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 Apr. 7 2010 at 12:55 pm
Keighla0018 SILVER, Kalispell, Montana
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Favorite Quote:
"When the Power of Love overcomes the Love of Power, then the World will know Peace."
~Jimi Hendrix

That was an amazing piece of writing. There's alot of emotion in it and it's very touching. Not everyone has the courage you do to have posted this. I loved your story and keep it up. Your an amazing writer.

on Mar. 16 2010 at 4:07 pm
LoveOfWords BRONZE, Ascot, Other
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Favorite Quote:
I reject your reality and substitute my own! -- Adam Savage

Really good piece of writing. If it were me, I'd never be able to publish it publicly; I admire your courage. Well done!

Penelope GOLD said...
on Mar. 16 2010 at 3:26 pm
Penelope GOLD, Hillsborough, New Jersey
13 articles 0 photos 14 comments

Favorite Quote:
There comes a time when you have to stop thinking of yourself as the main character in your own story, but as the suppporting character in someone else's story.

My best friend has chrons disease. We don't talk about it much, but I know he hurts the same as you. I love this piece because when I read it I feel like I can understand some of the things that are never said aloud. Keep up the good work:)

on Mar. 16 2010 at 12:21 am
This is a true story, not a storybook. You cant just END it somewhere and leave you guessing because we all know something happened after that, and we want to know what that is. What I'm saying is that there is no need for a cliffhanger here because its a story of struggle, not suspence. He ended it perfectly.

on Feb. 22 2010 at 8:07 pm
I think this piece was very inspiring. You're battle, and you're willingness to share with people makes you really unique. I have diabetes, which isn't the worst thing out there, but it's been a struggle, and I was currently hospitalized for complications. I've turned things around though, and reading this, it makes me realize that I'm not the only one out there trying to conquer something. So thank you! And great work!

on Feb. 22 2010 at 7:57 pm
alayapoetgirl BRONZE, St. Louis, Missouri
4 articles 0 photos 92 comments

Favorite Quote:
Life is hard; but it's harder if you're stupid. -John Wayne

This article has made an amazing piece. You are a phenominal writer...You will go far!

on Feb. 22 2010 at 3:05 pm
firstsnowfalls DIAMOND, Marcellus, New York
51 articles 6 photos 105 comments
Wow. Very powerful. Thank you so much for sharing this.

kittykat87 said...
on Feb. 22 2010 at 11:56 am little sister has cystic fibrosis...shes only really sorry, good for you to stay strong...f anyone had been like that to my sister i wouldve gotten REALLY upset. Hang in there.

on Feb. 22 2010 at 11:31 am
VioletsandVoice, Spiritwood, North Dakota
0 articles 0 photos 170 comments
Ive been having stomach problems for the last four months and along with gall bladder surgery I had some of your same tests done so in a way I know where you are coming from. Stay strong

on Jan. 31 2010 at 4:52 pm
B.R.Nack SILVER, Grand Junction, Colorado
5 articles 0 photos 47 comments

Favorite Quote:
“...Monsters are real, and ghosts are real too. They live inside us, and sometimes, they win.”
--Stephen King

this story is amazing, not only are you strong but you are a very talented writer^^

on Jan. 31 2010 at 3:55 pm
beautifuldownfall, Kkk, Iowa
0 articles 0 photos 20 comments
Wow.... You did a great job bringing to light not only something you've dealt with, suffered with, but something that isn't all that well-known. I'd never heard of Crohn's Disease before this, and I'm leaving much more educated. You are so strong!

Jacksprak said...
on Jan. 31 2010 at 10:50 am
Man, I don't care what anyone tells you, you are the toughest guy I ever read about, and that includes all the books, articles, magizines everything! I find your story really insirational. I have stomach cancer. It's kinda like Crohn's only it can be fixed...sorta. I puke blood alot. I tried to hide it but I puked at school and got pretty found-out. I'm trying to endure kemo now, and I really hope I can be as strong as you were. Thanks for being so all inspiring.

on Jan. 10 2010 at 2:31 am
Kitten111 SILVER, Watanobbi, Other
6 articles 0 photos 48 comments

Favorite Quote:
Knowledge is knowing that tomato is a fruit ..... wisdom is not putting it in fruit salad :P

Thankyou ... this piece was a real inspiration for me as I have a condition called turners syndrome.... the thing is that because I only have a lesser version of it I look normal but I’m still lacking certain vital hormones (growth hormone - which I got from injections I gave myself everyday for ten years - which is why I’m so short only five foot) but what I really relate to is when my grade went through puberty normally my doctor wouldn’t give me the medication to allow me to go through it till a few years later – so yeah I felt like a kid skipped forward a few grades .... I never really told my friends....mostly because I didn’t fit in to well but the few I did were very understanding ... the friends that are the true friends are the ones that wont judge you for this kind of stuff though

JessiGibs said...
on Jan. 9 2010 at 10:34 pm
JessiGibs, Lancaster, Virginia
0 articles 0 photos 7 comments
I kind sorta relate to that. I have a rare musclular defect, and everyday is a battle. I have to force myself out of bed in the morning, walking is difficult, any sort of exercise is out of the question, at school if i get bumped in the hallways i hurt for the next week. the defect weakend all of my joints and cartilage, so i have issues with my spine that is only seen in people more than twice my age. people find it hard to be friends with me because i can do so little. my friends help me carry anything i might need to carry, help me pick up things ive dropped because i cant bend, and even tie my shoes when i cant find anywhere to sit. ive been made fun of my entire life because of the way i walk. and ive learned that some people just dont understand and i have to get over it. my condition has definately made me a stronger person. i like to joke about how pathetic i can be with my friends. i find it really inspiring that you wrote this, and i really hope things are going to be okay for you.

jcarter10 said...
on Dec. 18 2009 at 7:15 pm
im sorry to hear about that my best friend..old best friend has cystic fibrosis were not close because she moved but she has a hard life and she seems to make it worse on herslef but me and my other friends still try to help her so if you need to talk just find a way to privatly tlk to me.

lshaver said...
on Nov. 26 2009 at 6:32 pm
WOW!!!! i know how you feel...sort of...i have cystic fibrosis, a lung disease that really effects every part of my body. i decided to tell my friends about it wheni was in 1st or 2nd grade maybe? well after i decided my mom hauled all my machines to the school; my feeding machine, my lung treatment machine, and my medicine to explain it all. i thought it was gonna be a good thing to tell them this, but i was terribly WRONG!! they made fun of me, and ran away when i came around, if i sat by them they would scoot as far away as possible, one girl told me "GROSS! i dont want it!" even though its not contagious. another boy told me "I will die soon." which is a lie... even still i suffer with these, just last year, my 11th grade year in Hight school an girl in my grade told me she "wished i would hurry up and lay down to die, i will soon any way, and everyone will feel better when i do." but on another note BEAUTIFUL wrting... very inspiring i LOVE it!!!

on Nov. 26 2009 at 11:14 am
blackrose326 GOLD, Burlington, North Carolina
19 articles 0 photos 45 comments

Favorite Quote:
If who I am is what I have and what I have is lost then who am I? Anonymous
Beauty can not be found in worldy views for these are; corrupted veiws straight form the gates of hell - Anonymous

Amazing, your so strong having to go though this.

Beautiful writing

on Nov. 4 2009 at 9:34 pm
giggles38 BRONZE, San Jose, California
2 articles 0 photos 21 comments

Favorite Quote:
Come as you are -Kurt Cobain

Wow, you are and extreamly strong person. Great job, and continue the good work.

on Nov. 4 2009 at 6:17 pm
4everluvjc BRONZE, Plantation, Florida
3 articles 0 photos 44 comments

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nothing is impossible with God! Try him and you'll see :)

Wow....I am're strong, really strong!

on Nov. 4 2009 at 2:14 pm
adastraabextra GOLD, Moonstone, California
17 articles 120 photos 110 comments
simply amazing. im glad you finally came to terms with the fact that you needed to tell someone. great writing too!! :)


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