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.
Sandcastles, a kite and fun at Orwell Corner
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