Ariana Grande made headlines last Friday, August 23, 2018, for her defense of fiance, Pete Davidson after he became the target of an inflammatory article published on Barstool Sports titled, “Does Pete Davidson Have Butthole Eyes”?
“Y’all do kno this man has an auto immune disease …… right ? ….. like you do understand what you’re doing when u do this right ? jus wanna make sure.”
In response to the outcry following Grande’s tweet, the author of the original blog post, “Uncle Chaps,” doubled down, minimizing Davidson’s diagnosis by comparing his own gastrointestinal issues.
“I’ve had diarrhea for a decade,” he said. “When Pete can compare, I’m willing to listen to his gripes. Until he wipes his eyes until they sting, he can zip it.”
Adding insult to injury, celebrity gossip/trash news site, Page Six, then seemingly paid a “Gastroenterologist” to corroborate the opinion that Crohn’s doesn’t affect the eyes (like it’s hard to find a doctor willing to agree with just about anything for 15 minutes of fame…).
For the record, it’s called “extraintestinal manifestations,” which causes redness and inflammation in your eyes, joints and skin, in addition to extremely common dehydration which causes a sunken appearance, in addition to chronic fatigue and being so damn tired from your body literally going to war with itself. Yeah… that…
To say the least, the conversation ignited a social media firestorm between IBD patients and, shall we say, “insensitive” counterparts in an ongoing battle of whether or not Crohn’s caused his eyes to look this way. Maybe it’s Crohn’s, maybe it’s the marijuana he relies on for symptom relief, maybe he was just tired.
The world may never know, but one thing we learned through this debacle is that there is simply no winning in the fight for awareness of chronic illnesses. The response Grande received inadvertently opened up a can of worms none of us were expecting — the exact opposite of “But you don’t look sick.”
I would bet money that anyone reading this has heard the “you don’t look sick” comment at least once, which is a hard pill to swallow when you literally feel like death. But then what happens if you DO look sick? Apparently, you’re treated like Pete Davidson: Publicly bashed for your appearance, told your “disease” (which they know nothing about) isn’t causing that symptom, referred to as a “druggie” and a “stoner” for the only treatment that actually works for you, the list goes on.
The Instagram comments and Twitter tweets were absolutely appalling. If I wasn’t so confident in my disease, seeing this posts would have added mountains to my insecurities. While I was able to shrug the comments off, my heart broke for those newly diagnosed who may be struggling to talk about it. This disease is embarrassing — REALLY embarrassing. It’s a disease that, in addition to a myriad of other symptoms, causes you to poop a lot. It’s an easy punchline for those uncreative and immature individuals who can’t think of anything better than to ridicule someone for a disease that may cost them their life one day. This disease is embarrassing, but I’ve chosen to own it, and I hope by speaking out, I can encourage someone else to do the same.
Because while some people may have seen an abhorrent side of our society through those comments, I saw something beautiful.
For every insensitive post, there was another compassionate one. While thousands laughed at the ridiculous immaturity of “butthole eyes,” thousands also stood up to educate others on this devastating condition. While many people don’t understand and don’t care, a lot more people do.
So what did Pete Davidson teach me about Crohn’s Disease? That you can’t expect compassion or understanding from people because you have a chronic illness, but you can’t stop fighting like hell to teach them. You can’t stay quiet when people make you the butt (no pun intended) of their jokes because you’re an easy target. You can’t stay quiet when people are quick to diminish your disease to “just a stomach ache, go take some Miralax.” You can’t stay quiet when others with chronic illness are too embarrassed to speak out.
You can’t stay quiet.
Talking about Inflammatory Bowel Disease and other autoimmune conditions is the only way to get the attention we need to find a cure. Learn everything you can about your condition, so that when others ask, you can speak from a place of knowledge, not from a place of insecurity or doubt. If you’re embarrassed, seek out a support group or online community to discuss your feelings. Become an advocate for yourself and other IBD warriors. Support your fellow warriors, encourage them to speak out or speak out for them.
In other words: Be an Ariana Grande to a Pete Davidson.