In the days following an emergency room visit for what turned out to be extreme constipation, I did what I was told to do. I avoided juice, carbonated beverages, increased my fiber, and I got my prescription to prevent stomach spasms. Despite my best efforts, the pipes were not flowing, and I was MISERABLE. Even after laxatives. Even after gallons of water. Nothing.
On a whim, or perhaps more of a desperate attempt to shut me up, my husband so kindly did a Google search for colonics in Central PA. Although the idea of a colonic is very unnerving, I was desperate enough to call not 1, but 4 places and try to get myself seen ASAP. One clinic called me back for a 5PM appointment, and I was more than happy to drive over and take it. Literally.
If you know what a colonic is, but never actually had one, then your impression of the process is likely seen through rose-colored glasses. I generally thought that what would happen to me would be comparable to the colonics I’d seen on Penn&Teller, HBO’s show The Gigalos, and various YouTube videos and it goes something like this:
You go in a nice, fresh, clean, relaxing room. You undress from the waist down, lay sideways on a table. A nice, competent, NURSE (or hydro therapist) would come in and explain what she was going to do, lube up a tube and gently insert it into your rectum. Unpleasant? Yes, but not painful. You then turn onto your back and put your knees up (like at the gynecologist.) The nurse places a heating pad on your stomach. Warm, filtered water is slowly released into the colon. The water causes the muscles of the colon to contract, called peristalsis. Peristalsis "pushes" feces out through the hose to be disposed in a closed waste system. To help the flow of water, the nurse gently massages your stomach. The process is repeated 3 or 4 times during a session.
Okay, sounds like something that someone who is severely constipated may try, right? Let me tell you about my experience. And I promise you, nothing about this is even slightly exaggerated. It happened just. Like. This; direct quotes and all.
I went into the clinic, and was ushered into a room by a girl no older than 20. The room was literally the size of a closet and barely fit the table and machine in there. It was also about 100 degrees. The tech explained colonics like this: “You know what you see on TV? This machine isn’t like that. They don’t show this one on TV.” Then, pointed to a small blue tube (in sterile packaging) and a trial size packet of lube and said “undress from your waist down, put this in your anus, it should stay put, then call me in whenever you’re done.” So, I did that, or at least tried to. Unfortunately, the tube wasn’t very forgiving; imagine a HARD plastic material, slightly bigger than a straw, with jagged edges (seemingly from the way the machine cut it?) and a hole in the top. Trying to squat, lube, insert tube, waddle back to the table without the tube falling out AND getting back on the exam table took eloquence in quantities that I just do not have. (And maybe there’s an easier way to insert things into your butt, but that is the only way I could think of.)
By some sort of miracle, I was able to manage to do this (after 40 minutes) and it was then on with the show. The tech must have sensed my fear, because she comforted me by letting me in on a little secret “I would pull your shirt up because this splashes.”
The tech then turned on the water full blast, which promptly shot the tube out of my butt like a bat out of hell, showering me with water (which was COLD) and feces (which were NOT COLD) and continued to spray my bottom half with water until the addled tech turned it off.
Tech: Oh, that wasn’t supposed to happen, usually the tube stays in there.
Me: Stunned silence.
Tech: Okay, well…here are some rubber gloves, so you don’t have to touch the mess. Re insert and we’ll try again. Oh and... there are towels right there. You're going to need those when you get down from the table...
I won't go into any more details, but I fixed things AGAIN, and then we started over again. Finally, the water was going somewhere, but it was taking a long time. That makes sense thought...the water had some... stuff to push through, you know? So, what else do you do? Make idle conversation.
Me: So, what made you want to do this job? *awkward laughter*
Tech: Oh, I'm actually a massage therapist. Our last hydro therapist quit, so they taught me how to do this until they hire another one. Do you feel like you have to poop yet?
Me: Stunned silence.
The urge of "fullness" finally came, and I asked the tech what happens now. If you were taking notes, this is the part in my colonic fantasy where the therapist would have gently massaged my stomach, and my colon muscles would have naturally contracted, lightly pushing the water and whatever was loosed out through the tube and into a separate poo holder. Of course, this is not what happened. The tech told me to "bear down" and "push like you're going number 2" and when I questioned this and asked if the tubes had "suction" (and technically that happens naturally, it causes a kind of vacuum) she said "oh no, this is all you."
So, push I did. I mean...!? I figured that everything would just go through the tube and that would be it. But it wasn't it! Of course my muscles expelled the water/sludge mixture and at first it went through the itty bitty tube, but when push came to shove, that tube was not staying put in my ass.
So out it went.
Me: Um, so what do I do now?
Tech: Oh, that's not.... well that usually doesn't come out... so, um...just keep pushing and we'll deal with the tube later.
Me: So um, you, what? You just... I should just keep going? Like... where will it go?
Tech: Oh, well it'll go on the table i guess and then ill turn on the water and rinse it down the drain.
At this point I am MORTIFIED and sick of the situation, sick of this tech, and completely ready to GO THE F HOME. But, there was just over 2 quarts of water chillin' in my colon, and muscles that had now decided to get rid of all the water ASAP, so needless to say I just did what she asked and basically shit on the table.
Let me make this clear. This isn't normal. THIS IS NOT SUPPOSED TO HAPPEN.
I was done. Done done done done done.
Tech: Okay, so use the gloves [I previously gave you] and get the tube and reinsert, and then we'll do the water again.
So, Tech speak in laymen's terms: "Use the poopy gloves that you already used to pick out the tube that is now completely covered in feces and shove is back in your butt so you can relive this horrible experience 2 or 3 more times."
Me: I'm done, this isn't working, I'm going home now.
Tech: Aw, well that's unfortunate....okay just get dressed and you can pay out front.