I’m one of those weirdo holistic medicine people. For good reason:
When I was first married, at the age of 24, I felt awful all the time. Physically, I mean. After years of intestinal problems, in college I was given an endoscopy (tube down the throat into the stomach) and then given the diagnosis of Irritable Bowel Syndrome. Not something you want to tell everyone. Anything with bowel in it is a nightmarish self-descriptor for a college girl. But there it was, and it was undeniable. I lost 13 pounds one semester because of my irritable bowels. Ate food, got crampy, quickly “processed” the food, and then needed a nap. And my joints hurt. And I felt foggy a lot (which makes my senior year 4.0 extra amazing, eh?)
My diagnosis was actually just a blanket title for something no one really understands. The endoscopy showed that I didn’t have an ulcer, so they went ahead and called it Irritable Bowel. Which basically means nothing. I had the same symptoms as half a dozen other illnesses that are just as nebulous. There was no medicine to take besides Tums and no helpful advice other than “When it gets really bad you should just eat rice. Good luck.” For years I got no further help or actual care from my physicians. I just came to think of it as the way I was. Too bad for me.
Stress makes Irritable Bowel worse, so our first couple years of marriage (after moving to L.A., and getting a teaching job for which I wasn’t trained, and having no friends, and possessing no land line but only a cell phone that ran out of minutes during the first third of the month, and arguing with my husband all the time) I was eating plain white rice most of the time.
This is what I wish they would have said:
“Here’s the deal: you’re going to have intestinal cramps daily, sometimes so bad you can’t stand up; you’re going to have constipation, then diarrhea, then constipation, then lots more diarrhea; your joints will hurt, your brain will have a confusing fog around it; you will feel sad, either causing or because of the way you feel physically; you will wake up every day feeling like you haven’t slept in years; you will wish you could take a nap at all moments and you will be able to nap on any surface at any time if given the chance. Concrete floor? Yes, absolutely. You will have very little sex drive when things get bad, which will be often; you will be bloated and think you’re fat for days, and then suddenly all will be well for a few hours and you’ll think “Wow, I got skinny,” and then you’ll get bloated again. You’ll have acid reflux that burns your throat and makes eating most foods painful. You’ll hold down full-time jobs during all of this, and you’ll exercise even though every joint and muscle aches even more when you do, and every night you’ll think some good sleep will help. But it never will. And you’ll just WISH YOU COULD BE NORMAL.
And then one day you’ll get pregnant and you’ll feel better. Even though you are throwing up or wishing you would throw up, and you feel really tired, and your round ligaments ache when you move, and you cry at commercials and your belly is being stretched beyond what seems possible, you’ll feel better. Yes, this will feel better. And then somehow you’ll be cured. And you’ll realize how very bad you felt for so many years. And you’ll never want to feel like that again.”
If my doctors would have said that, I would have gotten other help. I did get some, from the kinesiologist that Marc had seen since he was twelve. But only when we came home to Kansas for Christmas or a summertime trip. But if I would have had the wherewithal to know I didn’t have to feel this way I would have done whatever I could to get better care. Seen a kinesiologist where I lived, changed my diet, not accepted it as just the way I was.
I now know that people with an auto-immune disease often feel better when they’re pregnant. That I almost positively did have an auto-immune thing going on back then. That I could have been working on inflammation and diet and natural hormone support. Yes, I am one of those people – a fan of homeopathic treatments, accupressure, and I like to avoid chemical-based medicines unless totally necessary. My weirdo “nutritional supplements,” our voodoo doctor, as we lovingly call him, and my increased knowledge of my jacked up intestines are all Thank the Lord I Found You things. They’re not my savior, and they aren’t perfect, but they sure do help. Just as having enough money to pay for food helps me not be hungry, having the right care helps my body not feel like crap. And I’m all for that.
So here’s to weirdo, non-western styles of medical treatment. I’ll raise a glass of RepairVite to that any day.