Thursday, September 13, 2012

Once Upon A Time..

Once upon a time ago, i had everything. And before i realized it, i lost it all.

But have i really?

At the age of 24, with a recent diagnosis of gastroparesis, a chronic illness which stops the movement of the stomach and comes with a debilitating array of symptoms, including constant nausea, daily vomiting, exhaustion, and frequent trips to the emergency room.

In fact, i'd say i have the qualifications to become Goleta Valley ER's patient of the year, two years running, given the multiple misdiagnoses i've been presented with. (For the record, pity the employees of this hospital, I raise holy hell anytime a needle is involved in a hospital visit, which tends to be every time.)

Gastroparesis isn't as simple as described-it also comes bundled with constant anxiety and fear concerning eating, depression, daily weight and mood fluctuations, and social isolation.

Perhaps the worst symptom of gastroparesis is the isolation that comes along with it. You never realize how much human social interactions (especially in college!) involve food and/or alcohol until you begin to repeatedly decline invitations to hang out, grab lunch, have a beer and watch the football game (Go Stanford, for the record).

It's a difficult condition to explain to friends and family, who theoretically hear and share sympathies with you, but who truly cannot comprehend a lifestyle where puking several times a day is normalcy, and keeping down half of a fruit smoothie is considered an Olympian-esque victory. In fact, over the course of this summer with an 8am class, I have devised the motto "puke and rally" into my morning routine.

The most common explanation for how gastroparesis feels is usually something about feeling like you have the flu, without the expectation of feeling better after a few days of your head in the toilet. Most people know how it feels to have the flu, but most people don't know how it feels to have the flu without the optimism of a healthy self in the near future, or comprehend the large variety of side symptoms that come along with throwing up so frequently-the chest pain, burning throat, and constant exhaustion to the point where starving feels better than trying to eat.

With gastroparesis, you slowly lose touch with friends, just because you often feel so tired or worried about puking (which is, of course, totally socially unacceptable, especially in a college community) that it isn't worth trying to maintain a connection. Family remains there for you, but can only really listen to you cry and whine about feeling awful to a certain degree before they lose interest.

The people who are there for you are ones you treasure. Whoever your support system may be, if they stand by your side through puking, complaining, boredom,(because they can't do anything besides lie around with you), mood swings, anger, and depression, they are difficult to find and are truly strong people, because they bear their own life on their shoulders, as well as yours.

Thus, once upon a time I had everything.
And this condition has slowly stripped away some of the simplest joys of life.

However, I have created this blog for me.

An outlet for my anxiety, my fears, my daily struggles, so that I can, for the first time, have control over my gastroparesis.

And perhaps to show others that over time, normalcy can be found in the chaos of such a daunting, debilitating condition.

I'll keep you posted.

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