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).