I am 37 and a teacher. I am a happily married man with 2 boys aged 13 and 10, and we live by the sea. I have had UC since about the age of 30. These are the ramblings of man trying to come to terms and deal with a chronic disease whilst maintaining some sort of normality.
The day after my 5th monthly anniversary of being drug and symptom free came a big fat test of mental strength... year 10 fieldwork! Oh yes, not satisfied with the toils of managing 31 stroppy adolescents in the classroom, as a geography teacher I am obliged to apply some kind of contextual reality to their learning in the big wide world. For us this means a trip down the coast to study the impact of natural and human processes. For me this means a trip down the coast to several places without a toilet.
We have been running this particular component of the course for several years now, so I know what to expect - and in a sense that is the problem. As half the battle to surviving with UC is to avoid (or manage more successfully) stress, the pre-knowledge you are about to spend the day with 3 classes (that's about 80 kids) of 15 year olds on three different beaches, two of which are as remote as you can get in SE England, does little to calm the bowel. Last year I went on the back of a flare (subsequent to my azathioprine induced hospitalization, and just prior to my hastily aborted flirtation with 6MP), but with things coming under control with the help of prednisolone. The year before I was also back on the pred having just avoided getting spotted shitting myself at school. This year, then, was the first for a while without the safety net of drugs...
Due to school based issues that are too boring to explain we ended up with 64 kids, 4 teachers and 1 TA (the law requires 1 adult per 15 children). This included about 10 of year 10's most difficult and disruptive boys (in what is, admittedly, a pretty good school - I've done my time in hellish schools, this one is a pretty bog-standard city comp), so that, in passing, on my way into school I am ironically 'thanked' by one of the deputies.
So, while supressing the urge to think about my bowels, I have to think about toilets. When? Where? And indeed what? I stare at the staff loo before the off - should I try? I don't need to go. No urge. I don't want to 'awaken' something... My colon: the Kraken... I hedge my bets and head for the bus. First beach. There is a public toilet. All the kids go in. I can't even use a toilet to go for a wee if there are kids I teach in there. Beyond contemplation, never mind actual action. There's a sign instructing "No sexual activity allowed" report the kids on exit. Why am I thinking about it anyway? I don't need to go.
Beach two. Birling Gap. West end of the Seven Sisters (picture above). Nothing here, except a godforsaken pub, attached cafe ("smells of shit" I overhear the kids exclaim), and what's left of some cottages that have fallen over the cliff. I am considering the tactical approach to using a loo here when another bus arrives. Another school. From London. Oh shit. The boys start assuming their best Liam Gallagher stances, the girls start to get excited (what is it about the inate attraction of boys from another (not local) school?)... The London bus excretes its contents... 45ish VERY BIG boys. The girls get more excited. The boys start to regret trying to look hard. The beach bristles with teenage tension. Bugger it - there's no way I'm going to get a loo break here. Nothing occurs of course (it is worth considering what would happen if it had - between the two schools there were 8 staff and about 100 kids... they could have had a beach based riot to rival the Mods and Rockers for all we could have done to stop them!) it's all posturing. But by the time they go it's time for us to move on.
Beach three. 40 minute walk from bus to beach along river. No facilities whatsoever. Crap.
But fortunately no crap arrived. And so another hurdle is jumped. I am in my 6th month of no drugs. It is the 5th anniversary of being a teatotaller on thursday (April fools day haha), and I've got an appointment at the gastro clinic that day too.
22 weeks exactly. And, by my reckoning, Wednesday will see the arrival of 5 calender months drug free.
So all remains well in the regime of positivity. But, it is not without its hiccups. Burps? Belches? No, it should really be potentially dangerous farts.
Firstly, I am not impervious to a return to my negative, cynical ways. Yes, your Honour, I plead guilty as charged. The evidence is irrefutable:
Lovely-wife and I took Boy2 and several of his little buddies out for pizza followed by the cinema. We went to see 'Alice in Wonderland' in 3D. Now, I'm no technophobe, or fearful of what the future holds. On the contrary, I rejoice in the distance elec-trickery has travelled in my adult lifetime alone: from the birth of the CD and fully wired telephone with dialer, to phones that go in your pocket and include music, film, GPS, and the ability to be a steadily emptied beer glass amoungst their functions. However, I draw the line at 3D film. Show me a 3D film and I'll show you a perfectly good story mangled in the attempt to crowbar in visuals worthy of the 3rd dimension. AND, although the glasses have improved (like being in the cinema at a Roy Orbison convention), is it really any better than Jaws 3D in 1983...? As the credits rolled at the end, I turned to lovely-wife and said "Well, that wasn't much good was it?" and she replied with conviction "Yes, I think the ENTIRE cinema knows what YOU thought of it..."
My football club (faithfully served for the best part of 27 years) is currently on the verge of becoming the first top-flight club to go completely belly-up. Disappear. No longer exist. Cease to be. Become an ex-club. We've already achieved administration - a british first for a club of its 'size'. It's very hard not to get sucked into the disgust and opprobrium reserved for the apparent 'management' of the club. It's hard not to shout and scream at the TV. It's hard not spend the final 15 minutes of each game on my knees in front of the radio. I've contemplated giving up football. But it's got me in its clutches firmer than the UC.
Teenagers. Teenagers at work. Teenagers at home... God knows their mumbling inarticulacy and gangly loitering are enough to drive a saint back to the drink...
And, so it comes as no surprise to find that I am occasionally still at the mercy of bowel-behaviour. This weekend has seen such an episode. Something has occured gut-side, but I can't work out what. Suffice to say that yesterday was windy and last night I lay awake for the most part hypnotised by the extended gurgling coming from my colon, each time violently punctuated by (what my old whoopie cushion would have described as) 'a real Bronx Cheer' - is that how they cheer in the Bronx? A loud and fruity rasp? I shan't be asking if i ever find myself there... The only positive I could come up with between the sheets, when not assuming that if I fell asleep I would shit myself, was that should my house be broken into by murderous burglers they would surely choke to death upon entry to my bedroom. I have spent most of today (thankfully calmer at the pant end of things - a farting teacher is never to be lived down) going back through what I ate with a fine-toothed comb. Er, I mean mentally as opposed to actually scrapping through my poo. Could it have been that bit of houmous I had? Or that tomato relish? Or those apple and cinnamon teacakes? Or those Kettle Chips? Or that weird chewing-gum 'with a kick' someone gave me? Or those olives (probably, but come on, I only had 3. Or 4). And soon I'm going to brew up a gutful of stress.
So. Only one course of action. Bland out the diet (grilled chicken and rice anyone? Toast?) and give the NLP tapes a bash. Kill those negative vibes man. Well, shoo them away at least, eh?
A final thought: follow this link to Charlie Brooker (of the Guardian)'s column where he reviews an awful TV program in his inimitable style. Stay to the end for the most hilarious description of having a poo I've read for ages.
20 weeks and one day... 4 whole calender months (plus a little at either end)...
As I have become more regular, I have been a less regular blogger. I'm going to try to improve in March. A while ago I was waffling about coming up against ghosts of UC-past, well I will get to the second ghost that spooked me, but before that: here's a school/trouser related incident, that for once only vaguely involved colitis...
Lovely-wife has started a new job in the last couple of weeks. She has finally had enough of the high-pressure, high-stress environment of the Neonatal ICU and left to move into the community, as a nurse attached to a health visiting team. Nine to five, no weekends. A far gentler, far less traumatic way to help nurture the newest members of our race. As a consequence she requires use of a car. And as a wise and responsible geography teacher (!) I cannot condone owning two cars. Fortunately i have been able to turn to my trusty scooter (a little Vespa LX50) - much better for the environment, and an absolute god-send on the traffic soaked streets of Brighton.
However, as parent-chiefly-responsible-for-the-delivery-and-collection-of-boy2-to-and-from-school (as I believe is my official title), mainly due to ability to escape school by 3.15 (that is not to say I cease to work from this point, before anybody rolls out that old chestnut...), this has meant having to tool up my youngest for a life as pillion passenger. And thus we have bought him a crash helmet.
And so it is that each morning for the last week Boy2 and i have left together on the bike, so that I can drop him at a friends house from where he can be taken to school. It is a short, straightforward ride. But, being the disorganised and chaotic person that i am, I usually need to be at school as early as possible in order to photocopy the days resources (I know I suggested earlier that I was some kind of environmental warrior - but, needs must, you know...). And so once I have delivered my precious cargo the rest of the journey is conducted at rather more of a hurry. Herein lies the cause of my most frequent trouser-upset...
In my determination to get to school ASAP, yesterday, I jumped back onto the bike with the leg-splaying vigour of a gymnast vaulting the olympic horse... But, sadly, with none of the grace. As my weight made contact with the seat there was the ominous sound of rending seams - it is true to say that in the grips of the UC I have been slimmer! - and one glance downwards confirmed my fears: oh why did I wear such colourful undergarments this day?! Too late to turn back, I pushed on to school, my embarrassment slightly cooled by a chilling wind to the gusset. Upon arrival I foolishly crouched to put the wheel lock on the bike, to the accompanying rip of the rest of my trouser seam - now hilariously split from FRONT to BACK! Ooops. Could I go through a day with my stripey pants on view to all and sundry? Is that even morally acceptable in a secondary school?
Struck by a flash of inspiration I rushed to the Design Tech department and headed for the Textiles rooms (with school-bag coyly hanging to preserve modesty), whereupon I found the Textiles teacher (surprised to see me because a) this is an area of school I've barely even set foot in, and b) it is true that she and I have had perhaps only one conversation in 8 years (more of that in a moment)). "Help!", she looks perturbed, "you might just be able to save my life", looks troubled, "look!" consternation turns to fear as I lift the bag and bend over...
Once over her initial shock, "Get them off!" she cries, and I stand, guileless, in my underpants and socks while she whips them through the sowing machine. Naturally about 3 other female members of staff managed to find a reason to come in the room, met by the site of my skinny legs... But she did a marvellous job, and normal service was resumed.
What's the UC link. Well, that one converstaion I referred too? A few months ago, this very same teacher came up to my classroom to talk to me about UC. It would seem she too is a sufferer. As I am such a blabbermouth about my own UC, she'd heard on the grapevine that this was the reason for my absences over the years. She just wanted to talk to me about her own experiences - I think it helps so much to be able to talk to someone who can really empathise.
After that chat, I really warmed to her - we have never had any kind of contact (before, or indeed, since excepting this recent incident), but the unifying power of the UC bond is strong. And I have to wonder whether she'd have been quite so readily willing to sow my trousers up there and then if we didn't know what we know about each other...