I’m sure there are a few people who read my last post about the social stigma of IBS and thought, “Social stigma? I think this guy’s overstating things just a bit. Who cares if people know you suffer from irritable bowel syndrome?”
To which I say, “Oh yeah? Well then check this story out.
Apparently there’s at least one other guy named Tim Phelan currently walking the face of the earth. In truth, I’ve known about this particular Tim Phelan’s existence for two or three years. You see, every time I’d ever engaged in the periodic curiosity/vanity ritual of Googling myself, there he was - ubiquitously dominating page after damn page of search results. A little investigating revealed that “the other Tim Phelan” lives in Silicon Valley and is quite the internet marketing guru. Suffice it to say, nobody I know would ever - could ever - confuse me with anybody who knows anything about technology.
Now fast forward a few years, type “Tim Phelan” into your search engine, and lo and behold, this previously pervasive internet mogul (for the purposes of this anecdote, let’s call him “Tim Phelan #1″) is now sharing top search-results billing with a guy who wrote a book about…gasp…irritable bowel syndrome (yes, this is where I sophomorically bestow upon myself the title of “Tim Phelan #2″). But wait, as bad as that is, it gets even worse for my West Coast namesake. It’s not like this is a medical book about IBS, written by some respectable doctor - it’s a personal memoir! That’s right, it’s a revealing, tell-all narrative which chronicles, in one incriminating and self-deprecating chapter after another, how the obsessive fear of losing control of his bowels took an enormous toll on Tim Phelan’s adult life.
Well, once Romance, Riches, and Restrooms started to get some mainstream buzz, it didn’t take long for news stories about my book to circulate all around - and how ironic is this? - the internet.
If I have my facts straight, I believe I’ve pinpointed the precise moment when Tim Phelan #1 realized that his life, through sheer coincidence, would also be negatively impacted by IBS (in this case, my IBS). The unfortunate chain of events that follows started when Skirmisher.com picked up a feed from my interview with US News & World Report and posted When Tim Phelan Says, “My Life Is Crap,” He Literally Means It. And no, that is NOT me pictured on the toilet, either.
It must have been shortly thereafter that the “OK. This ISN’T me. Just want you to know” thread - an inevitable reaction - appeared on Warrior Forum (that’s Tim Phelan #1’s site). Granted, it’s always tricky to gauge somebody’s true tone from words printed on a screen, but after reading this thread, I think it’s safe to say that Tim Phelan #1 is less than thrilled with the possibility of being confused with an IBS-afflicted author. If I had to guess, I would chart his reaction as somewhere beyond “tweaked” but short of “ballistic.” My favorite part is not how he vehemently denies any association with IBS or my book, but rather how he actually entertains the theory that “Tim Phelan” might not be the name that appears on my birth certificate.
I have to say, watching this thread unfold from afar, post after hilarious post, kept me in stiches for hours on end. Every time I hit refresh, Tim Phelan #1 grew more flustered and Tim Phelan #2 was laughing so hard he nearly soiled himself.
But all kidding aside, I’m sure he’s a decent guy. And just to show him that there are no hard feelings, if he sends me his mailing address I’ll gladly send him a personally signed, free copy of the book. Who knows? I may very well need his internet marketing services someday.
So, getting back to the original question, is there really a social stigma attached to having irritable bowel syndrome? Well, there are at least two guys named Tim Phelan who sure seem to think so.
Tim (aka Tim Phelan #2)