I’ve been having some digestive issues (more on that in a bit) and I went to the doctor last week to discuss it with him as well as to get a new migraine medicine. This was my first time seeing this particular doctor and I had no problem talking to him about my migraines and what I needed. Then it came to talking about my digestive issues and I was embarrassed. I know this man went to medical school and learned all about the body and that he has probably heard what I am about to tell him, but it was hard talking to him about it. Partly because sometimes doctor’s don’t always believe female patients (studies have shown this) and partly because we, as in all of us in this society, don’t talk about our bowel movements among other things.
Last week, I spent about twenty minutes in the restroom at work hunched over in pain, sitting on the toilet and trying to not throw up on the restroom floor. While I was in this position, I thought about the conversations I had last week with some of my friends and my mom. The doctor thinks I may have IBS (the symptoms do line up with what I am experiencing) and when I told my mom she was surprised and she said she didn’t know I was having problems. A few of my friends expressed the same sentiment. I said to my mom and my friends “we don’t talk about bowel movements and what goes on in the bathroom. How was I going to bring it up? I could barely talk to the doctor about it.” Everyone I said this to agreed with me. Why do we not talk about these things with one another? When one of my close friends asks me how am I doing why do I lie and say I am fine? Why don’t I say “hey, I’m experiencing something new with my body and I don’t know what it means or what to do?”
I can remember the first time I heard a friend of mine speak about her poop. I was in high school and with a group of girlfriends and my good friend Skye said she pooped three times a day. Not only was I surprised that she said that but also how many times she went in one day (that no longer surprises me). I was thinking about that conversation today and I wonder if in Skye’s family they would talk about their poops. My family definitely would not talk about that. My family didn’t/wouldn’t talk about a lot of things. I think because I grew up in a family that didn’t talk about many things, I have a hard time discussing all kinds of stuff with my close friends. Even if a good friend asks me how I am doing, I have a hard time discussing anything that I may be struggling with. I will just say “I am well. All is well. Let’s talk about you.” If I am asked pointed questions, I will answer those. But of course, no one knows I am struggling with anything and so they won’t think to ask pointed questions.
All of this has made me think of other things we don’t talk about with one another. Like money, sex, our dreams/aspirations, our failures, our fears, our pain, etc…. I have friends that are pretty open about different aspects of their life. And I love that about them. It also makes me feel that I can discuss similar things with them.
Discussing difficult topics is one of the reasons Andrea and I started this blog. We want a space that we could share what we are going through and yet still, I have a hard time discussing difficult things even on here and I co-created this space. I just don’t know how to get past it or how to change who I am.
I guess I have to start somewhere so I will discuss what I have been experiencing since March. I woke up in the middle of the night with severe cramps. Like can’t stand up straight kind of cramps. I was nauseous and had cold sweats. It felt like Aunt Flo coming for a visit except that it wasn’t time for her. I got up went to the bathroom, noticed there was no blood (so no Aunt Flo visiting) and I pooped. The cramps subsided about five to ten minutes later. I thought maybe it was something I ate. I had drank a huge hibiscus tea that night and looked up if that could cause digestive problems (it can, but it’s not common). I put it out of my mind. About a month or so later the exact same thing happened. That time I did not have hibiscus tea. It happened again the following month. Then it started happening during the day. Then it started happening multiple days in a row. Sometimes the cramping isn’t super severe and sometimes it is. I feel bloated at times and I have noticed a loss in appetite. My last major attack was on Thanksgiving and I almost didn’t make it to lunch at my friend’s house. I have been tested for celiac and gluten sensitivity and I am happy to say that I don’t have celiac and I am not gluten insensitive. I am tracking food and how I feel to see if I can find a pattern. I go back to the doctor in mid December and will figure out what my next steps are then.
About a month ago a friend asked me if I ever get lonely. I said, “I do when I am sick.” Whatever is going on with me, it makes me feel very much alone. And not because I think I am the only going through this (I absolutely know that I am not), but because there is no one here to tell me it will be okay or to pick up the slack when I don’t feel well or to drive me to Thanksgiving lunch because I just had an attack and I am not at 100% yet.
This seems like a good start. I will try to be better about opening up. Just know that it is incredibly hard for me to do but practice makes perfect, right??
Your fellow traveler,
Photo credit: Peaceful Walkway by Jackie Allen