Dear Diarrhea,

Dear Diarrhea, what to say to you?(Please sing that to the tune of “Dear Theodosia” even though I was too lazy to write more of the song.)

Last night, I was watching “My Conventional Wisdom,” an episode of Scrubs in which J.D. and Turk go to a medical convention. One of the things they see there is Dr. Toilet, which gives a diagnosis after a patient has a bowel movement in it.

That was my roundabout way of starting this conversation on self-diagnosing my grief through poop.

I’m going back to the United States for a few weeks. I hadn’t planned on leaving Nicaragua until Christmas vacation, but a few months ago I learned that my stepmom had been diagnosed with cancer. I’m allowed to take emergency leave to go see her.

Now, I could have taken this leave a long time ago, really as soon as I found out. I told myself I had a lot of reasons for waiting: the situation was time sensitive but not necessarily emergent. From what I gathered, not a lot would change between April and June. I had a lot of stuff planned for April and May, and I didn’t want to go home unless I could see Jasmine while I was there.

Passable reasons for staying here, but still excuses.

As June creeped onward, I realized that I really really needed to get a move on and go back. I started to feel resentful, because of course I want to see my family, and of course I want to visit my stepmom, but I truly love my life here and I don’t want to leave it, not even for a couple weeks.

More than that though, I’m not ready to face more grief. Here in Nicaragua, I have the luxury of ignoring it, but emergency leave is exactly what it sounds like, and no matter how I spend that time, the purpose of my visit is abundantly clear.

I’m feeling a lot of things that I can’t fully articulate: guilt, grief, anger, excitement, sadness…


You may recall that I got sick (and by that I mean diarrhea and vomiting) on January 26, one year after the last time I saw Dad before he died. That sickness was short-lived, and I assumed that it was caused by stress. 

On Wednesday night, I talked to Thomas about all of my feelings about going back to the U.S. Once I get there, I think my feelings (at least some of them) will change, but the act of leaving and actually packing and getting on a bus and going to the airport and getting on a plane…thinking about that made the whole thing real all of a sudden.

All of a sudden, I wasn’t telling people, “Yeah, I’ll probably go home in a few months” or “I’ll probably go home sometime in June” or “I’ll go home after Jasmine is back in Missouri.” 

All of a sudden, I heard myself saying, “I’m probably going home next week.”

All of a sudden, it was real. I was going to have to face the grief.

Anyway, I woke up Thursday morning with diarrhea. For a lot of volunteers, diarrhea is a pretty common occurrence, but for me, I’ve had exactly one bout of diarrhea: as my body’s way of commemorating Dad’s death.

I had agreed to help judge an English singing competition at one of my schools, so I sent a text to my counterpart to tell her that I was feeling sick and didn’t think I could help. 

She begged me to help, so I told her I’d come.

I sat at school for about four hours, praying that I could, at the very least, not poop my pants.

God provides.

For those four hours, I was present, breaking out into a sweat, either leaning back in my seat or leaning forward with my head in my hands.

At one point my counterpart asked if I was asleep. I was miserable, but she’d been asking me to help her for weeks and I wanted to at least give it my best effort.

I feel like I did that. I made it halfway through the day. I took a drink of water. My body was so hot that I felt like I was about to pass out. My counterpart tried to talk to me and it sounded like I had cotton in my ears. I told her that I felt like I needed to get air. I walked outside and puked in the grass while the loitering students watched me.

I told her that I really needed to go home.

Yesterday, I felt fine. I packed my things to prepare for my trip back. Today I feel terrible again. I’m writing this while I sit on the bus. It’ll be okay.

The other day, I mentioned to a few other volunteers that I was sick but I didn’t really know why. They assumed I have a parasite (because honestly everyone does) but I disagreed.

I don’t need a stool sample or a Dr. Toilet to know that I’m stressing myself out to the point of physical illness. 

I still don’t know exact details of when I’ll be back, but it’ll probably be within a few days. Hopefully I can at least keep my shit together until I get off the plane in Missouri.

I’ll see some of you soon.