Random anecdote post.
When I was in my mid-to-late teens I was doing some quiz in a women’s magazine and one of the questions was “do you wake up in the morning feeling rested and refreshed?”
Suddenly, my brain connected a bunch of information together and I was like “holy shit.” The thought process looked like: sleep is supposed to be restorative—>it’s a time for the body to heal and recover from things—>another word for “sleep” is “rest”—>OMG SLEEP IS SUPPOSED TO MAKE PEOPLE FEEL RESTED.
It seems stupid that this was such an epiphany for me but I’d really had no idea. I woke up every single morning of my life with my brain feeling like a clump of furry dog shit. In hindsight I know that this was probably caused by a combination of celiac-related “cloudy brain” and not sleeping well due to anxiety. But yeah.
When I was a little kid I heard someone (a teacher? My mom?) express the sentiment that if a person has to pee you can maybe make them wait but if they have to poop it’s go time – there’s no delaying it. That seemed exactly backwards to me. I mean yeah you can hold urine to a certain extent but at some point your bladder is gonna get too full or your Kegel muscles will give out or something. Pooping, for me, was something that usually didn’t even happen when I was trying as hard as I could (most days I’d spend an hour on the toilet straining and producing absolutely nothing. On maybe the fourth day I might manage, finally, to get something to come out). I couldn’t imagine poop happening at a time when I was actively trying not to.
But once when I was ten years old I was hanging out with a friend from the neighbourhood and for whatever reason she thought it would be funny to shit in a bucket and dump it into her next-door-neighbour’s yard. So we went into her garage and she got her little red plastic bucket, squatted over it with her pants lowered and no self-consciousness at all, and a big long turd just snaked right out of her ass. Like it took maybe five seconds at most. And this was the first time I realized that could happen.
So my brain started making logical connections. I’d heard the phrase “bowel movement” before and had always assumed it was a nonsensical figure of speech. Now I wondered if it was literal: your bowels just started moving, like a conveyor belt or something, carrying shit out of the body. If that’s how it worked, it would explain that remark from before about “Oh, if it’s just Number One it can wait but there’s no putting off doing a Number Two!” It would also mean that my body wasn’t working the way it should in this respect.
I’m less anxious now and I eat better, so my pooping habits are a bit closer to what you’d call “normal.” And in the past few years I’ve actually occasionally experienced this thing of bowels moving, where it felt like a process had begun to kick in and I’d better find a toilet ASAP. Usually it only happens when I’m backed up by a few days and is accompanied by piercing gut cramps, but yeah.
I swear my parents never taught me about bathing. I mean, they made me take baths but for some reason I thought the point of them was just to sit there marinating in the water for a while and then get out. When I was a tiny little kid I found this boring as hell and I’d whine for one of my parents to come keep me company. Often, one of them obliged. I don’t recall them ever telling me to wash myself. They just talked to me while I lay there in the water (or sometimes I’d wash my hair – I did understand about using shampoo, somehow) and then eventually I got out and toweled off.
At some point I did start actually washing myself but I can’t remember when or why – only that I was long past the “keep me company!” stage by then. Like maybe even hitting puberty. Oh, actually I think it was the pubescent armpit stink that got me started.
I’ve heard people talk about holding in farts, like even to the point of never ever farting around a significant other even if it means holding one in for an hour, and TBH that still kind of baffles me. When I was a kid I’d get ridiculous fart attacks every night after dinner. It was not an optional sort of urge that I could just casually decide not to act on. It was an explosive anal firestorm that I could contain for maybe two seconds, tops, and I’d be red-faced and shaking from the effort (which my dad once mistook for trying to push the farts out and which he yelled at me for, because my dad is a dick). I blame gluten.
I don’t get gassy that often anymore and when I do it’s a bit less urgent, usually, but it’s not optional. Sitting around just idly holding in a fart for an hour is not physically something I could do, despite having Kegel muscles of steel. Other people’s experience of farting must be drastically different from mine.
It bothers me that my parents never considered any of this stuff weird. They were fully aware of all of it. They knew it was almost impossible to wake me up in the mornings, to a point where I was late for school almost every day. They were well aware that I was spending hours in the bathroom most days, and rolled their eyes about it like it was a silly idiosyncrasy and never asked me why. They knew that I would fart uncontrollably for ten minutes after dinner most nights and it didn’t occur to them that maaaaaybe this wasn’t normal.
Which reminds me: I think I told y’all the story before of the time I asked my mom “Is it normal to have a voice in your head that tells you which sock to put on first?” and she was like “Yeah, everyone has that.” NO THEY DON’T, MOM. WE BOTH VERY PROBABLY HAVE OBSESSIVE-COMPULSIVE DISORDER. Way to be oblivious to my (and your) rampant, untreated mental illness, though.
Also, when I was a kid I used to tell my mom all the time that when I grew up I wanted to literally never have contact with other human beings. I had plans to be rich (through some unspecified means) and to live in a huge underground bunker and have delivery people shove groceries down a chute for me (I didn’t think it through though because how would I have ordered the groceries? The internet didn’t exist yet so that would not have figured into the logistics).
I also told her – after seeing a movie or reading a book where people were chasing after a magical secret to immortality – that I couldn’t understand why anyone would want to be immortal. I said that surely after a while being alive would just be such drudgery that you’d be sick to death of dragging yourself through yet another day and you’d want to be dead.
My mom didn’t register any of this as weird, or see it as a great big clue that I was severely socially anxious and also suicidally depressed. Probably because she had the same afflictions so she just assumed that everyone did, just like with the OCD.
I understand it, I guess, but I’m still pissed. There are so many ways my parents should have looked out for me but didn’t.
Y’know what’s weird, though? I was clueless about basic stuff like how bathing, sleeping, and shitting are supposed to work, and yet I always knew that when you love someone you’re supposed to treat them compassionately. I’ve heard other people with abusive parents say that they had a really skewed idea of love because of it. I…kind of went in the other direction with things. I would, on occasion, demand that my dad admit he didn’t love me. It was obvious to me that he didn’t; he would yell at me and be physically threatening with insufficient or no provocation and I knew in my gut that this was not how love is supposed to work. And if he would only have admitted that he didn’t love me – that he’d wanted a boy, that he hadn’t wanted kids at all, that he just hated me in particular – the world would have made sense and I could perhaps have found a new way of relating to him. But he’d always get all delicately flabbergasted that I would ever question his feelings. “Of course I love you! How could you even say that?!?” And so I was stuck in a situation where someone alternately told me he loved me and made me fear for my life. I didn’t know how to deal with the cognitive dissonance.It hurt my brain.
I still don’t think he ever loved me, by the way. I believe he felt something akin to ownership, and even sometimes felt pride in that ownership. But that’s not the same thing.