“That’s a weird allergy.” This is what my doc said to me last night, while I was in the emergency room, covered in hives and experiencing the kind of itchy that robs you of your modesty.
Now, this is the kind of thing most professionals would leave out of their blog. It’s not very dignified, and well, it’s actually pretty embarrassing. But this is exactly the stuff I like to write about, because we all go through stuff like this in our lives.
See, there’s this thing going around in the online world of professional consultants, whether you’re an animal communicator / spirit medium, a dietician, a health coach or a life coach: you’re supposed to cultivate this personal brand image that makes people want to *be* you, so that they want to work with you.
Anyone who others go to for advice, doctors, lawyers, psychologists, are elevated in a way – as though, in order to help others, you need to not have any problems of your own. Physician, heal thyself, and all that. There’s this unspoken pressure that one should present a flawless veneer to the public, or if you choose to show the cracks, they should only be charming, beautifully flawed cracks that add an element of “authenticity” – not actual, embarrassing, ugly-flaws that could be associated with personal failings somehow. You share pictures of your kid eating an adorably messy meal, you don’t share pictures of that kid screaming with a fever at 3am being held by a hollow-eyed, distressed parent.
But you guys know that’s not how I roll. To me, the moments that provoke the greatest emotion, even if it’s grief, frustration or embarrassment, those moments above all others unite all people under a common human experience. No one is exempt. Certainly not me.
Besides, I know my friends in acid reflux adventures will appreciate this.
Let me back up a bit. (ß Erik chuckles at this sentence and in a minute, you’ll see why.)
I’ve been experiencing some stomach issues in the past couple of months that have been pretty painful and necessitating some acid reflux treatment and lab work. Yesterday afternoon, at the follow up appointment, I was talking with the doc about how the medication helps with the acid reflux, but I’m still experiencing gut pain pretty regularly.
Since my lab work came back clear, he sent me to get a series of x-rays, being concerned I might have a twisted bowel.
Oh, I didn’t have a twisted bowel. An hour later when we were looking at the x-rays together, he said,
“Now, the radiologist will have a look at this tomorrow, but from what I can see here and here, this part of your bowel is –“
Full of shit.
I couldn’t believe what I was looking at. I know I shouldn’t feel embarrassed about it, but I really was.
How did this happen??? I wasn’t constipated, or didn’t think I was. It explained a lot, particularly why I seemed to be gaining weight even on a 1600 calorie / day diet. I was eating but it wasn’t all coming out.
This is a problem that’s common in much older people! People on long-term pain med therapy. People who aren’t physically active. I’m 36 and my gut is full of shit!
How terribly, terribly embarrassing.
My doc is of course, also my coworker, so that didn’t help with the embarrassment factor. Of course, it’s nothing to him, he’s not judging me. This is just all part of my full-on self-judgment experience. (Is it because I was sad-eating for all those months while my mom was sick? Is it because I didn’t do my annual cleanse since she was diagnosed? Is it because I spent more time in the past two months in my car? Is it because I don’t always sit up straight??? Is it because I’m eating dairy????)
This is actually GOOD NEWS. Not only is it a relatively easy fix, it’s even easier than the two-week antibiotic treatment that I would’ve needed for h-pylori. I’m just really grateful I didn’t have to go for an upper-GI.
“So, do I just start taking Metamucil?” I asked my doc.
“Metamucil is more of a preventative. You need a treatment, and then Metamucil will help in maintenance and prevention.”
A treatment. That sounds like fun, right?
“Uh, will I need to set aside some time on the weekend or something?” I was thinking of the “prep” treatments I’ve heard about for people who need colonoscopies.
“No, it shouldn’t be that bad. Just drink a lot of water.”
So off I went to the pharmacy and picked up a little package of Polyethylene Glycol, went home and took it.
I immediately started sneezing. Like, a ridiculous fit of sneezing. My tongue went tingly, my throat felt scratchy and suddenly the palms of my hands and feet started to itch like crazy. The itching spread in an angry red flush over my body and white, sting-like hives broke out across my arms, back, stomach and legs.
Sweetie panicked. “We’re going to the hospital.” We called ahead, because we weren’t sure if the reaction was going to get worse while we drove the 40 minutes to the hospital, and what kind of shape I’d be in when I got there. We made sure we had the cell phone, in case we needed to call an ambulance to meet us partway there, and off we went.
You would not believe the itching. I experienced the kind of itching that takes all your dignity away. My armpits were itchy, the insides of my ears were itchy, my legs were itchy, my ass was itchy! My muscles were weirdly contracting too, my hip flexors were so tense I couldn’t stand up straight, and my teeth chattered like I was taking an ice bath, even though the flush of hives made me feel like I was bathing in boiling oil.
While we were on the road, our spirit friend Erik Medhus shows up. Of course he would, right?
Erik: Wow, Kate I had no idea you were soooo full of shit! Don’t lose your shit, we’ll get to the hospital in no time! Oh yeah, not losing your shit is actually the problem! Ha! Hey, if anyone gives you shit, you just give it right back!
Erik just can’t resist a shitty pun. I know he was just trying to distract us both, and make me laugh. It sort of worked, even thought I was telling him to eff-off between clenched, chattering teeth.
We got to the hospital and the nurse on duty, a friend of course (makes it extra embarrassing when you know all the health care staff personally) brought me Benadryl, water and called my doc.
“What are you reacting to?” she asked.
“Really? Did you take anything else?”
“No, just mixed it up in the water and drank it. This happened right away.”
“Did you have it with juice? How much did you take?”
“Just water, I took one dose, 17 grams, measured it out in the cap.”
“Huh. That’s really strange! Would you like some ice?”
“YES!!!! YES I WOULD LOVE SOME ICE!!!”
Oh my god, the ice. I shamelessly stuffed it into my bra, my pants, under my arms. Damn it felt great! It’s odd how you can feel embarrassed and shameless at the same time.
And now, for the rest of my life, when I’m asked “are you allergic to anything” I get to say, “Why yes! I’m allergic to this really common laxative which dying and frail people can tolerate!”
“That’s a weird allergy,” they all seem to reply.
Why yes, yes it is a weird allergy! Thank you for saying so!
Just in case it wasn’t embarrassing enough that my doctor had to tell me I was full of shit, now some of my nurse friends get to know about it too – and because of the timing, there was a shift-change while I was in the ER, so this information would’ve been passed along to twice as many people.
This is just a hazard of small-town life. Oh well. “It’s a really common problem,” my nurse assured me.
Not that I *really care* about my friends knowing – I fight the embarrassment by taking control, writing about it and telling EVERYONE of my own volition. This way, it doesn’t matter who knows because EVERYONE knows! After all, there may be others out there, just as full of shit as me!
Oh the unfettered glory of incarnation.
Eventually, I saw the doc on call, who was very nice and sent me home with more meds in case the reaction resurfaced after the Benadryl wore off. Since the PEG is in my system and they can’t do anything about that, we just have to manage the reaction as it progresses.
I was also sent home with a different laxative that is in no way related to PEG. I’m afraid to take it though, so I’m going to try a week of castor oil treatment along with the dietary cleanse I usually do once or twice a year (but haven’t done in nearly two years now.) I’ll was warned the new laxative tasted nasty and works “really well”.
Yes people, I lead such a glamorous life!
The only other time I’ve ever taken anything like a laxative was when I went to Ontario to visit my mother for the first time after her diagnosis. I got “travellers constipation” which I’d never gotten before, and I treated it with castor oil. So that’s why I’m going to try that before the crazy-effective laxative this week.
You know what Louise Hay says about this sort of problem? You’re “holding on” to something.
Yep, I sure am. Remember how I’ve been wanting to hit “pause” on my life?
I’ve been following Sweetie’s advice and just crying when I feel like crying… which means I’m crying every day. Earlier this week in the bathtub, I was stroking my painful belly and talking to it, asking it why it hurt. And I started crying AGAIN, really crying, deep grief.
So I’m pretty sure this is what’s at the root of my “holding on” issue. Because sometimes I have to “hold it in” just to function in the world right now. Get to work, do my physio exercises, move my life forward.
I have to hold my shit together.
So maybe I need to move forward from this my just letting things fall apart a bit. I’m just a little scared of what that’s going to look like.