Those Old Childhood Shamings

Warning – gooey topic alert… long story alert…

ok that said …

Twice I’ve come BANG-face-to-face with body elimination shame, and interestingly both times had to do with medical tests.  We rarely think about how we were toilet trained or what effect that might have on us, right?  I mean, it’s not a common topic of conversation.

“Say, how were you toilet trained?  Any odd phobias or reluctance to pee in front of others?  Can you tolerate the smell of your own poop?”

It just doesn’t come up very often even with the closest of friends.  But I never thought I was overly squeamish.

The first awareness came when I had to have a urinary tract test – it was so long ago I can’t remember the name of the test but it involved drinking a whole lot of liquid and then lying on a table with a sort of viewport thing over your pelvis.  You lie there and pee onto a towel while a doctor comes in and watches the flow to see if there are any problems or blockages.  I thought, hey, this will be a breeze, it’s just peeing!  I was so wrong.

They fill you up till you’re about to burst so there’s plenty of liquid to track.  I really REALLY had to pee by the time they set up the viewport.  Then the doctor came in.  I kid you not, it was Tom Selleck.  Young, studly, dark hair, mustache, OMG I shouldn’t have looked up, I should have kept my eyes closed and just let loose the urine, but one look at this young doctor-god stopped all possible flow.

Although, it might not have helped even if the doctor had been old and paternal.  Peeing on a table onto a towel in front of others is not at all the same as peeing on a toilet in private.

After a short wait, he left and said he’d be back when I was really ready.  I was mortified.  My earliest memories were dancing upside down in my head!  of being shamed for peeing and here was this gorgeous doctor shaming me for NOT peeing.  The nurse came in trying to joke me through the embarrassment, “oh yuck yuck now we know how you were toilet trained, don’t feel bad, everybody has trouble with this”.

When my shame and embarrassment subsided and I got good and angry – and when the holding back became really painful – I hollered and said I was ready.  I was wrong.  Tom-god-doctor came back in and waited and waited and … I COULD NOT GO.

It took four tries and by the time I finally could let it go I was in tears, the doctor was redfaced, no longer gorgeous Tom, and the nurses weren’t sure what to do except hustle me out of there as fast as possible.

So.  Skip forward forty-some-odd years.

I’ve had diarrhea for more than 5 weeks and my oncologist became alarmed that the treatments might be giving me more than just simple discomfort.  Treatment was temporarily suspended and a stool test was ordered.  This particular test requires you to poop in a plastic hat, scoop up samples of your own feces into little bottles and take the bottles to a lab.

Not too bad, right?  All done at home, in private.

Well, facing ones own poop might be easy for others, but it was really hard for me.  I found an entire roomful of body shame, early memories, ways I’ve suppressed and avoided bodily functions.  There’s a disconnect that happens at a really low level where body things are concerned, super super SUPER sub-conscious.

I couldn’t even do the collecting without some serious processing beforehand.  And it was more than facing “icky smelly” poop shame, there was a whole plethora of body shame stuff all clumped together, all the ways I feel body isn’t ok, no matter how I tell myself it’s all natural.  It stretches from top to bottom, scalp to feet and all the stuff in the middle.  All the smells, all the needs, all the feelings of body that I avoid or judge or am embarrassed by.

I’m sure folx reading this are wondering why I’m sharing all this here.

Well the answer is that in working on “this cancer thing” I’ve tried to connect with my body and the source of the illness.  Healing isn’t just an isolated medical/physical thing, and I know that. I know how deeply connected it all is, the emotions, the body, all holding hands metaphorically speaking.  But every inner conversation I’ve tried to have got stuck or distracted or foggy or just left me shrugging my shoulders.  And that’s not happened to me in years.  I’ve always been able to get right down to the source of the emotion, it’s never been that blocked for me.  It has been frustrating.

But here’s the real point – the magic of drawing triggers to yourself…  sometimes I forget about the magic.  I needed a trigger that would push me past all the rigid and mostly-hidden shame barriers.  And bwalla, there it was.  Thank you chemo, for causing the diarrhea bad enough to alert the doctors to order the test for poop that triggered me past the locked door into the dark room of body stuff that shame built.  Thank you my soul for the magic of drawing the triggers I needed.  Somewhere in this dark room is the connection to my cancer.  I think I might be able to find it now.


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