Categories
Gastrointestinal Problems Mental Health

Food Poisoning (Part 2)

Hey guys. Where we were?

Let’s see, I was livid with the gastroenterologist specialist, staying up at night googling worst case scenarios, drinking soup, reading novels, listening to my stomach make noises that resemble a barnyard animals, watching a lot of Netflix, and spending 50% of my time on the toilet? That sounds about right!

Meanwhile, I was losing so much weight that I was becoming malnourished. A naturopathic doctor gave me some powder that I mixed with water to keep me healthy. They insisted on running all of the tests again. Blood work, urine samples, stool tests, allergies, etc.

At one point I somehow made it to Florida with Mom and Matt. I couldn’t actually go to the beach because I couldn’t predict when the urge for diarrhea would hit me. I remember sobbing one day, as Mom and Matt packed up their beach chairs and headed to the ocean. All alone in the dark corner of my room, I got down on my knees and prayed. I begged for mercy. That was one of those wall-spinning moments that I will never forget. I’ve only ever felt that low a handful of times in my young life. Once was when my father died and once was when I left home when I was seventeen. 

Over the next twelve months, I got 30% better. Instead of having diarrhea 12 times per day and pooping my pants at work, I only had diarrhea 6 times per day. Initially, I felt happy about this progress, but then I adapted and soon felt discouraged once again.

 “So, you’re better?” friends and family asked gleefully. Sure, sure, whatever helps YOU sleep at night. Eventually, they stopped asking. I was both grateful and resentful.

Many doctors had competing views on treatment. Some straight up didn’t believe others. “Those test results aren’t worth the paper in which they were printed on,” one doctor told me about a certain food allergy test. He told me to never bring this paperwork into his office again. Great, I guess I’ll scrap those.  One doctor who was supposedly the most knowledgeable person at the clinic told me to go on the BRAT diet, but then said apples had too much fiber and may cause more diarrhea.

“Oh, and don’t eat toast because it has gluten.”

“So…bananas and rice?” I asked. Was this some sort of sick joke?

“Yeah. But don’t eat too many bananas in one day.”

Great.

Friends had all sorts of advice for what to eat and what not to eat. I stopped listening to people’s strange anecdotes after awhile. So-and-so stopped eating this and it really helped her. Maybe you should try to stop eating this or that because it helped ME. I tuned everyone out.

I learned that if you eat a certain food it can take up to three days before you get an adverse symptom. Also, it can take weeks before certain foods leave your system. Apparently, the amount of food you eat matters. When it comes to food issues, it’s pretty complicated!

One doctor advised against the naturopathic route. He said that naturopaths will do a bunch of tests and find something that is wrong, but it won’t have anything to do with the actual problem.

Still, I couldn’t give up, right? It took weeks to hear back from these tests and the results were negligible. Get your thyroid tested. Have you heard of SIBO- Small Intestinal Bacteria Overgrowth? Maybe you have leaky gut. I wasn’t really looking forward to going down those rabbit holes.

I moved to Boulder to start graduate school and needed to find a new doctor. It took weeks before he could see me. He wanted to run all of the same tests because of course, certain tests couldn’t be trusted.

I was put on six or seven supplements that I had to take a few times per day. I had to take some on an empty stomach and some with food. One supplement- that looked like gunky lip balm – made me gag in my mouth every time I took it.

I decided I was finished with doctors for a while. Screw them and their condescending attitude. I’m sick of dealing with the emotional rollercoaster. Maybe this person will be able to help me. Maybe my life will finally get better! No thank you, I’ll just have my diarrhea 6 times per day in peace.

It dawned on me that five medical workers had failed me. This sent me sent me into a tailspin. When medicine and science fails you, your mind goes to a dark, dark place. Is this how it’s going to be forever? Will I have diarrhea on my wedding day? Will I have to pull over as I drive my kids to school and have diarrhea in the gas station? Will I be able to eat at restaurants with my family or will I continue to have to have powder water forever?

I wallowed in despair. Graduate school was sucking which definitely didn’t help things. I couldn’t even go on hikes up the beautiful mountains because the altitude made me scream in pain. My classmates had to counsel me down the mountain. Luckily, we were all aiming to be therapists. Hah!

If it hadn’t been for my boyfriend that I met at a coffee shop in Boulder, I think I would have lost my mind. He was my saving grace, my bit of joy in the sea of despair.

I decided that maybe I should try out a nutritionist. I found one in Boulder that greatly helped me. She immediately told me to stop taking the supplements that were mimicking antibiotics, saying that my gut needed a break. She gave me supplements that would help my mucosa lining. She told me to get a crockpot and eat soup for every meal. Everything I ate needed to be soft. I was eating baby food from a jar at this point, so soup was a welcomed delight. She gave me information on a probiotic enema, castor oil and heat applications, and told me to eat way way slower. All of this helped me heal another 50%.

My boyfriend, Eric, and I bought a crock pot and a giant sand timer and began chopping up our soups each night. I was so grateful to finally feel some relief. Ahhh, it felt so good to be able to go through the day without having diarrhea. I’m so thankful that I have made almost a full recovery. I was overwhelmed with love for my boyfriend that he would eat soup with me at home instead of going out on dates.

Thank you for reading my blog post on my health journey! Chronic pain is not easy. I often grappled with the question of, “Should I give up hope?” I thought back to a time when my dad died. There was no hope that he would come back. I had to accept my new reality and learn ways to cope in his absence. I wondered if reaching an acceptance would help me finally move forward. This way, no one could let me down. I would get my hopes up so high, and then I would have explosive diarrhea yet again. This emotional rollercoaster killed me. Maybe I should give up hope….

Yet, I could not.

I could not accept the limited life I was living.

There is always hope for you. Hope can be healing. Nothing in life is stagnant. Days, weeks, and months of suffering can go by but this does not mean that you’re going to feel this way forever. Eventually, the winter ends, the sun comes out, and the flowers bloom once again. 

Annie

Categories
Gastrointestinal Problems Mental Health

Food Poisoning (Part 1)

For two years after that hellish appendectomy, I was completely fine, other than my twenty-five pound weight gain. Maybe it had something to do with all of the sugary Moscow Mules and dinners out, but my sneaking suspicion is that it had to do with my body growing more and more inflamed.

But otherwise, things simmered down. I took a probiotic every day, but that was my only supplement. Things pretty uneventful, at least as far as my gastrointestinal life. If you asked me about my relationship, my job, or my plans for the future at the time, you would get an earful of DRAMA.

In January 2018, I got “food poisoning.” I was visiting my then boyfriend and we feasted for days. I’m not sure what exactly did the damage. I had rounds of sugary cocktails. “Keep em’ comin bartender!” We shared a plate of ceviche and pork dumplings one night and rolls of sushi the next. Then there was the night where we gorged on raw oysters, and of course chips and guac. If I didn’t get “food poisoning” (you’ll see why I keep using quotes later) from one of these dishes, I would simultaneously feel my mouth water and experience nausea from the description of this smorgasbord.

The next day, I had diarrhea every hour. I’d never gotten food poisoning, but I figured it would go away in 24 hours. Hey, I’ve had C. diff for a total of eleven days back in the day. I can handle anything!

Unfortunately, this diarrhea day coincided with a breakup and an emotional conversation with my sister. I remember walking along West Cliff Drive in Santa Cruz staring at the gorgeous sunset, crying. I watched a surfer catch an enormous wave before it crashed onto shore. The dazzling pink and plum-colored clouds swirled around the pods of surfers as the bright orange sun slowly nestled down behind the horizon line. Seagulls squawked, the yellow and purple flowers danced in the wind, and tears slid down my cheek as I thought about all the people that I had hurt that day.

Suddenly, I had the urge to poop again. I ran back to the Airbnb praying that I would make it. Thank god, I did. I went to sleep, thinking that this would all be over tomorrow. It didn’t go away the next day, or the next day, or the next. I went to the doctor (Yes!) and they took blood and urine samples. I ended up having to call my ex to help me walk to the bathroom because I was feeling so faint. I felt light-headed, dizzy, and nauseous. I realized that I needed to go home. I booked an expensive flight for the next day.

Thankfully, my ex drove me to the San Francisco airport. We had to stop once at a random gas station because I was exploding with diarrhea. When we got to the airport, I didn’t get a chance to say goodbye or to thank my ex because again, I had to relieve myself. The car stopped and I booked it to the bathroom as soon as possible, not looking back. The flight was awful. I used the bathroom six times. People stared, but I didn’t care. I quietly moaned the whole way. My Mom and Matt met me in Cincinnati with hugs.


We went straight to the emergency room. When I finally saw the doctor he said, “It’s only been six days! You’re fine. You’ll recover soon.” They tested one of my stools for parasites, but found nothing. I could tell by the way he talked to me that he thought I was a hysterical woman who went to the emergency room all of the time.

Not at all, buddy. Not. Even. Close. I felt judged and misunderstood by this guy. I felt like a kid again when an adult would tell you that you were in fact, wrong. No, actually, you don’t know anything. Nope, not even about yourself, your own body. I know it feels like you’re going to die, but you’re fine. I’m right. You’re wrong. End of story.

For a brief moment, a dark fantasy came into my head. I imagined that something was very wrong with me. That way, I could shove it in this medical worker’s face. “Hah! See I told you, you ignorant scumbag. There is something wrong with me!” I quickly and shamefully pushed this wicked and sickening thought out of my head. What the hell is wrong with me? I want to be healthy. I want this to end. I wanted this to end so badly. I sent a silent prayer into the universe, “Please make this pain go away. Please, please…”

My stomach was in knots and making all sorts of weird sounds. It sounded like a dying herd of goats. It felt like someone was wringing out my intestines like a towel. OUCH! I could barely tolerate this pain. It wasn’t as bad as my ruptured appendix “leaking for days,” but it reached a point that was concerningly close to that level a few times an hour.

We left the emergency room and booked an appointment with my PCP (the same one who gave me those c. diff meds!) She told me that I most likely had a parasite. At that point, I was discovering long and white threads in my stools so it made complete sense. She said that a server probably didn’t wash his or her hands after using the bathroom. I had most likely ingested the fecal matter that landed on the food. It didn’t matter that no one else got food poisoning from the food. Since I swallowed the fecal matter, I got sick. If that doesn’t make you throw up in your mouth, nothing will. So, I took the parasite antibiotics. I took a few rounds of it each day for four long and agonizing days.

At the end of this course of antibiotics I felt a whole new level of pain. Let’s say the pain I felt before was like getting stepped on by a horse that weighs half a ton. All you want is for that horse to MOVE! Get off my god**** foot! But it won’t. This post-parasite-antibiotic pain was like getting hit by a bus. I actually screamed in pain at the top of my lungs. I rolled back to my PCP (my mom pushed me in a wheelchair because I couldn’t walk.)

Welp, it’s not a parasite. Who knew what the hell it was. Sorry, thanks for coming. See ya later! Best of luck!

We went to a GI specialist. He told me that I had a 99% chance of having Chron’s or colitis based on my severely inflamed colon. To be sure, we scheduled a colonoscopy and endoscopy for one month down the line. (You have to be off of probiotics and such for a few weeks before.)

So, how did I cope that month? I read like ten books and watched hours and hours…and hours of Netflix. My mom would climb the steps to the attic to give me food, a few asparagus, a hardboiled egg, and soup. Thanks for carrying soup up two flights of stairs, Mom. Yikes! Matt (my mom’s boyfriend) made sure I was drinking two giant jugs of sugar-free electrolyte juice to keep me from fainting.

I stayed up at night googling worst case scenarios. I began following people on Instagram with ostomy bags or who had Lyme’s Disease. I cried, imagining how I would hula hoop with an ostomy bag. “What if this never goes away? What if this is my life now?” My heart thumped loudly beneath my tightened chest. I felt so alone in the world. Friends and family called, hoping for good news. “You’re better by now, right?” NO! I wanted to yell. I know you want this to be over, but it’s not effing over with. I’m in agony. True agony.

I had the colonoscopy and endoscopy. To the doctor’s surprise, he found nothing wrong. Apparently, the inflammation in my colon was gone. It had returned to normal levels. He told me that if I wasn’t better in six months to come back. He gave me some sort of anti-cramping med and said I had post-traumatic IBS.

He basically told my mom and I to beat it, insinuating that I wasn’t that bad. Get over it, move on, don’t be such a cry baby. Haven’t you heard? Life is painful and unfair. He expressed ZERO empathy and was a total you know what. For the next year, I felt so much anger toward him that I would scream his sorry name in my car whenever I drove somewhere as loud as I could. I couldn’t fathom why he would behave in such a nasty way toward me.  Did his mom not teach him any manners? Did he see so many patients each day that he became apathetic as a coping skill to get by?

I had never felt such anger in my life. I imagined trashing his name in my memoir and ruining his career. I listened to angry music with dark lyrics. I shouted at him in my car for weeks, months, a year. Now, the only thing I wish now is that this idiot would stop treating people. You may be good with illness, but you suck with people.

Though I was filled with outrage, vitriol, and anxiety, but I also felt an overwhelming gratitude for my mom and Matt. They showed their love and support every day. I am thankful for our close relationships and the bond we developed during this time. Thank you for making me smile.

Thank you for reading Part 1 of my “food poisoning” blog post. Stay tuned for Part 2!

If you’ve experienced this type of pain, confusion, and disrespect, I am truly sorry for you. From the bottom of my heart, I’m sorry.

Life is full of pain and suffering, but it’s also full of miracles and beauty. It can be hard to find the glimmers of beauty when you’re deep in the bowels of emotional and physical pain.

I see your pain. I see you hurting. You’re not alone.

Annie