An oddly personal ramble from me today.
I have a very odd relationship with food. Always have. I was a very finicky child, for the longest time. There was a huge list of foods I would never, ever touch under any circumstance and I would spend weeks or months eating only a few foods; when my parents separated, I spent a whole year eating nothing but tuna sandwiches. When I was really small, I only ate ham and cucumber sandwiches, accompanied with a glass of ribena. As I grew older, I got over my fish phobia and my dislike of sauces – even if I maintain a hearty irrational dislike of any purple foods or foods deemed too ‘sloppy’ – but I still have some difficulties. On random days (a day such as today) I refuse to eat. Not for any particular reasons – there have been people who believe that I have a self-inflicted eating disorder and I don’t blame them for thinking that – other than on some days the thought of food repels me entirely. I look down on food, any kind of food, and it makes me feel physically sick and nauseous. The idea of eating, chewing and swallowing makes me want to vomit copiously into the nearest sink. This can go on for weeks at a time; I once spent a summer eating mainly ice lollies and crackers because I couldn’t bear to eat anything else.
And then the IBS kicked in, two years ago.
With IBS, I have to eat regularly and maintain a steady weight. Roughly speaking, I have to eat about every four hours or I get the most horrendous stomach cramps. Which is problematic, to say the least, when I’m having a ‘nauseous day’ like today. I had to sit and force forkful after forkful down my throat, wishing with each bite that I could be well and whole again. This is not great for my recovery. My recovery has been going very well otherwise. There will never be a time when I am completely well, I know that. IBS is not something that can be cured, only controlled. I take four tablets a day to make sure I can physically eat and so far, they are beautiful little things of sunshine. They take the pain away.
The thing with my stomach is that it’s quite over sensitive. In a circular way of thought, it always has been. I think that’s why I was so difficult with my food as a child because I had a near constant stomach-ache, and I had such a fear of being in pain that I subconsciously regulated what I ate. An attack of worry or nerves was quite capable of rendering me immobile (still does, I have a terrible tendency to anxiety). I was always going to be at risk of having something wrong with my stomach, and unfortunately for me I had a double whammy of things that trigger IBS – I had the winter vomiting bug and severe food poisoning within the space of two months. It was utterly miserable. I would never wish that on my darkest enemy. I lost about half my body weight in about a week, going down from ten stone to about five. It disrupted my school work and happened in the middle of exam time which completely and totally sucked. The effect those two months had on my health is so entire that it has changed my body for ever.
IBS is a disability, just not one I like to shout out about because it’s rather embarrassing. The basic physicality of it is that my bowel has gone into a state of spasm; it squeezes and squeezes and squeezes until it’s squeezing itself into knots. This is incredibly painful and stops me from eating. If it’s really bad, my entire abdomen convulses as if I’m growing some abnormal alien baby. My abdomen is incredibly weak; if I walk or move too fast, I do run the risk of very unpleasant accidents. That is not fun. At all. The illness itself is utterly exhausting; a full day saps all my energy in a way I’ve only had when I had a very serious case of the flu. It feels like wading through thick and warm bathwater, the world seems far away and not entirely real… and if I nap, my stomach kicks in a complaint and makes me feel so awful I have to force myself awake again. And the food. I have a large list of foods I’m forbidden from eating because they irritate the stomach and make it worse. Although I don’t entirely follow the rules – I refuse to give up my ice cream. A’int no one taking my ice cream.
For the past six months, I have felt a lot better though. It just after university I’m dreading. I have no idea if I can operate in the workplace, realistically. Stress and movement make me ill. So while I’m all right at the moment, the minute I start worrying, the minute my stomach will U turn on the whole ‘not feeling as if some awful mutant creature is clawing around inside me’.
Do they do stomach transplants?