I didn’t poop for nine months.
I’m being a little dramatic. I didn’t poop regularly for nine months. My system slowed from a steady loaf-pinch each morning to every other day, then every two days, to finally twice a week at the most. And I love to poop. I have a t-shirt that says, “I Pooped Today” with a gold star. I wore it to my 20th high school reunion. On purpose.
I’ve written before about how I have PTSD, depression, and anxiety, and how in June The Big Thing That Shook My World happened that sent me into crisis mode. About how I had a breakdown and moved out of my house for awhile and got new medication. How I’m more stable now.
I have not, however, written about the pooping. And I write about everything.
Movement of a Mental Breakdown
It’s weird to chart my mental breakdown and recovery over the course of a year through my (absence of) bowel movements. I didn’t even know that not pooping was a thing.
As the summer wore on, I began internally to mimic the season. Deep inside my middle, far underneath the six pack abs that I (don’t) have, a constant flame burned. Waves of heat radiated up and out, even in the coldest air conditioning. I was constantly dry and parched; there was never enough water to drink. My bowels carried on this pattern, and – to not go into too much detail – the kids that I was dropping off at the pool were dusty chunks. They were stiff and hard (that’s what she said) and I thought about buying a hammer and chisel to knock them into the water.
As summer faded into fall, my inner turbulence reflected the storms outside. Curtains of rain from pewter clouds, dead leaves falling and swirling, temperatures cooling. I had plenty of gastrointestinal turbulence, but no actual deuces dropping.
My overactive imagination and poorly-medicated anxiety went into overdrive. What if there was some kind of medical reason for not pooping? Did I have a rare disease or condition? What if I got some kind of blockage and had to have surgery? What if I could never poop again?
I called my doctor, as I was convinced that my constipation was the result of the new antidepressant she had prescribed me, but this is an extremely rare side effect. She encouraged me to try the acupuncturist who practiced in her building, to “help get things moving.”
Movement in the Middle of Winter
As fall succumbed to winter, I started seeing the acupuncturist every couple of weeks. I learned about energy and stagnancy and movement. He told me about how the colon was connected to whatever I was holding onto, this was the crowning metaphor of my life. Let go of whatever I was holding onto, and I could begin to push out some of the grumpies.
I wanted so badly to “let go,” and I determined to be as open as possible so that the energy could move. And it did. I stopped feeling heat radiating from my core, but the energy had moved to the other end of the spectrum.
The ground froze, and so did I, my heart covered in multiple layers of frost. My rage and pain were blocks of ice, so cold that they burned me from the inside out.
Weeks and months went by. Hope would rise (that’s what she said) when I would poop two consecutive days, but then would freeze up again.
The Acupuncturist and the Metaphor
As spring approached, I settled into the chair opposite my acupuncturist on a Friday. I was agitated in the midst of the rising temperatures, the rare sunshine, the blooming daffodils and lime-green shoots and purple crocuses stretching their petals up and out.
The previous week had been emotionally challenging, with bouts of tears about The Big Thing That Shook My World. My rage and pain felt like it was thawing, uncovering patches that required attention. I grieved, crying every day.
Before the needles, he asked me about my pooping.
“About the same,” I said.
“You know the metaphor -, “ he began.
After four months, I was tired of the metaphor. I was tired of not pooping more than twice a week. Of bloating and gas and discomfort. Of holding onto whatever I was holding onto.
“I don’t know that I buy it,” I said. Every ounce of frustration and anger were packed into those words. Chips and shards of ice from my thawing rage, spewing across the five or so feet that separated us. They were stupid, careless words. I could not take them back.
Enter the PTSD Trigger
I am spared the memories of the rest of the conversation because I entered a post traumatic stress disorder trigger of unrivaled intensity.
PTSD triggers are pretty common, and at this point in my journey I’m more comfortable with smaller triggers, easy to spot and work through, resolved within a couple of hours or a day. This event, though, reminded me of my early days with PTSD. The punch to the face and elbow to the gut. My brain full of cotton. Dizziness. Tunnel vision. Surreal feeling. Out of control. Almost panic in the effort to get to a safe space. Wanting to curl up into the fetal position.
Complete shut down. I left his office in a daze. All weekend, I was a mess, feeling the aftershocks of the trigger. There were tears and anger, discomfort and confusion, humiliation and feeling powerless. I was terrified that I had ruined this relationship. Trying to explain what had happened felt impossible, and the original conflict seemed impossible for me to resolve within myself.
I felt crazy.
On Monday, I pooped. And the next day, the same thing happened. Then the next day, and for a full seven days in a row.
I felt like the first warm spring day, after everything has thawed and new growth is blooming and pushing and opening, pulsating with energy. My hopelessness and anger and rage had faded into the background, replaced by a rising tide of emotion that I hadn’t felt in a long time.
Life Comes From Death
As I reflected on my new sense of well-being, I was also at a loss. What had happened? Why could I poop again?
I reflected on my year of heat and dust and frozen rage and shards of grief. The limbo. The holding pattern that finally resolved itself in this PTSD event.
The PTSD event that had first started in the middle of June, The Big Thing That Shook My World, was so intense, the delayed – by nine months – reaction had finally been set free.
The needles slowly, over four months, helping my brain and body to make the connections, the energy to go where needles were directing. To not get stuck, so that my heart and my rage could burn and freeze and thaw as the seasons did. I needed that time to hibernate. To protect myself. To trust the needles to help me find a different way than what I had expected.
I felt that my system had been rebooted. Someone had turned me off and then on again. My battery had been jumped. The lotus flower had bloomed, as it always does, covered in mud – or, as I like to say – poop.
The PTSD trigger – that I work so hard to avoid – closed the circle. Completed the thaw.
Took me from life through death and back to life again.