Vomiting in Public Places OR The Controversial ‘Vomit Post’

“Girls blush, sometimes, because they are alive, half wishing they were dead to save the shame. The sudden blush devours them, neck and brow; They have drawn too near the fire of life, like gnats, and flare up bodily, wings and all. What then? Who’s sorry for a gnat or girl?”
~ Elizabeth Barrett Browning

This was always going to be a post about kindness, but interestingly, when I mentioned on facebook yesterday that I might be blogging about vomit, it raised quite the controversy. Some people were all for it, whatever I wrote, and others were deadset against any mention of bodily functions.

Well, I was never one to step away from controversy.

So now it’s a post about acknowledging our humanity, as well as about kindness. I’ll get to the kindness part in a minute, after I’ve dealt with the humanity bit.

It’s a fact of life.  As humans we are all bound to experience episodes of illness, and at times that’s going to include vomiting. Some of you might be cringing right now.  After all, vomit is gross, vomiting is gross, and cleaning up afterwards is grosser (if there is such a word…) Vomit is not a topic to air in polite company.

So why am I doing it today? I’m doing it to honour all of the people who have to deal with the horror, shame, distress and inconvenience of having a bodily function over which they have no control.

I’m not talking that self-induced ‘I drank too much’ situation. I’m thinking about the people who ate the bad food, who caught the nasty stomach virus, whose kids got sick while they were out shopping, and those people so stressed or overwrought in their lives – whose anxiety so overwhelming – that their stomach became a battlefield.

I’m also talking about the silent army of people with medical conditions (including pregnancy) that cause nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. Believe me, it’s a much bigger group than you may realise, because, of course, we don’t talk about these things in public.

And then there is the spiritual phenomena of ‘clearing’ where our body shifts energy and vibration (yes, think vomit, poo and flu!) through our body in ways that make us purge ourselves as we heal and ‘let go’ of what is no longer needed in our lives…

A girlfriend of mine has cystic fibrosis. She’s been through the wringer on numerous occasions on account of her illness, including a double lung transplant and a few rounds with cancer.  Vomit and poo are things she has had to deal with often. She’s even had to endure a colostomy bag for a time. Vomit and poo are part of the currency of her daily life. My friend is a friend who understands what I’m going through.

We have often laughed together about the horror of that sudden urgency – and our ability to locate and hold in our heads a map of every public restroom in the area. It’s like we share a secret language, and when we find another member of the ‘club’ it’s a relief to be able to talk openly about where we are at.

©clambert/stock.xchng

©clambert/stock.xchng

It’s not really funny though.  Humour is just the way we cope. Sometimes if you didn’t laugh you’d cry.  Sometimes, if you didn’t laugh you’d really wish you were dead instead.

Vomit and poo, chronic illness, misery and pain – they’re all best suffered silently, behind closed doors at home, so that we don’t offend the sensibilities of others.  Even if that imprisons us, and reduces our life to four walls.

That’s fine if you know your illness is a temporary thing. But what if this is something that becomes part of your new normal?  What then?  How do you adjust your life to the vagaries of a misbehaving body?

Which is why my post was originally going to be about kindness.

A few weeks ago, as I was ramping up my Lyme med levels and introducing some new ones, my husband and I ventured into Lismore. It was a rainy day, and we had a long list of chores. I had been fine all day.  No nausea.  Not a single side affect from my drugs. Of course that changed.

I began to feel hot, clammy and weak. My husband took me back to the car so I could rest, and I sat waiting for him as he completed the last of his shopping. The nausea became worse and worse, and then the awful realisation – I knew I was going to vomit. There was no restroom in sight. We were parked on the side of the road outside a strip of shops.

Supremely embarrassed and ashamed I opened the car door and was sick in the gutter.

I kidded myself I was discrete. I was grateful for the rain, and the lack of passers-by. But my relief was short lived.  I was still nauseous.  I needed to be sick again. I cracked open the door and said hello to the gutter.

This time, when I finally lifted my head, a woman from a nearby shop came over and offered me a glass of water, and a tissue. I was overwhelmed with her small act of kindness, and the comfort it afforded me.

Image from kleenex

Image from kleenex

A short time later, after I was sick a third time, she came back out and ushered me into the bathroom at the back of her shop. When I was finally okay and trusted that my stomach would behave she handed me more tissues and a packet of mints.

“It’s awful being sick when you’re out,” she said. “You poor thing. I really hope you feel better soon, love.”

No judgement.  Only kindness. Her compassion helped ease my shame and humiliation, and it made a difficult day more bearable.

Life is sometimes messy. None of us are immune from the spectrum of suffering.  While we uphold the idea that all of this human frailty is something to hide behind closed doors we disenfranchise many in our community who are already marginalised.  It’s not just bodily functions – it’s the child who lost their hair to chemotherapy, the woman whose skin is greasy from the cream she needs to control the disfiguring eczema, the man whose hands shake from Parkinsons so much that he spills his coffee as he drinks.

None of us likes to be unwell. None of us likes to be at the mercy of our bodies.  But sometimes that’s just how it is, and we need to be able to saddle up and keep riding, despite our afflictions. If we didn’t we’d miss out on life altogether, and what’s the point of that? A  life lived between bouts of illness, squeezed into the good days, or forcibly extracted from the bad days is sometimes your best shot at any life at all.

My post today isn’t just about vomit.  It’s a tip of my hat to everyone who is enduring or has endured short-term or chronic illness and found the courage to keep going. And for all those clearing heavy-duty muck out of their lives. It’s also an acknowledgement of the goodness and the decency of ordinary people who make the suffering of others easier to bear – strangers, carers, healers, family and friends.

Be kind to yourself today. Practice compassion for self and others. A little kindness goes a long way.  Bless ♥ xx

24 thoughts on “Vomiting in Public Places OR The Controversial ‘Vomit Post’

  1. well said hon. The chronically ill are often alone and indoors for this very reason and if more people had compassion in their hearts and reached out a kind hand, life might opened a little more for the chronically ill. My son knows when he takes me out…first thing he does is scope out the nearest bathroom. That is not an option but a necessity. He also knows to make sure the car has the plastic vomit bags with the plastic ring at the top, damp clothes in ziplock bags in the cooler and my water. I love that the woman came to help. Far too often people see and do nothing. Love this.

  2. Because of all the stress I’ve been through in the past years… and because I let it accumulate without tending to it, preferring to *be strong* and fight my way through difficulties without asking for help… I’ve been dealing with chronic diarrhea. O let me count the times I’ve crapped my pants while walking on the street — arrrrrrrgh!!! Lately, thanks to you and your healing influence, I’ve started to meditate every day, sometimes twice a day, and I’ve taken care of this stress bug. And it’s working: I’m getting better and better. The bowel movements don’t occur as often and I can almost see the day when I’ll be back to my *normal* self.

    Of course, this is the short version of my story, there are a lot of other factors involved, but I know how you feel and I understand how other people feel when they deal with uncontrollable bodily functions. For over a year now, I’ve been carrying with me at all times in my back-sack a change of underwear, a washcloth, soap, a plastic bag, and matches to light in order to rid whatever washroom I’m in of the horrible stench — HA! Yes, humour does help ease the burden. Also, once I *came out* to family and friends about my *condition*, I felt relieved. And I came to understand that a huge part of my stress was caused by the fact I spent my life not saying how I felt… not standing up for my personal needs… not asking for help.

    So thank you SO much for this post, Nicole. My thought and prayers are always with you, dear soul… may you pull out of this soon.

    LOVE & LAUGHS
    Mudd 🙂
    xoxo

  3. Well, I was always going to love this post! Ah, the poo bag – that was just … shit 😛 I love you and all of your bodily functions because they’re YOU xoxo

  4. A beautifully written take on an awfully difficult reality. I wish it wasn’t such a shameful thing for people but nobody wants to show their ‘yuckiness’ to others. And I guarantee that not one single person would vomit in public if they had any choice in the matter, so why is it shameful? 🙂
    For myself, whenever I’ve been at the point of having to throw up in public, I’m feeling so rotten that I’m quite beyond caring what anyone else thinks, but the kindness that some people show does touch the heart. One time, I was close to home, throwing up at a bus stop that I had to get off early at, as I was so sick. A lady offered to drive me home, which was so kind and really did help. Hats off to empathy and acting on it, rather than turning the other way and leaving people to their difficulty. Thank you for writing this Nicole, and a vote from me that the post is not controversial, but beautiful 🙂

  5. Lismore is rockin’ on the kindness-front!!! Love-more as the locals like to call it, with a little comical quirk of the eyebrow.
    GO NIC. Own those bodily functions. Bundles of tissue-lined hugs to you from me always. And as a person who does personal care work, I am really grateful for this post. Poo and spew really are no big deal at all, apart from the messiness and stinkiness and painfulness. But in terms of embarrassment or shame or aversion – there’s really no reason. A year ago when I started this work I was really worried I wouldn’t be able to deal with adult bums or bits. About a week or so afterwards I was completely unfazed. It is no big deal. The only big deal is in ensuring the dignity of the person I’m helping, in getting it right with the least amount of fuss and the most amount of fun, good humour, calm – whatever’s needed. Thanks for helping to normalise something so very, very normal, Nic. <3

  6. Beautiful post Nicole. Your friend is da bomb too who has been inspiring me since I met her (well, it’s not polite to talk of age 😉 ) so long ago. Both of you are healing messengers, revealing, sharing and showing compassion in all of its glory and beauty. As well as showing that humanity has its angels walking among us. Namaste.

  7. What a wonderful and touching post, Nicole, even if it was about vomit and poo 🙂 Isn’t it amazing what kindness can do? I can think of times that I have been the recipient of kindness and have extended kind gestures. Both are amazing.

  8. Great post Nicole. I was always going to write a book about directions to every loo in every town I have been in, ‘just in case’ mode! I met many folk who said they too knew where every toilet was on any regular route they had to take. And surprisingly some friends also were in tune ‘just in case’, as it came out when a discussion ensued. So yes, the Club is bigger than some might imagine. The only thing that makes me heave/gag is mucous/snotty things really. Cheers xo

  9. Dear Nicole, I wish you a speedy journey through this part of your recovery. I had a long period of chronic diahrroea made worse by the remedies to help it, and always knew where the public toilets were. Now I’ve worked through a lot of my shit so to speak and my life is a lot easier on that front. Here’s hoping this phase will not take too long and you will get through it with the help of kindness from strangers and friends. Much love xxx

  10. Now this does bring back a lot of memories when my wife due to her cancer treatments was often caught off guard at the most inopportune moments… yet so many people always rush over to help… funny when some are in distress the rush to aid is so strong in some, they must know what the person is going through, probably been there themselves… and I do agree with jmgoyder on her comment… great post…

  11. Mmm. I vomited in the street, about ten at night so people could think it was The Drink: (antibiotics, and one glass of wine!) So, that gives me the break into empathy. I sympathise with anyone who vomits publicly. I appreciate that you want to take care and be discreet, and would not want people casually vomiting-

    ah, I would not want people casually vomiting, or even spitting in the street. The shame has some social purpose. And yet, if you have to, I will not condemn.

    God bless you. Very few people are condemning, and they have their own problems.

  12. Very glad you went with this post. Totally been there and it brings up so many feelings of insecurity and embarrassment for what is just a natural release from our body trying to heal. xo

  13. Bravo Nicole…..bravo… We all poo! and even fart. The less kind politicly correct self absorbed other observing functional (head planted firmly up their own anus) types probably dont poo or vomit ever or feel. Feel their feelings and remain present and then be able to feel for others. It is all about dignity and kindness. We each deserve to be afforded dignity and tenderness and that doesnt mean being too fluffy and silly or accepting behaviour from someone that they could work on improving, but to judge someone and be unkind or fo ignore them as they sweat shake and vomit is just plain crazy in my book…. so then who is being the crazy one the shameful one…..the person who is dizzy and stumbled or fell or vomited or the person who looks sees and just walks straight by…. as George Orwell said in Animal farm…All animals are equal but some animals aremore equal than others and sadly this speaks volumes about the human condition….but me im all for kindness and dignity anything else would be just plain cruely…xxx

  14. The thing i find amazing about vomiting is the full body commit. Much like sneezing, orgasm, crapping and other body functions, there is no half measure, you are fully there, fully committed and fully alive! But you are also oh so vulnerable, the kindness of others is humanity at its best!! hope you’re feeling better! sx

  15. Oh gosh…you poor thing. I read this a few days back while traveling and wanted to reply but I knew my reply was going to be way too long to bang out on my phone – and now I think it’s probably too personal to share, but let’s just say you struck a deep chord. Hugs, Nicole.

  16. Thanks for sharing so considerately about illness and the human condition. This kind of thinking helps me to see the innocence in all people and to extend a hand when I can.

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