Thursday, November 28, 2013

Choosing Life

     Your body needs energy to survive and food provides your body with energy, so logically everyone needs to eat food to survive. Enter the eating disordered mind: FOOD IS THE ENEMY AND I DON'T NEED OR WANT IT! Let me try to explain.

     Growing up I've always had a fear of vomit. I can remember one specific episode when I was around eight that I was vomiting and just thought I was going to die. Obviously I didn't, but that didn't stop the fear from forming. Any time I was around someone who even mentioned feeling nauseated I'd start hyperventilating and shaking all over, it was a physical reaction I had no control over because the fear was that strong. So I'm sure you can imagine that being diagnosed with an illness that among many things can cause chronic nausea and vomiting was my worse nightmare come true. The day my GI doctor very bluntly told me I had Gastroparesis I cried and cried while he sat there rambling on and finally stopped to ask "Does this news upset you?" Yeah, I didn't continue seeing him for very long.

     He sent me home with a crushed spirit and a sample meal plan that didn't work at all. Before I was officially diagnosed, I dealt with the symptoms as best I could when my GP would flare really bad and tried my hardest to eat through the "normal" level of daily nausea and bloating. I lost a decent amount of weight but nothing to be overly concerned about. Once I learned about the GP friendly diet though (low fat and fiber, avoid indigestible foods like popcorn), it was like a switch was flipped in my head. Instead of viewing the diet as a way to manage my symptoms, I was looking for it to RESOLVE my symptoms and when it didn't I moved on to NO fat and fiber. I cut out one food after another until I was down to a couple "safe foods." That may be ok during a flare, but to stick to that long term is not healthy. When even those foods caused symptoms I cut my portions down to just a few bites every few hours, just enough food to stop my hunger pains or prevent myself from passing out. I wanted so desperately to feel better that I was willing to completely cut out what in my eyes caused all my suffering, food.

     At the time, I thought this was just the normal route of any person with GP because of all the horror stories I had read online. In my search for relief I had read story after story of people with GP who couldn't eat or work or function and I assumed that was what would become of me as well. It's true that for many people with GP it truly can be disabling, but doctor after doctor told me my case was mild and could be managed if I tried x, y, and z. I'd try their suggestions and still experience flares so assumed they must be wrong since I was still suffering because I wanted to be cured not managed. Instead of enjoying the good days and learning to manage the bad, I let the bad overshadow the good and they slowly began to take over. All I could do was sit at home and despise food because of how it made me feel. I would literally put food in my mouth and couldn't swallow it because I could only think of how it would make me feel in the short term rather than working to find ways to MINIMIZE my symptoms while still nourishing my body.

     It took a long time for me to be able to step back and see that although I had a legitimate health problem, it had somehow spiraled into something that I had no control over and needed help to recover from. It seems pretty common for people with GP to develop problems and fears toward food and I remember reading early in my diagnoses about seeking treatment EARLY for such problems and wish I had really taken that to heart and done so. I know many people may look at me and wonder how I can be afraid of food, but it's just like any other type of negative reinforcement I guess. Take those invisible fences for example. You put the zapper on a dogs collar and place those orange flags where his border is. Over time, he'll realize "Hey, I get to close to the flying thing and get a zap. I should probably avoid it." Well, I eat food and very often get negative symptoms. The only difference is that as much as I would love to never have to eat again, food is something I just can't avoid. I remember my therapist telling me "Even if you do throw up once every twenty five times that you eat, so what." In my mind it had never been that simple, but I was willing to try and make it that simple.

     My journey has been long and the end is still far off, but I'm ready to get off the side line and back into the race. Some days I look back and wonder whether my GP got worse or if my lack of nutrition and eating caused an increase in my symptoms, but I've been told that for some people, especially those like myself with Idiopathic Gastroparesis (the cause is unknown), over time the body can heal and GP will resolve on it's own so I'm hopeful that by giving my body the love and nourishment that it needs there is a chance I will one day be rid of this trial. Even if that is not the case, I hope to over come my fear of food and learn to manage my GP and get back to living. Just because life may be hard doesn't mean you can't enjoy it. I have confidence that through my faith and the support of my family and friends I can succeed and look forward to sharing my journey with you.

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