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Tai Ben

October 21, 2010

In late 2000 I had vowed to get in shape but my bowels, were irritable. Whereas only a year earlier I was sprinting amongst the cabs on 6th ave., Crohn’s had sprinted into my intestines and I couldn’t run-free without free-bathrooms close by. After a particularly unplesant jog where endorphins weren’t the only thing released, I hung up my running shoes and admitted defeat.

But man did I need to work out. Supermodel-thin and just as languid I decided that If I was ever going to get ripped I had to have a safe space to get ripped in. Drawing upon years of movement training I devised a workout I could do in my bedroom – a hybrid of stretching, rave dancing and shadow-boxing I called Tie-Ben. Locking myself in my room clad only in workout-shorts and a smile, I’d light inscence and play thumping electronic music as I lunged and liquid-danced my way to fitness. Although my roomates weren’t too fond of the stomping and caveman smell, I was always close to my bathroom and it’s hard to make excuses about not going to the gym when you live in it. Over the years the workout evolved into a full on training regime, and once I got over how weird the whole thing must look, it has became a special and important part of my life.

And that’s the lesson for today – you can never let Crohn’s dictate your agenda. No matter how bad your disease may get there are a million ways for you to work around it and nothing is more important than your dreams. Remember, where there’s a will there’s a way, even if the way is through the bathroom.


Crohn’s Coast To Coast

October 21, 2010


It was the spring of 2006 and it was time for a change. I had been living in New York for eight years and having made it through a bowel resectioning surgery the summer previous knew it was time to take my resectioned bowels west. For years Los Angeles had loomed in my imagination like Moscow in a Chekhov play but as the brick in my abdomen also loomed I did nothing. It took my intestine hardening like Simon Cowell’s heart to finally convince me to have the surgery but once it was over it was California or bust. (And take it from someone who obstructs, I know busting).

It was the best decision I ever made. The weather in California was so nice even my Crohn’s got a tan, and I could find healthy food wherever I looked. Back in Brooklyn I was eating hope-its-meat-and-cheese sandwiches from the bodega every day, and looking back I cringe on how exactly my body digested all that horrible “food”. It was only until I was 3000 miles away that I realized that I had been keeping my life in a holding pattern and had Crohn’s not come a long to give me a kick in the butt by being it, I might still be there today.

And that’s my lesson – change might just be the change you need. I shouldn’t have waited as long as I did to leave New York but hindsight is 20/20, especially when you have a hind like mine. Crohn’s makes us think that spontinaety is a bad thing but like some weird cult you’re never going to get outta the cave if you don’t stop drinking the kool-aid. Don’t be afraid to make that move or leave for that school, the worst that can happen is you learn more about your body and have some adventures in the process. In today’s world information is king, and you’re only going to get the information you need if you don’t keep changing the tests.


It Never Hurts To Laugh

October 21, 2010

Hello fellow Crohnzies. My name is Ben Morrison and I have had Crohn’s disease since 1997, when, in my senior year at Arlington High School, papa Crohn decided to move in for good. Ironically I was kind of an overweight kid at the time and despite the writhing around and invasive medical testing, losing 30 pounds in a month was actually kind of convenient.

And if you laughed at that, good. If you didn’t, try… It never hurts to laugh.

And that’s why I’m writing this column. Everyone needs to talk about what’s goin on with their lives, but how do you do that when what’s goin on is often spontaneous explosive diarrhea? “Oh yeah Joan today I went to the gym, picked up some groceries and unleashed a stench from my bottom that would kill a dragon”. Even Freud would be like “You’re on your own wis zis one…” 

And that’s where humor comes in. We instinctively find something funny when it’s true, and it’s amazing how much taboo is stripped away when we have the guts to make jokes about what’s inside of them. And I’ll prove this to you with a story. 

I was 23 years old and was dealing with an ongoing relapse that I was quietly ignoring and pretending wasn’t real (It’s amazing how easily I could forget the pain of my abdomen being chipped away at like a block of marble in Michelangelo’s washroom). My symptoms centered around a nasty obstruction of my ileum that most days produced a far-away pointy and sometimes flared to a very close stabbey pain. This particular summer I had gone to the ER 3 times as I had angered it to some degree but I was always very good at deleting the Tivo in my brain once the worst had passed. The brain’s good like that. 

But Anyway. I was running out of money as I did from time to time and was 3 years into a burgeoning stand-up career which had consumed my existence (the bohemian lifestyle of which didn’t help the old man in my tummy one bit). This particular evening I was doing a spot at a small underground club on Manhattan’s upper-west-side and was in a supremely foul mood – my recent bout of stretcher-trips and recovery rooms had led to a number of doctors appointments and tests all requiring information only found inside my rectum. It wasn’t fun at all.

Leaving my apartment for my gig I checked my mail, and while placing four fingers on my lower-right side to calm the gurgling I opened up a letter from my insurance informing me that they had declined payment for a recent colonoscopy on the grounds that it “wasn’t a necessary procedure”. Flash forward two hours and standing on stage my material wasn’t going well, the room was stale like unbrushed teeth and as joke number three died I was beginning to sweat. My mind went black. I wasn’t losing them. As the goosebumps began to rise my breathing heavy I found myself telling everyone in the audience I had this thing called Crohn’s disease and two hours ago I found out that my insurance company thinks I get colonoscopies for fun. “What do they think I was really BORED one day sitting around the house goin, ‘You know what, I haven’t seen the inside of my own BUTT in awhile, and I got 6,000 just layin around – let’s just go out and get PROBED.” And then they started laughing. 

My mind spun around on itself – In this one moment I had told a room-full of strangers I had a poop disease and proved to them that in a certain light a poop disease is hi-larious. It’s all in how you looked at it! In fact after the show 2 audience members came up to me and told me that their roommates and brothers also had Crohn’s. I couldn’t believe it, there I was having a lovely conversation about my behind in the lobby of a Manhattan comedy club. It was a moment I will never forget and it completely redefined how I allow myself to feel about my Crohn’s. 

And it can for you too. I’m not saying you should become a comedian (although the Crohn’s patients I’ve met are some seriously funny people), but I am saying the worst thing you can do is to crawl inside of yourself because you think you can’t talk about what’s happening to you. Everyone’s gone through their version of your crisis and it’s most often through humor that I’ve found myself able to make that conversational connection. It’s a wonderful thing. 

So please keep reading, I’m excited to share with the insiders view of my insides and perhaps even give you some pearls of wisdom that have helped me through the years. 

(And don’t forget, a pearl is created when an Oyster has an upset tummy. Chew on that one for awhile).