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I don’t feel well.

That statement sums up my life right now. I have gastroparesis. I don’t digest food normally; food stays undigested in my stomach causing symptoms from mild with some gastrointestinal symptoms, or it can be severe where you can’t digest food on your own and require a feeding tube. I’ve had two surgeries with good days and bad days as a result. My testing shows me in the “severe” category, but the category doesn’t matter as much as reality. I don’t require a feeding tube and hopefully never will, but I’m no longer able to digest solid food normally. Gravity has to do what my stomach used to do so I now primarily exist on liquids.

There’s a special diet I’m supposed to follow which is probably the unhealthiest diet possible: High carb, low fiber, low protein, no fresh fruits or vegetables. Only the most easily digested foods allowed. The closer I follow the diet the better able my system can digest the food. I was good for the most part for years but then my mother fell and pulverized her femur. I started caring for her and eating my stress.

We call it a “flare” – when symptoms worsen significantly – burps that smell like sulfur from the rotting food inside our stomachs, constipation and/or diarrhea, and horrible pain and nausea.. Sometimes it comes because we haven’t been following the diet and sometimes because it’s Tuesday. When we’re in a flare we go back to basics. Clear liquids to start and then progress to soups and smoothies while we pray our stomach clears out.

Food is a part of my world. I love cooking and baking. I enjoy going out to eat with friends or having them over. Unfortunately, it’s too much of my world. It’s my go-to for stress. I have Binge-Eating Disorder. So even though food is not my friend, I act like it’s my dearest love. Chronic pain is horrible, but it’s compounded when I have an addiction actively fighting any relief. So, just like any other addict, I take one day at a time but unlike heroin or alcohol I can’t abstain from food. Instead, I need to learn how to use just a little bit of food or one drink of orange juice. It’s hard but the stakes are high. I’m worsening with one flare worse than the last. This latest one has me crying in pain. But I had to hit rock bottom to take my addiction seriously before my stomach gives up completely and that feeding tube becomes my reality.

Photo by Sydney Sims on Unsplash

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