Prepare! Pack your bag! Your purse (or backpack or gym bag, guys) can hold a social-life-saving item!
When I go someplace and I think my IBD is flaring up, I always pack a change of clothing (pants and...you know!).... It doesn't mean you need to lug around 5 extra pounds, just pop a pair of lightweight yoga pants or track pants into your bag.
If you're at home and there is no toilet paper in the bathroom, go anyway! Don't try to run anywhere else because most likely, you are not going to make it. Just wait in the bathroom and eventually your parents will come and check on you.
Some teens carry a portable CD or MP3 player so they can distract themselves with music and not be so aware of other people in the restroom. Plus, listening to music can help you relax, and that can help with abdominal cramps during unexpected bathroom bouts. Some teens say they are embarrassed by the smell but find that carrying a small container of air freshener helps not just at home but in public bathrooms too.
Here's something really important to remember: everybody poops. Guys and girls, young and old, famous and ordinary. Sure, they don't all have a disease that gives them chronic diarrhea, but at some point in their lives, everyone's been in a situation where they had to get to a toilet ASAP. So when your quest for a bathroom makes you feel like a freak or just horribly ashamed, remind yourself that in the end, this is part of what it is to be a human being.
Don't feel guilty about not buying something in a store or restaurant in which you used the restroom. If you feel really strongly about it, make a purchase after your emergency is over.
IBD has a way of giving us a crash course in assertiveness training -- that's gaining the ability to speak up and stand up for oneself when necessary. It's a skill that really helps in all aspects of life. Look at these public bathroom emergencies as an opportunity to become more assertive, especially when the alternative is being in pain or having an "accident."
It's normal to be self-conscious about the people who might be waiting for you to finish "taking care of business." Those who know you well will certainly understand, but you can ease any awkwardness by arranging to split up and meet again somewhere after you're done, or making a joke out of it by saying something like: "Sorry, I fell in!"
If it's tough for you to ask permission to use an employee or "customers only" restroom, you're not alone. These things have a way of making even the most outgoing person clam up. But it really never hurts to ask; if you're polite and straightforward, you'll find that most people are understanding.
If at first you get a "no," try, try again. Explain the urgency of the situation, using whatever terms and details you feel comfortable with, but which everyone can understand. And it sure helps to be sincerely polite. For instance:
* "I have a chronic intestinal condition that puts me in emergencies like this. Can you please help?"
* "I'm in a lot of pain right now and I'd really appreciate your understanding."
A "thank you" wraps it up nicely.
You know those dreaded signs that say: "RESTROOMS FOR CUSTOMERS ONLY" or "NO PUBLIC RESTROOMS"? Don't just assume that means a place won't let you use their facilities. Signs like this are mostly to prevent a parade of people marching through the place to use the toilet. Try anyway. If an employee doesn't want to give you access, you can also ask to speak to their supervisor and explain what's going on, or offer to buy something such as a drink or dessert "to go."