Two women share a smile at the sinks in a public restroom

How an empathetic stranger helped me through Crohn's symptoms

The music was loud. My friends were all having a great time in the bar. And there I was. In the bathroom stall. Hurting. Nervous. Upset. Then, I heard someone walk into the bathroom. Oh great. Just what I need. That awkward moment where both people have to go, but just sit there in silence. This wasn't your typical bathroom experience though. Out of nowhere, the woman said her stomach was bothering her and that she was in the same boat. She said she would use some bathroom spray for both of us and not to worry. She proceeded by going without any shyness whatsoever.

Grateful for someone understanding Crohn's

At first, I was caught off guard, but so incredibly grateful for the olive branch she just extended. For one of the first times since being diagnosed with Crohn's disease in 2005, I felt understood and unashamed. I followed her lead and rather than sitting in the stall so I didn't have to show my face, I walked over to the sink while she was washing her hands so that I could thank her.

We smiled at each other and she apologized that her stomach was bothering her. She was an employee of the bar. She said she wished they had separate bathrooms so people didn't have to go through what we did. I told her not to worry at all and that I had Crohn's disease. These "going in public" rendezvous are never a choice for me because I simply can't help it. I thanked her for being so open and for making light of what is often a stressful situation for those of us in the IBD community.

The bathroom aspect of Crohn's is nothing to be ashamed of

This happened days ago and the interaction is still fresh in my head. It's made me think. It's made me feel grateful. If only more people would stop making the bathroom aspect of Crohn's something to be embarrassed about. Everyone poops. Some people just poop more than others. This empathetic stranger probably didn't think anything of her actions, but they impacted me.

Years ago, I would have tried not to go in public. Years ago, I would have never told a stranger I had Crohn's disease. Years ago, I would have cowered in that stall until I was the only person in the bathroom. But I'm not that girl anymore. It's time we stop being apologetic for our diseases and how they make us feel. It's time we stop hiding behind a bathroom stall and keeping to ourselves. We all know Crohn's is much more than a bathroom disease. But, we also know, it's also a huge part of it.

Using a public bathroom when not feeling well

Thank you to the stranger who made me feel comfortable in my own skin, who gave me a knowing smile in the bar later that night, and who reminded me that so many people, not only those with IBD, know how it is to deal with public bathrooms when you're not feeling your best. Rather than judging or saying 'it smells in here' out loud (yes, I've heard people do that before!), lighten the situation and be a good fellow human.

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