask.

“So what’d they find, Dad?” My dad didn’t say anything, just handed me a picture. No artist, no anatomist, no believer in the beauty of the human form could have found anything positive to say about my intestinal tract. The picture was grainy with ulcers and burning with inflammation. My intestines were a visual representation of a napalm blast, totally unfit for absorbing nutrients. “The doctors said you have Crohn’s disease.”

Crohn’s is an autoimmune disorder characterized by inflammation and bleeding in the digestive tract. When the intestines become inflamed, their ability to absorb nutrients and water is drastically compromised.

In many ways I never truly reached adolescence because my intestines decided to rebel. I had always felt like a kid – just a kid doing calculus, just a child driving a car, just a boy drifting through life defining himself through grades and relationships. And then I saw the picture of my spotted stomach, my ruby intestines, and I knew that perfection was a misnomer, a paradox even.

Unfortunately, this part of my life had to happen at a very inopportune time. Like any young man, I wanted to spend my time with friends, and I wanted attention from girls. I distanced myself and tried to disconnect. In many ways it was the only thing I felt I could do. My classes were demanding, my drive never waned, and I did not feel comfortable discussing the personal aspects of the issue. I had other things to worry about. So I endured unnecessary suffering as a casualty in the search for youthful ­perfection, an ideal that I felt I had to live up to, only to find it doesn’t exist.

As Yahia Lababidi said, “We all have handicaps. The difference is that some of us must reveal ours, while others must conceal theirs, to be treated with mercy.” I always felt that I had to conceal my problem to be treated with mercy, not to be chastised for having to handle this and have doctors touch my body in ways that most people would find revolting. When I was diagnosed I finally told my friends. The outpouring of support from them as well as teachers was enlightening.

I don’t hide my pill bottles or lie to my friends ­anymore. Crohn’s is simply another part of me. On my wall above my bed, next to the prom and winter formal pictures, I hung the picture of my colon, all swollen and crimson. To me, it is more than red hues. It is a symbol of my rite of passage, my own personal struggle to grow up.



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This article has 94 comments.


on Jan. 13 2014 at 10:42 pm
sammyjanee GOLD, Plantsville, Connecticut
12 articles 1 photo 15 comments
I have Crohn's Disease, and I thank you for writing this article. Not a lot of people understand what we go through. You are stronger than you know. 

on May. 30 2011 at 1:05 pm
krarthurs SILVER, Plymouth, Massachusetts
9 articles 3 photos 87 comments

Favorite Quote:
All generous minds have a horror of what are commonly called "Facts". They are the brute beasts of the intellectual domain.
-Thomas Hobbes

This was very powerful and enlightening. You're pride is incredible. And you're writing is excellent. You have great talent.

on May. 8 2011 at 8:21 pm
FeelTheRomance18, Tucson, Arizona
0 articles 0 photos 40 comments

Favorite Quote:
love looks not with the eyes, but with the mind, and therefore is winged cupid painted blind. -Lysander, A Midsummer Night's Dream

well, i  glad you decided to agnoledge your handicap and even celebrate it. veryt touching peice.

cutegirl97 said...
on May. 8 2011 at 6:39 pm
cutegirl97, Claysburg, Pennsylvania
0 articles 0 photos 3 comments

Favorite Quote:
Listen to the mustn'ts,child, listen to the don'ts. Listen to the shouldn'ts, the impossibles, the won'ts.
Listen to the never have's, then listen close to me ... Anything can happen, child. Anything can be.

this is a very tender subject but i think you truly made the reader absorb this boy's constant battle with crohn's disease. very moving. keep writing.

on Apr. 16 2011 at 10:07 pm
firelord SILVER, Queensbury, New York
8 articles 0 photos 22 comments

Favorite Quote:
"Two roads diverged in a wood, and I- I took the one less travelled by, and that has made all the difference." -Robert Frost

Awww :(  Is Crohn's Disease permanent or temporary?

on Apr. 16 2011 at 11:06 am
Botchwey BRONZE, ACCRA, Other
3 articles 1 photo 1 comment

Favorite Quote:
a Lesson is born out of every mistake. failure is not a person. mistake is never an attitude

Thanks for sharing such a wonderful personal experience. i think you can use that for a novel. anyway when i lost my parents, and became orphans i wrote with emotional pains as yours.

SpArTa BRONZE said...
on Apr. 16 2011 at 8:57 am
SpArTa BRONZE, Manton, Michigan
2 articles 0 photos 3 comments

Favorite Quote:
All I really need is love, though a little chocolate every now and then doesn't hurt!!:)
Gotta love Peanuts:) lmao:)

very inspirational!! i love it!!!!

 


on Mar. 25 2011 at 10:07 pm
quellanella SILVER, Tokyo, Other
5 articles 0 photos 6 comments
such an inspiring article, and so descriptive! amazing

on Mar. 25 2011 at 8:14 am
TheDoctor BRONZE, Bolingbrook, Illinois
4 articles 0 photos 2 comments

Favorite Quote:
"Our history is nothing more than what the losers settle for"

I love how you are brave enough to write this. It was amazing! I have struugled with many of the same things and you gave me hope. Thank you

--sarah SILVER said...
on Mar. 3 2011 at 8:22 pm
--sarah SILVER, Andover, Massachusetts
5 articles 0 photos 7 comments

Favorite Quote:
Far away there in the sunshine are my highest aspirations. I may not reach them, but I can look up and see their beauty, believe in them, and try to follow where they lead.
~Louisa May Alcott

^ I completely agree-- very courageous and very well written!

SteFanii GOLD said...
on Mar. 3 2011 at 7:57 pm
SteFanii GOLD, Green Bay, Wisconsin
12 articles 22 photos 11 comments

Favorite Quote:
Inspiration comes from the heart of patience

I agree she chose to adopt because she couldn't carry her own children...the person i am talking about is my adoptive mother.  :)

on Mar. 3 2011 at 7:54 pm
AbigailElizabeth SILVER, Medina, Minnesota
8 articles 0 photos 80 comments

Favorite Quote:
"Scars are souvenirs you never lose" - Goo Goo Dolls

you are so brave to write this!

on Mar. 3 2011 at 7:23 pm
PaRaNoRmAl627 GOLD, Mountainside, New Jersey
15 articles 0 photos 297 comments

Favorite Quote:
"Do what you want. If it's something you'll regret in the morning, sleep late."

thats amazing. i have so much respect for people like that. i dont think i could do it

SteFanii GOLD said...
on Mar. 3 2011 at 7:19 pm
SteFanii GOLD, Green Bay, Wisconsin
12 articles 22 photos 11 comments

Favorite Quote:
Inspiration comes from the heart of patience

one of my family members has Crohn's Disease but she doesn't let it run her life she too is a ray of sunshine some of her friends don't even know she has it because she accepts it.  :)

on Mar. 3 2011 at 6:01 pm
PaRaNoRmAl627 GOLD, Mountainside, New Jersey
15 articles 0 photos 297 comments

Favorite Quote:
"Do what you want. If it's something you'll regret in the morning, sleep late."

My little cousin has Crohn's. She's such a ray of sunshine and she's always so optimistic about her dilemma. Your ending reminded me of her, I'm gonna send her this.

mandygale77 said...
on Mar. 3 2011 at 5:26 pm
That was really great. I may have mild Crohn's which I'm trying to fix with gluten-free stuff. It's not my biggest health concern right now. I've got things which are harder for me to deal with. Your Crohn's, though, is obviously from your detailed descriptions much worse than my own.

on Mar. 3 2011 at 12:22 pm
CelloTeen95 BRONZE, Central Point, Oregon
2 articles 0 photos 1 comment

Favorite Quote:
No tears for the writer, no tears for the reader--Robert Frost

Well done. Very inspriration and good job perservering!

twin2 PLATINUM said...
on Feb. 9 2011 at 4:57 pm
twin2 PLATINUM, Houston, Texas
20 articles 0 photos 15 comments
This is really powerful, it made my spine tingle as i got further and further into the story. It's amazing how you composed this though, because it didn't really have much emotion to it, but still at the same time you could... feel your... pain from not only the disease but pain from writing down/typing out some of your expirences. This really is very good. And as much as your story...portrays that you hope people don't feel simpithy for you because of your disiese, and more that you would rather people accept it as part of you, its really hard not to feel any empathy. Completely. Amazing.

on Feb. 9 2011 at 12:40 pm
skyblue95 PLATINUM, Bear, Delaware
35 articles 1 photo 40 comments

Favorite Quote:
I am paraphrasing, of course. "My only fear is that when they are turned to loving they will find we are turned to hating." -Reverand Msimangu, Cry, The Beloved Country (a book by Alan Paton)

I think it took a lot of courage to actually write about this. And it was definitly worth it. You have an inspiring talent to write and I hope I can become a writer as experienced and inspiring as you. Keep writing!

on Jan. 18 2011 at 7:17 pm
Genevieves_Ink, Phoenix, Arizona
0 articles 0 photos 2 comments

Favorite Quote:
Never let anyone else's expectations get in your way.

I wanted to cry when I read this. I almost thought that I had something like that once too but it was only because of what I ate. I like your writing style and the powerful words you used. It is beautiful like everyone said, and very inspiring. It tells people to be grateful for what they have.


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