The Mighty Logo

The Struggles of Public Restrooms When You Have Crohn's Disease

The most helpful emails in health
Browse our free newsletters

I used to hate using the public restroom. When I was younger, I was able to avoid it pretty much all day, and go when I was home.

I miss those days.

Public restrooms are now something I have to make sure I know where they are at all times. I go to a new place – cafe, theater, friend’s house – and the first thing I do is find out where the bathroom is. And the back up bathroom. And the emergency bathroom. It’s like I’m Jason Bourne, but instead of looking for exits, I discreetly look for bathrooms, and instead of knowing how fast I can run and for how long on a flat terrain, I have a mental clock for how long I have until I have an accident to get to the bathroom.

Sometimes I don’t make it.

And don’t get me started on the “no public bathroom” signs in business windows. As someone with Crohn’s disease, that is a surefire way to never get my business. I am lucky in Minnesota – if you carry a certain card, any business has to let you use their bathroom by law. Problem is getting the business to believe that it is in fact a law and you indeed cannot “hold it.”

Of course my favorite is bus trips out of state, and not making it to the bathroom in time, coming out of it with the bus captain furious that “you need to get your disease under control.”

…Right… ‘Cause I have control over this… Yeah… no, that’s not how this works.

So I don’t go on bus trips anymore.

I keep a vomit bucket in my bathroom – just in case I have to use it.

I polish my people skills to be both direct and firm with employees scared of their management if they let me into their “exclusive” bathroom to convince them it is in their best interest to do so.

I keep communication going with my boss, supervisor and leads, ensuring them I am not skipping out of work to frock in the fields when I call in.

I deal with public restrooms and the embarrassment that happens because of certain sounds.

I refine my situational awareness to use it toward my advantage.

I ignore the stares of strangers and the whispers of family talking about me when I am in the bathroom, thinking I cannot hear.

I do what I have to do, to live and to survive.

Does it suck? Yep.

Will medication change it? Maybe. Only time will tell.

So what do I do in the meantime – waiting for a cure, or working treatment?

I remain hopeful and grateful that one day, this won’t be my reality. I continue to fight every day to keep that hope and gratitude alive.

Out of everything, staying hopeful and grateful is the hardest fight I have ever known. But it’s one I won’t lose.

Getty Image by DenBoma

Originally published: May 4, 2018
Want more of The Mighty?
You can find even more stories on our Home page. There, you’ll also find thoughts and questions by our community.
Take Me Home