Ben Morrison blogs with an abundance of humor about Crohn's disease.See all posts »
Burning Ben: Crohn's in the Desert
Columnist Ben Morrison explains how a mind-over-Crohn's technique helped him have the time of his life at Burning Man.
Burning Man seemed like the worst possible place for a Crohn’s patient to be, even the name sounded like what my rear end feels like after a bad meal.
One of the longest-running arts and music festivals in the country, Burning Man is also one of the largest, attracting 50,000+ people a year to a city built in the middle of a dried up lake-bed.
It’s hot. It’s dusty, and the only bathrooms you’ll find are either in an RV you don’t want to stink up or the Port-a-Shames peppered throughout the many themed camps. It should have been a nightmare for my beleaguered bottom, but I was so transported into this new world that I completely forgot to bring my disease.
I’ve long believed in the power of mind over matter. I get asked all the time how I cope with my Crohn’s, and I feel guilty giving my stock answer of “I pretend I don’t have it,” but that’s the way I deal.
I have so discounted the severity and magnitude of having Crohn’s that I’m only reminded I actually have it when there’s a geyser piping out of my rear, and even then I forget about it when it’s over.
Burning Man was the ultimate test. The food, when prepared, was ok, although the camp I was staying at wasn’t the most consistent with the meals, I paid a humorous sum to eat.
In between, I’d snack on canned food and more trail-mix bars than I could shake a dreadlock at, typically a guarantee that’d I’d be obstructed and miserable in two days time. Add that to the almost complete lack of good sleep and the, well, other substances that would find their way into my system. By all accounts Burning Man should have been Burning Ben. But it wasn’t. It wasn’t even an issue.
Because I needed it to not be an issue.
Surrounded but double-decker art-cars gliding through the Playa, leaving a trail of dust and bicyclists, I wound my way through the other world they call Black Rock City. My backpack full of a mixture of Gatorade and Emergen-C, I found myself hydrating like a champ, which made me wonder why the only time I was this good about hydration is when I was partying in the desert.
Watching the sunrise dancing in front of the Robot Heart bus, I rode my bike back to camp dreading what would come out once I had wiped the Port-a-Potty’s seat down, but amazingly what came out was utterly non-amazing. While pushing my body to its ultimate limits, my disease took a back-seat to this unforgettable experience.
And I guess that brings me to my point: Crohn’s is as much a disease of the mind as it is the intestine.
There’s a reason that’s your “gut” feeling is related to your intestines, as up until the last hundred years or so people thought the intestines were the basis of all thought and emotion. By thinking like the indestructible badass you are, you can actually lessen the symptoms of your Crohn’s if not remove them all together (that is until you eat the wrong thing and it comes rushing back. But who cares. It was worth it.)
And that’s why, standing under the fiery glow of the six-story statue of the man, lit ablaze as the epic climax of the most amazing week of my life, every thought I’d ever had rushed in and out of my being.
Every though that is, except that I’m sick.