This one’s been in my head for awhile, but I’ve hesitated to write it, for reasons you’ll see as you read on.
As my senior year of college came to a close, I should have been partying my head off and looking for a job. Instead, I spent quite a good deal of time being sick to my stomach. As in, everything I ate made me sick. (Keep in mind, I was also eating a lot of greasy, bad food.) I had to skip my senior [booze] cruise on the Potomac, and I felt like I was going to pass out at my graduation because the medicine I was on made me feel overheated.Â
A few weeks after graduation, I was still living in DC, but I went home to NJ for my first colonoscopy. At the ripe old age of 22. At that time, I’d been to a few doctors in DC, swallowed some nasty white liquid so a doctor could see the inside of my stomach, and I’d even been to the emergency room for the stomach pains I was having. The doctors were pretty sure I had Irritable Bowel Syndrome, but just wanted to rule everything else out. (Read that link for a definition of IBS, but basically it’s a pretty vague term for a collection of gastrointestinal symptoms that don’t fall under any other disorder.)
I was put under for the 20-minute procedure, and apparently I attempted to pick up my conversation where I had left off when I woke back up! The doctor came over, and broke the good news to me: there was nothing seriouslyÂ wrong with my digestive system. The bad news? He was pretty sure I had irritable bowel syndrome. I started crying, but he told me it was manageable and wrote me a prescription for Librax, a medicine that partially treats the spasms in your stomach and partially treats anxiety. (Clearly, if everything you eat makes you sick, you’re going to be anxious about eating/social situations—and it’s a vicious circle.)
I had actually signed up to run the Dublin Marathon through charity, and I went to the first practice and ran about 5 feet before I felt sick to my stomach and had to search for a Port-a-Potty along the C&O path in Georgetown. I ended up going to Dublin to watch, instead.
I spent most of my first summer out of college—which should have been both one of the most fun times of my life and one of the most stressful times of my life—learning to adjust to this new reality of popping a pill before every meal, learning what I could and couldn’t eat, and learning where the nearest bathrooms were. (I think I know where every bathroom in D.C., Bethesda, Rockville, Arlington and Alexandria is.)Â The doctors basically suggested eating healthier, and I would listen for a few days and go back to my old ways.
The thing about IBS is that sometimes it just doesn’t matter what you eat. Sometimes anything you eat will make you sick. I became a big fan of eating a little at the restaurant and bringing my leftovers home and diving right into them. (Le sigh. If I knew then…)Â
I dealt with this until I moved to NYC in the spring of 2008. Three pills a day, three years. Three thousand two hundred-eighty five pills. In July 2008, I decided to quit the pills cold turkey. I was getting really bad headaches (I never really figured out what from, but they went away) and I thought maybe the medicine had to do with them. (Side note: don’t EVER stop medicine without consulting with your doctor. Especially if you’ve been on it a long time.)Â
I also thought that maybe I couldn’t lose weight because of the medicine. (Um, or maybe because I wasn’t trying?) I thought that I’d be able to lose weight if I went off it.Â
Since I started eating healthier and working out more, I’ve been lucky that this has almost entirely gone away. I’d still say I have a sensitive stomach, and now, I’m actually kind of okay with that. It reminds me when I’m eating something that’s too greasy or too creamy for me. Food is no longer so important to me that I’d rather get sick than forgo a piece of pizza or some chicken pad see yew or Chinese food.Â
Stay tuned for posts on how I deal with the residual symptoms of this (especially with running!!!!) and how to deal with asthma and working out. (And how I did it.)
If you have any more questions about IBS, you know you can hit me up in the comments or at theodora AT theodorablanchfield dot com.Â
Have you ever improved a health condition by improving your habits?Â
*Because Tumblr users will see this post in their dashboards. Ha.