My stomach hurts, at one point or another, every day.
Sometimes it sets up additional challenges for me.
For instance, a few weeks ago, while my students were writing an in-class essay in my rhetoric course, my body wasn’t settling quite right—in medieval times, perhaps I would’ve thought demons were stirring in my gut—
And while I managed to make my Fortitude saves for a half hour (Dungeons & Dragons joke), I inevitably buckled and excused myself with three students still writing.
With college students, this is truly the worst case scenario—stomach upset during examination—and the women who were still writing were emotionally invested in their essays, so leaving them to it felt fine.
God, I needed something to feel fine at that moment;
Let it by my moral compass, if not my body.
When I was teaching K-12, and my stomach similarly flipped over on itself, it felt murderous. I often was the host of 20 to 30 special education students at a time,—and my aide missed more work than one would expect (which I didn’t fault—I sincerely appreciated her, really—but in fairness, the solitude often set me up in tricky, biologically imperative predicaments)—so it wasn’t like I could step outside for a sec.
I remember crying in bathroom stalls, at least a couple times a week. If the lack of more available restroom breaks didn’t wreck me enough, the stress-turned-into-anxiety-turned-into-depression from my spiraling-out-of-control, “just deal with it, you’re fine” job?—that exacerbated the ulcers I’d already earned from anxiety in graduate school.
When I was fourteen years old, after I first started taking anti-depressants, I defecated puddles of vibrant, orange oil, which floated gracefully at the water’s surface, while the rest of the evacuation looked like muddy water in a stream bed.
I’d like to say I’m telling a story of a single occurrence, but I crapped this way semi-regularly. All my memory’s life—and especially after puberty,—my roars of diarrhea would leave me cramped and miserable;
I used to try not to cry, but the pain drained out of my left eye anyway.
Then I started crying like Pavlov’s dog when I peed, at the fear of oncoming pain, at the nervousness I had about toilets, and I laughed at how I couldn’t make my left eye stop.
Eighteen years later, it’s the best my brain can do to just thread snapshots together.
In elementary school, I learned to sit on toilet seats like a frog.
I’d do the squat nature taught us to lean into when things, err, felt rough—and I’m not sure how many toilet seat replacements my mom had to make as a result.
Something about sitting in a bathtub helps. Has always helped. I suppose, I like going back to the womb; to the beginning.
Then when I’m finished bathing, I have to take a crap.
Sitting on the toilet seat like a frog, I’d drip pools of water along the toilet seat rim. Given I didn’t like the texture of most of our towels, I often sat in the tub to air dry. The puddles, meanwhile, saturated. Then my mother would come into the restroom, two hours later, lift the toilet seat, and sit in dank, two-hour old, dirty bathwater (slash foot water), and she’d know that it came from when her daughter was taking a shit.
It’s understandably frustrating for both parties.
Oh, but I loved wiggling my feet in the backseat of the car while making diarrhea jokes. And my stepfather and mother seemed to be an endless supply of them. When you’re sitting in the car, and your butt feels like tar—
We have neurons in our stomachs.
While neurons mostly reside in our brains, they also hang out in key areas like digestion, the spinal cord, and the starry god-blob in Futurama, just to keep tabs on how the world is unfolding around us.
This is why I believe—though I certainly need to research this further, and I don’t posit the idea as more than a thought—that my digestion is out of whack; the developmental disorder lies within the neurons that hang out in the stomach (and for other autistic people, the developmental disorder might lie within the neurons that hang out in xyz social skill; etc.).
Sometimes I wonder what bees could tell us about autism…
☕ But Cinnamon Tea Helps!
I’ve read that cinnamon is beneficial for the immune system.
It makes a phenomenal difference for my digestion.
But I don’t pretend I am an expert at the magic and wonders of cinnamon tea, IBS, and autism; I don’t mean to tell autistic parents to go out right now and buy cinnamon tea for their kids. I’ve no idea if the immunity benefits help with the hellhole downstairs.
And if you actually live with these awful digestion issues, I don’t want to get your hopes up that, in an obscure blog tucked in a corner of the Internet, you’re found the cure to IBS!
Cinnamon tea just helps me.
This tea specifically:
When I contemplate my cinnamon tea drinking, I think it soothes my stomach because:
- I’m horribly addicted to sugar. I have an addictive personality in general. Cinnamon is sweet, without feeding my body damaging processed sugars,—and the last thing an ulcer-prone, stomach-aching sugar addict needs is processed sugars—so my tea is a healthy, soothing alternative for my sweet tooth, sans more stomach aches. (I still eat processed sugar. I’m not reckless with my diet, but I’m not as restrictive as I could be, either.)
- The sensation of the tea is calming. Going back to sensory sensitivity, I find cinnamon tea helps me avoid unruly smells in a room (so I carry a mug around with me in every classroom, interview, and other potentially high-stress environment), as well as help open my throat if I feel tension (i.e., anxiety attacks). The spice is also strong enough to act as a focus for meditation purposes, to return to the present moment, to consider where you are when your mind starts to panic about where you’ve been or where you’re going.
- Biological things are also likely at play in my favor.
Thank You for Reading Cleo’s Autism Awareness
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Kourtnie has an MFA in Creative Writing from CSU Fresno and a BA in English from CSU Fullerton. When she isn't writing or making art, she's moonlighting as a professor at community colleges. Read her writing at Kourtnie.net or Wattpad.com/user/KourtnieNet.