Creative Nonfiction: I Literally Pooped My Pants Today by Grace Daly

Photo by Jas Min on Unsplash

I won’t sugar-coat it; being disabled is not super fun. If you’ve seen me, I probably tricked you into thinking it’s a blast. Just look! My hair in a mohawk, my pit bull mix at my side, striding down the sidewalk with a confident posture, and a tooled leather bag full of biscuits hanging from a trendy belt that hasn’t yet appeared on the pages of the Instagram influencers you scroll through as you wait in line at the grocery checkout. I seem like I’ve got it all figured out.

Unfortunately, I have a mohawk because styling an entire head of hair is too hard on my shoulder joints. The dog was adopted from a local shelter when my physical therapist told me if I didn’t start walking over a mile every day, I’d likely have to be a wheelchair user soon. The trendy belt is actually a support that keeps my sacroiliac joint at the base of my spine from partially dislocating, and the confident posture is because my knees and hips dislocate so easily that every step must be consciously and impeccably placed.

The bag is full of dog treats though; you were right about that.

The days are often long and painful, filled with chalky pills and heating pads and gentle exercise and doctor’s visits. Ever since I had to stop working, I’ve come to depend on my husband, who is the main reason my life looks idyllic. My husband: taller than a giant and built like an ox, with the strength of twenty men, the ability to take a club to the head and still keep going, and a generous sun shower of freckles that’ll yank your mitral valve straight out of your chest cavity. He holds my life like spun sugar in his trash-can lid hands. Since we got together, I’ve trusted him completely.

Until the day I pooped my pants. 

See, another thing that’s not fun about my particular chronic illness is the constant bowel upset. I either suffer through six or seven liquid emergency poops a day or am so constipated that there is a lacrosse ball of feces gumming up my colon. There is no in-between.  I’ve been trying for over a decade to find the magical combination of diet and medication that will stop my gastrointestinal tract from staging a coup against the rest of my body. It’s time-consuming, unattractive, and embarrassing, and I quiver with fear at the thought of being somewhere without access to a restroom. The fact that my husband is still interested in me despite this means he will undoubtedly be canonized after his death.

So, when I had a sudden worsening of my intestinal issues, emitting volumes of liquid diarrhea large enough to capsize a fishing vessel at every half-hour interval, I wasn’t initially concerned. A bad day, for certain, but I have bad days all the time. After the eighth bathroom trip, I was certain there could not possibly be anything left inside of me, so I rewarded myself for surviving by settling my hollowed-out abdominal cavity into my favorite yellow chair to read a romance novel. 

Almost immediately, my colon decided to punish my hubris. At the familiar knife-twist in my gut, I tossed the throw from my lap, but before I could rise my anal sphincter surrendered and putrescence filled my underwear.

My body seized into a panic, and I teleported directly into the bathroom. I plopped onto the toilet and pulled my underwear between my knees to assess the damage. It was immense. It was the texture and color of polenta, and it was threatening to overflow from the gusset of my practical cotton panties. I could feel it slathered all over the skin of my long-suffering butt. I suppressed the urge to vomit. Vomiting would only make the situation worse.

My mind stalled as I struggled to develop an appropriate solution. Tenuously, I squeegeed my underwear and skin with tissue, dropping mucky globs into the toilet. Still, though, the acid burn of what was definitely not polenta remained on my rear and the sense of foulness was inescapable. I was desperate to be clean. It was only as I stepped into the scalding water of the shower, leaving my soiled clothes in a shameful pile on the tile floor, that the full gravity of the situation dawned on me.

I was a woman who pooped her pants.

Up until that moment, I had enjoyed possessing the self-image of a woman who did not poop her pants. I had my issues, but I wasn’t truly unlovable. Nobody (and no body) is perfect after all. I tried to calm myself with disability rights mantras made up on the spot. Every body is a normal body, including bodies that poop their pants. It’s society that’s disabling, not pooping your pants. It didn’t work. I began a downward spiral into despair.

I would have to call my weirdly sexy gastroenterologist and tell him about this new low. I’d have to listen to his sexy mouth tell me what brand of adult diapers I should buy, and detail exactly what I should track in my new pooping-my-pants diary to determine what factors cause me to poop my pants. I’d probably have to go on some nightmare diet where I only eat marmite, beet greens, and apple cider vinegar, and have to delicately explain to my friends that I’d love to check out that cool New Orleans-themed restaurant in River North but, sadly, eating unfamiliar foods is liable to make me poop my pants. I won’t be able to meet up at the pub later either, I’ll have to tell them, because unfortunately, drinking alcohol will make me poop my pants too.

And then I would have to tell my husband, my immaculate husband, who was already too perfect to be with me when I hadn’t pooped my pants. He would know about the adult diapers and the inhumanely restrictive diet, and when my feces painted the furniture despite these measures, he would be witness. He would be married to a woman who pooped her pants.

He would have to divorce me. There was no other way this story could end.

What keen torment, to have pooped your pants, and now you watch as your spun-sugar life dissolves and runs out from between your husband’s capable fingers, after which it will lie on the floor in a sticky, dreadful mess. How to avoid this fate in which you are alone and bereft, a woman with no comfort who also poops her pants?

I would have to take this secret to the grave with me.

Quick like bunnies, I leapt from the shower and put my soiled clothes into the washing machine on the high-heat sanitizing setting that threatens to melt polyester. I checked my reading chair and blanket for signs of my indiscretion and found them mercifully clean. I blow-dried my hair, did my makeup, and put on a cute outfit that projected an attitude of, “Me? No, I don’t poop my pants. Why do you ask?” 

All the while, I made regular trips to the toilet, wrestling with both my intestines and my guilt. I never keep secrets from my husband. In fact, I promised not to when we got married. This felt like a necessary and marriage-saving secret though. We all know how it goes: “In sickness and in health, unless you poop your pants in which case I am out of here, as long as we both shall live.” I would have to stomach the guilt and the secret to save our relationship.

I was charmingly arranged on the same fateful yellow chair when my husband came home from work. He went directly to the bathroom as soon as he arrived, so I went to the kitchen to make him a cup of tea. The kettle boiled. I poured the water into the mug. It finished steeping. I added the milk. He still hadn’t come out from the bathroom, and we only have the one (1) toilet. For obvious reasons, I became irritated. He was on his phone, completely unaware that I was in a state of poop-mergency. I knocked on the door.

“Honey? I have your tea out here. Will you be out soon?”

“Yea… sure,” came an uncharacteristically shaky reply, “in a minute.”

“All right,” I answered and returned to my chair, from which I could see the bathroom door. When he came out his face was ashen and he collapsed onto the sofa. He picked up his mug from the coffee table but didn’t take a sip.

“How was your day?” I timidly asked.

“Not good,” he sighed, “I’m sick. I must’ve eaten something bad, or I have some virus or something. I don’t know.”

“You’re sick?” I asked, worried. He’s never sick. “Sick, how?”

“I can’t…” A tight look of shame flitted across his face, “I can’t stop pooping.”

“Dude,” I took a breath, locating my compassion and my courage somewhere deep in my diaphragm, “I literally pooped my pants today.”

He cast his face to the floor for a moment, and my tortured gut roiled anxiously. How could I be so foolish, to flippantly share my greatest vulnerability in the hopes of providing him comfort? A pregnant moment passed before my beautiful husband looked to me with the agony of the ages in his eyes and replied, “So did I.”

There was a beat before the peals of laughter began.

“I’m so relieved,” I said as I kissed my dream man, a perfect man who pooped his pants. 

Grace Daly (she/her) is an author with an invisible chronic illness. In her writing, she often explores the experience of living with disability through body horror, romance, and low fantasy. She lives near Chicago, Illinois and spends most of her time with her dog, who is a very good boy. She can be found at, or @GraceDalyAuthor on Twitter and Instagram. 

2 responses to “Creative Nonfiction: I Literally Pooped My Pants Today by Grace Daly

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