Learning to self-cath at school brought challenges, as you’d expect.
There were specific problems, moments that stick in the brain. I vividly recall a whole morning stuck in the toilet – the least used staff toilet in the far corner of the school (all the space I needed, none of the queuing, and no one banging on the door to hurry me up). I was new to self-cathing – but what went in wouldn’t come out. It made me tense up, which didn’t help. I couldn’t go anywhere, so called for help – but where I was, up in the farthest reaches of the building, no one could hear me. After about ninety minutes, a passing teacher heard my wretched shouts. Another half hour and my mom was at school, and a further half hour I was back in class, relieved, in every sense of the word.
The more general challenge is familiar to any misfit at school, whether you’re goth, ginger or in any way out of the norm: bullies. And not just the old-fashioned caricatured Biffo bully, there was also the risk of weird reactions from anyone who found out about my oddity.
I couldn’t blame them for an unusual reaction, of course. It’s an unusual condition. But keeping my medical CV a secret was paramount. There were even some teachers I didn’t want to find out – the ones that cosied up to the rough kids and tried to score points with them. So this wasn’t just about keeping the info away from a few scoundrels, but trying to keep it a lid on it altogether.
Inevitably one or two classmates discovered something was up. So they filled in the gaps, made up a story, doled out a nickname. So then it wasn’t about holding back, but managing the information – reclaiming my quirks as positive, different and unique. That’s when stories about shark attacks emerged, or fictions about being cloned or hatched from an egg. By claiming these myself, I owned the joke. (Oh, and all this undoubtedly explains how I ended up becoming a comedian...)
It took several years but ultimately I realized that it’s good to be a misfit – as long as the things that matter fit alright.
The opinions expressed here are of a personal and anecdotal nature, and are in no way a substitute for professional medical advice. You should always consult your doctor or nurse if you have any questions.