by Tatayana, BSW Intern
I think 99% of individuals dislike ice breakers, but I have quite a fondness for them, not only because I get to gain a little insight about the individuals that I am meeting, but because “tell an interesting thing about yourself” always seems to work its way into the list of things you must speak about, and though my “interesting thing” is initially met with sad, sorry eyes, it is departed with hysterical laughter and comments on how encouraging it is that I turned what should have been a scary experience into comedic bronze.
It was October of 2009, I had just turned 10 years old, and I felt excited to finally be a double-digit age, though that excitement was short-lived. I was a very active little girl, and my after-school activities mostly consisted of eating what my father and I called “second lunch,” playing with my neighbors/friends or reading on the porch when they were not home. But towards the middle of October I quickly became exhausted by the time I came home from school every day, and I would skip lunch and playing to take a nap, which lasted hours if my parents allowed it. Once the fatigue settled in, the skipping of meals quickly followed after, because I stopped eating breakfast and my “second lunch” altogether, and I only ate bits and pieces of my school lunch and dinner. I love food, I would legally marry it if I could, so when this began happening I knew something was wrong, because my parents tended to overreact to any inconvenience, but were paying no attention to this. I attributed it to the changes of becoming a 10-year-old mini-woman.
This pattern remained steady until the end of November, when I experienced one of the scariest moments of my 10-year life; my fifth grade class was going on a field trip to an apple orchard, and because of my obsession with the autumn/fall season I just knew this field trip would be beautiful. While waiting in line to receive my bagged lunch, my vision gradually went darker, and darker, and next thing I knew all I could see was black and stars, like when you stand up too fast. I ended up collapsing onto the ground, and I could hear familiar voices asking me, “Are you okay?,” “What happened?,” “Do you need some water?,” etc., and when my vision returned, I was being supported by my teacher so that I was not lying flat on the ground surrounded by a hallway of individuals with concerned looks.
My teacher asked me if I needed to go home, and I almost burst out into tears because I did not want to miss out on the field trip. She let me know that she would allow me to go, but I had to stay by her side the entire time, and that she was going to call my parents to let them know what she had just witnessed. The field trip did not go as expected, because I couldn’t keep up with the tour of the hundreds-acre farm and became lightheaded ten minutes into the walk. My teacher became distraught because she wasn’t sure how she was going to manage watching both me and the rest of the class. She was informed by the tour guide that their bakery team would love to look after me until the tour commenced to an area where there was much less walking. To this day, I know how to make seven different versions of apple pie due to those ladies.
After this incident, maintaining the energy for school became extremely hard for me, and every day I had to beg my father to not make me go. Eventually, we reached an agreement that I would go to school three days a week (Monday, Wednesday, Friday) and I could stay home the remaining two days, but this agreement is what led to my eventual diagnosis. It was a Friday in December, and I really, I mean really, did not want to go to school. I begged and pleaded with my mother, who so happened to be home from work that day, to convince my father to let me stay home, but she tried to encourage me by saying that today was the last day, and then I had the whole weekend to do what I wanted. That was not good enough for me. My father had gone downstairs to pack my backpack and my mother was in their room tidying up, when I had an idea that fell out of the sky. I casually walked into the bathroom and there sat my ticket to stay home: a bottle of Tylenol cough syrup. The cough syrup had expired so I didn’t feel bad as I poured a good amount of it into the toilet and stirred with toilet paper, creating what I believed to look like a toilet full of blood.
I quickly called my father, informing him of what I saw when I “finished” using the bathroom. To this day I still believe that for a glimpse of a second I witnessed my father become enraged with frustration as he instructed me to finish getting ready because we were going to the hospital. To this day I also believe that I deserve to be in the Guinness Book of World Records for the world’s longest cry, because I managed to cry consistently until a nurse asked me to change into a robe. After two days of testing, and two more days of now occasional crying, if was determined that I would be diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease, with the illness severely affecting both of my intestines as well as my entire colon.
I am now 21 years old, have undergone five surgeries, multiple flare-ups and hospital stays, and my father still doesn’t know that it was cough syrup.
Tatayana is a Bachelor level social work student who is doing her 2021 field internship with TPC. Her blog shares her experience with chronic pain, having been diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease at the age of 10.