Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Round the Bend and Back: Part 2

I wasn't planning to write about this again so soon, but I've been thinking a lot about that time, trying to remember some of the details, the chronology of how things happened... so here's the next installment:

I feel the need to interrupt myself at this point in my story, even though I don’t want to. I worry that you may think badly of me because of the casual way I treated sex. And I want you to know that "casual encounters" didn't always mean sex, and I didn't even have that many... it was a relatively short time in my life. Not that it really matters anyways, but I don't want people to think badly of me.

All that said, I really hate that I felt the need to explain that, and that I gave into it. I hate the double standard still applied to women's sexuality. I hate that our society is still so threatened by women who have (casual) sex and generally discredits THOSE women. I hate that slut is still such a gendered word, that male sluts have to be identified as male.

I suppose it was that same double standard I was rebelling against in my early twenties, in my steadfast refusal to be ashamed of exploring my sexuality, in my pride at being able to separate love from sex. Similarly, I refuse to be ashamed of pooping in public bathrooms (well – as long as no one can be sure it was me). I think that’s why I was so graphic in my last post, which likely alienated several of you. Sorry if I overshared.

Anyways, by the time I met Sugar Daddy, I’d been celibate for almost a year, after a conscious decision, not to stop casual encounters per se, but to stop mixing them with copious amounts of booze. The result was celibacy and it was good for me. It made me realize that those explorations weren’t doing anything good for me anymore.

So where was I? Oh right. I’d just finished working at Black’s and was enrolled in five courses for the upcoming fall semester so I could hurry up and get a general degree, and I’d just met Sugar Daddy. I was even reading Gulliver’s Travels IN ADVANCE of starting school. I’d lost A LOT of weight from being sick so much and not being able to eat a lot. My knees used to hurt if I laid on my side because I was so bony. Many people complimented me on my weight loss, which made me angry, because I hadn’t meant to lose weight. I’d been sick. I usually responded grumpily, “Well if you pissed out your ass for four months straight, you’d lose weight too! Though I don’t recommend it.”

I moved in with a couple of roommates in a rented house, and Sugar Daddy might as well have moved in. He was vegetarian (although too shy to tell me until weeks after we’d ordered several meat-ladened pizzas) and fit and very health conscious. I believe this may have been my first exposure to truly healthy eating. I’d seen obsessive (non) eating, having lived with an anorexic, and yoyo dieting, having lived with my mum, but I’d never really seen someone make consistently healthy food choices and enjoy fruits and vegetables for themselves.

We started our tradition of walking to the Farmer’s Market every Saturday morning (which we still do seven years later) and we’d eat good food all weekend. Around this time, I started to pay a lot more attention to what I was eating, trying to find out if certain foods triggered my intestinal complaints. I became convinced that I was allergic to strawberries, because I felt strangely lightheaded once after eating them. I stopped eating salads after a few unpleasant incidents. Sugar Daddy cooked curries really well, and I started eating more rice and vegetables and less meat. At one point, I had a bladder infection, and thought for sure I was allergic to the sulpha drugs when I felt lightheaded and weird while out walking.

Several times I’d go out with Sugar Daddy and my friends, and find myself on the toilet, nauseous, certain I was going to vomit any minute and unable to find a suitable receptacle (why don’t they put garbage bins in public bathroom stalls?!?), pissing out my ass, out of breath, shaking with chills but dripping with sweat at the same time – basically the same way I felt when I had food poisoning. It was terrifying, and I was trapped, captive until my body allowed me a bit of a break. Eventually, I would pull my sweaty, pale and shaken self together long enough to wobble from the bathroom and catch a cab home, praying that I wouldn’t get caught short in the cab. Sugar Daddy always accompanied me home. I soon stopped drinking altogether, because any booze at all made me feel horrendously nauseous. One night I even slept next to our toilet, I was so intensely nauseous, but I never did actually throw up during any of these episodes.

These episodes happened more and more often, requiring me to pull off the highway on the way home from my parents’ house, or stop in gas stations. Sometimes I would give up on the destination entirely and just turn around, weakly driving the shorter distance back and collapsing into bed.

Over the next year, my diet got more and more restricted as I tried to eliminate foods that seemed to bring on these episodes. I cut out most raw fruits and vegetables, and meat. Some of my restrictions were out of control and irrational but the meat one has proven to be good. I remember occasions from throughout my childhood, adolescence and early adulthood of waking in the middle of the night with horrible nausea, cramps and diarrhea. Since I gave up red meat, I haven't had a single middle of the night episode. And I can remember specific occasions when those times came the night after a barbecue when I would have had at least two beef burgers.

Sugar Daddy and I got our own apartment the next year, I finished school and graduated with my general BA, and got a well-paid administrative job as the result of a local temp agency giving me a lucky placement. So I was functioning fairly competently, but outside of work my world was getting smaller and smaller.

I stopped visiting my parents except for essential holidays, because the prospect of being trapped on a public toilet at a highway service station was terrifying. The thought of having an episode not even close enough to a service station or public bathroom was even more terrifying. If I couldn't avoid the trip, I wouldn't eat anything at all until I got to my destination, to lessen the chance of having diarrhea along the way. I started to carry a roll of toilet paper in the car, just in case I found myself by the side of the road. I’m sure it sounds funny, a funny thing to be scared of, but I was terrified. It was crippling.

I stopped going out for dinner at restaurants, because episodes happened so frequently at them. And it was so embarrassing to traipse across the dining room, and have everyone know how long I spent in there, emerging pale and sometimes still doubled over, walking slowly and gingerly back to my table.

Sometime in 2001, I sought medical help for my symptoms (the physical ones, because as far as I knew there weren't any mental ones). I was referred to a gastroenterologist, who sent me for a colonoscopy. I was very scared of this procedure. If you ever need one, let me tell you that it's not that bad. The preparation is the worst part; the procedure itself is a doddle (as much as having a scope put up your ass and seeing your insides on tv can be) and they give you good drugs. Plus you’re so exhausted from the preparation and nerves and hunger that you can’t rouse yourself to care anymore that someone is putting a scope up your ass and looking at your insides on tv. And they have warmed blankets. Mmm… when the nurse asked me if I wanted a warm blanket, I thought she was being cute. But it was really warmed, like in an oven or something. And it was lovely, compensating for my chilly, exposed ass .

But back to the preparation. I started this series with oversharing and unpleasant details, so I may as well continue in that vein. We lived in a tiny apartment, a former shed in the backyard of our landlord with the anger management problem who shot his pellet gun outside our window for stress relief. The bathroom was tiny. Which turned out to be a real advantage in preparing for the colonoscopy. I took the two bottles of slippery lemon-flavoured laxative with water, representing approximately 40 times the usual dosage. I am not exaggerating. Forty times the usual dosage. So you can imagine how I spent the next seven hours. Just in case you can’t, I’ll tell you. I had my book, and my glass of water (it’s VERY important to stay hydrated during the preparation), and I could reach the sink from the toilet so I just kept filling up my glass, and emptying my bowels in a completely involuntary way, all while merrily reading my book.

The end result of the colonoscopy (ha!) was that I didn't have cancer, and I didn't have inflammatory bowel disease like Chrohn's or colitis (thank goodness). Basically, they couldn't see anything wrong or diseased with my intestines. So the good doctor diagnosed me with irritible bowel syndrome, which is really not a diagnosis at all but an identification that you have shitty symptoms (sorry) and they have no idea why. At my follow up appointment (apparently they don't expect you to remember anything they tell you at the actual procedure, which is a good thing, because those drugs were good), the doctor told me to consume more fibre. But get this: when I asked if white rice had fibre in it, because I eat a lot of white rice and vegetables, he said, yes, he thought it did. I know now that white rice has absolutely no fibre in it (I still eat a lot of it though). (This was before fibre became a marketing ploy.) The only fibre the gastroenterologist – the person supposedly most knowledgeable about the ins and outs of the human digestive system – knew about was in a bottle at the pharmacy. That's what he told me to take. I didn't.

Despite that, the diagnosis was good for me, because now I could do research. And somehow I stumbled upon Andrew Weil, MD. But I think I'll leave that for the next post. I will tell you, though, about one thing I read in one of his books: that medical doctors don't have a single course in their curriculum dealing with human nutrition, even though the second thing that Hippocrates said after, “First, do no harm” was “Let food be your medicine and medicine be your food.” I find that shameful. (That was from an American doctor, so maybe it's different for doctors in other places, and I'd be interested in hearing from anyone who knows about this, but my experience with doctors would indicate that most don't know a thing about nutrition.


jen said...

thank god you came back and wrote that disclaimer. i was sitting her thinking, you big silly whore. sheesh.

kidding. and seriously. wow. what a journey. your digestive system has had a lot to say, hasn't it...i had a similar peril during my 20's, but it was a different body part and turned out to be somatic and due to emotional trauma i had not yet recovered from. your situation sounded so debililtating...SD's way of life sounds like it was critical - you meeting then. (probably for a milliion reasons, huh?)

you big silly whore, you. am rambling now, sorry.

cinnamon gurl said...

I'd never really thought about the rightness of meeting SD when I did, but you're absolutely right.

And yeah... my digestive system. I've gone on about it too much haven't I? Oh well, too late now.

I think doctors don't bother with psychosomatic illnesses, thinking they're not real. But just because they're caused by the mind rather than physical disease doesn't mean they're not real and debilitating. They are.

Aliki2006 said...

Oh, I SO agree with you about doctors and their complete lack of nutritional know-how. I've experienced this first-hand with our son, actually. Despite all the times I've discussed his eating issues with his pediatrician and expressed my concerns she always asks me if he takes a multivitamin as if that's the answer to anything.

Mimi said...

I don't think you're oversharing at all. Indeed, thanks for sharing this. Your situation sounds really really awful. I can just imagine how panicked you were, how poorly you felt.

In the fall, before we started her on solids, we brought Miss Baby to a registered dietician ... who handed Pynchon printouts from the internet, and who lumped all kinds of vegetarians togehter. So sometimes even the dieticians don't know their arses from their elbows. Yeesh.

Kyla said...

Your disclaimer made me giggle. I don't think any of us were thinking "Sin is such a dirty girl." but if I had shared similar details, I would have been compelled to come back and write a disclaimer, too.

I'm glad you're doing this!

Mouse said...

The colonoscopy info is very helpful--it's something I'm supposed to have done next year (10 years earlier than my father's first diagnosis), and I've been dreading it.

I've sort of been diagnosed with IBS, along the same lines you mention. In the end it looks like the cluster of little complaints I have are probably indicative of fibromyalgia... which some doctors dismiss as entirely psychosomatic.

Alpha DogMa said...

I've had a colonoscopy 11 years ago and hence have no interest in putting anything up my ass ever ever again. See - now I'm sharing too much information too. How alike we are.
I had IBS in my early 20s. Cleared up when I cleared out a particularly horrible boyfriend - who was (as an aside) an Afrikaneer, but otherwise completely the stellar opposite of Sugar Daddy.
When is Part 3 coming? Please don't go on hiatus forever - I want to know the outcome!

Mad Hatter said...

I'm just wondering how you managed all that sex with your bum doing loop-dee-loops. Sin: the woman who can bring you casual sex and not so casual shit all in a single blog post!

As I read this, I kept thinking that you must've had some sort of parasite. I had a shitty summer back in my mid-twenties that was never diagnosed. I blamed salmonella (sp?) but I'll never know for sure.

Looking forward to part 3.

cinnamon gurl said...

Ha ha, Mad. The sex was before the shitting... and when you're single, you don't have a lot of sex, even if you have casual encounters.

The parasite question was raised early on... may I just say that providing stool samples was much worse than the colonoscopy.

No I think I just drank so much I rotted my gut out. Plus the gastro said that sometimes a really nasty bug like the food poisoning I had can strip all the good guys from your gut in a long-term way.

bubandpie said...

It's so true: doctors know nothing about nutrition. It drives my mother nuts.

Oh, The Joys said...

As another with an "irritable bowel" I am desperate to hear the next chapter...

Jennifer (ponderosa) said...

I can so totally see how you'd be afraid of food after an experience like that. I thought I was about to die after eating a wild plum last year, I even ran to my neighbor's so that someone would know I had died & could take care of the kids until my hub got home. It sounds funny but it was really, really scary. And now I'm afraid to eat anything that I didn't buy in a store! As if that would guarantee anything!

Anyway I'm looking forward to the next installment. How'd you get your life back together after all that?

NotSoSage said...

Alcohol does to me what you described experiencing when you were out with SD and his friends. Not always, but often, and it took me YEARS to figure out that I had a hiatus hernia and that's what the problem was...The human body is so fascinating because the intense heartburn I was feeling was loosening my bowels. I had a gastroscopy, with no sedation, and based on your description I think I would have rather had a colonoscopy...although they wouldn't have found out what was wrong.

Doctor's don't know half the stuff the general public thinks/expects them to know...but they still manage to have god complexes. That's why the more recent interdisciplinary clinic models (with a pharmacist, nutritionist and physician) are so appealing to me.

I'm loving this series. Thank you, again.

Nancy said...

I think it's great that you tried to eliminate possible food causes (meats, fruits, vegetables) to look for a cause of your stomach issues. I am sure desperate times bring desperate measures, but it does seem like so many things can be tied to food intolerance -- much more than we realize in most cases. And I agree, doctors don't seem to know much about nutrition, unless it's the really obvious stuff (sodium, fat, etc.)

p.s., I could tell you some stories about my experiences in college that would make you realize I absolutely would never think badly of you or call you slutty. Hopefully some day I will be able to blog about them.

Naomi (Urban Mummy) said...

no nutrition at all? Wow...i'm shocked!

I used to have late night stomach eposides as well, and stopped red meat, and they stopped.

I can eat it now, though, 20 years later without a problem, although I only eat it occasionally.

That aside, this sounds like a terrifying journey. How brave of you to share.

mamatulip said...

I just caught up on your last post, and now this one. Wow. A huge, huge story, and you write about it so honestly and openly.

Whenever I'm in a hospital cafeteria I always check out what the doctors are eating. And nine times out of ten, they're eating shit.

Strikes me as interesting.

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