An Effort to Explain

To put to words what my “health” does to my daily life is almost painful in itself. While in some ways I feel as though I talk about it almost nonstop as people question and want to hear the story, in other regards I feel as though I can hardly share with anyone at all what it really entails.

I’m not on death’s row, nor do I have a name for whatever it is that I endure. Not to be melodramatic, but endure feels as though it’s the only word suitable for it at the moment. I suppose you could liken it to a chronic illness, although in restaurants and at the dinner table we call it an allergy. If only it was that simple. Sometimes it’s not bad at all and other days it feels like more than I know how to handle.

To avoid being entirely vague for those of you who have no idea what I am talking about, for the past few years I have been through countless doctors, diets and decisions regarding my health. What was once thought to be a case of strep throat that wouldn’t quit turned into a numerous visits to the GI specialist who eventually told me my only option was to give up, because he had long ago. After senseless side effects from dozens of prescriptions, I pushed for more tests and ultimately sprung for a surgery I hoped against hope would end it all. With a few small but lasting scars to my stomach, I got to continue the chase. After an allergist jotted down some notes and sent me off without the slightest bit of advice, I found myself without a long list of foods in addition to my already absent gallbladder. From there I traveled across the state every six weeks to visit the only person who seemed to have a clue what was going on, through methods that sound laughable such as “laser acupuncture” and some crazy machine no one has ever heard of. 

It’s all a barrel of laughs as we recount it over almost every dinner table we share with friends and family. We talk about it as if it’s distant history, something that hardly matters anymore, despite the fact that my diet is more limited than anyone I’ve ever met. Oh, your cousin has had to go gluten-free? Sorry to be harsh, but that sounds like a cakewalk in comparison at this point. They make aisles of products that are specifically gluten-free and have entire menus dedicated to gluten-free options. Try going without garlic, onions and corn (and all of said by-products) for a week and see just how easy it is to eat with other people. Not to mention gluten, oats, barley and many other items to varying degrees.

I’ve likely said more than I should. I wish I knew how to best express how debilitating it can feel sometimes to figure out what to eat. There are days that it doesn’t bother me and it practically seems like a non-issue, really. There are even days that I get through the whole day without feeling sick or worrying about feeling sick later. But then there are days that anything I eat feels like a huge hurdle to overcome, and I’d much prefer to skip eating altogether, if only I could be issued some sort of gummy vitamin that provided me all of the nutritional value I needed for a meal. Mentally, it’s a struggle that I cannot even find the words for at times. Physically, it also continues to be a struggle. Because some days, I’m still sick. Despite all the many things I’ve done and changed, I continue to be sick and not only do I still get sick, but then I desperately try to figure out what I did, what I ate, to cause it. The lack of knowledge in itself is maddening. This is not something I want my life to be about, if only I could shake it.

So at the risk of losing all dignity, that was my shot at honesty about it all. I don’t know how to explain it even to my closest of friends, yet it’s something I must face daily. I am still learning to handle it with grace and patience, but often fail miserably. It’s the cause of many tears, terse words and sleepless nights. I wish I could say that I was better at coping with it. Perhaps in some ways I have become better about it but in other ways, the exhaustion of constantly dealing with it has worn me down. For fear of potentially bursting into tears or speaking with either bitterness or embarrassment, I do what I can to keep it lighthearted or avoid it when possible. Truthfully though, I just wish it would all go away. It doesn’t seem likely anytime soon, so please bear with me as I try to cope as best as possible.