GERD is like having a bad dominatrix who does not respect safe words. You’re lying in bed in a vulnerable position, and she slinks out of the dark and lays down her flaming whip flat along your esophagus. You swallow hard and think that it wasn’t so bad, but then she does it again and again, and each time is harder than the time before. You writhe and flail and flip about, bunching pillows and twisting to avoid the next blow, but still it comes. And then you give up and scream your safe word, “Banana thongs! BANANA THONGS!” and realize in horror that she doesn’t care.
I was 19 and had no idea what was going wrong in my chest. Today I would make an immediate appointment with Doctor Google, typing ‘pain in chest at night’ into the search box, and be diagnosed with GERD, gallbladder attacks, esophageal spasms, an aortic dissection, asthma, anxiety, the House of Pain Chest Workout on YouTube, hypochondria, pregnancy, lung cancer, spondylitis, caffeine sensitivity, a hernia, bed bugs, Dr. Oz’s Bee Venom Night Cream, and someone’s Cha-Cha question pondering why his gums hurt when he eats apples*.
But the Internet was new when I was 19, and good Doctor Google was still a lowly medical student who did not yet solve our health problems. I was too busy at first to seek help: school by day, work by night, and I kept figuring that it would go away. But after too many sleepless nights of pacing my bedroom waiting for the mysterious pain to subside, I realized that I had to see the doctor. There I was afforded a five-minute consultation, diagnosed with Mistress GERD, and given a prescription. What causes this? I asked. Take one of these every day, the doctor said. Or more if you want. Bye. So I took them and the pain went away. Later, I did my own research at the library and made the connections. It was worse when I ate certain foods. It was worse when I weighed more.
It was a revelation that I could control it with what foods I ate, not a pill. I had the same revelation learning about my mental (ill) health. Bouts with depression do not fall out of the sky like a liberated toilet seat from the Mir space station and happen to drop on unlucky me. They are not random. Moods have triggers. But for a long time, I did not connect the trigger with my plunging mood, because I believed from my doctors that depression was genetic and it just happens, sadness strikes! And no one knows why, and nothing can be done, except swallow one of these at bedtime.
What upset me? I had to ask myself. Then I would pick back through my days to find the trigger. There always was one. Some anger or fear unexpressed, gulped back and forgotten and transformed into depression at a later time. Why was Mistress GERD back tonight for a follow-up session? I would pick back over my meals in the same way. Our bodies are very complicated machines, but in the end, they are machines. Yet GERD and depression were presented to me as being caused, essentially, by voodoo. Some people just get GERD, so they need to take a pill. Some people just get down, so they need to take a pill. The pills cancel out the voodoo, and then you are healed.
We live in a state of apartheid with our bodies. Food and mood and health, however, are not separate issues but intertwined systems. Mistress GERD is not conjured by an evil sorcerer to loom over me at night; she was the result of poor food choices. My doctors** have always been so quick to throw pills and zip me out of the office, instead of explaining how bodies work. In my cynical moments, after I started managing reflux by diet, I thought that my HMO makes a lot more by putting me on drugs all my life than it does having me vanquish Mistress GERD by simply eating better.
For some, those pills are a godsend for a condition that can’t be handled any other way. For pandas like me, a little knowledge put into practice eradicated the need for them. Mistress GERD has moved on to someone else’s bedroom, to disregard the safe word and unleash her whip of flame. And I hope that person has a more informative doctor than mine, and if not, visits another or Doctor Google, and learns what summons Mistress GERD, and how easy she can be for many of us to kick out the door.
UPDATE: (in explanation of *) Yes, someone asked this question. Yes, Cha-Cha answered it. There is no obvious cause to why apples make this dude’s gums hurt, but Cha-Cha surmised that pain is felt in the gums where the nerves are, and that some people eating hard foods have pain, and that sensitive teeth are a cause.
And now we are enlightened. Because I could not resist, I spent a little more (a lot more) time on Cha-Cha looking for bizarre questions, and now I pass them on for your enjoyment.
1. How many normal calories are in one pound? (As opposed to abnormal calories?)
2. How many WW points is that? (BEST ANSWER EVER: How many points is what?)
3. Does pickle juice make your poop orange? (Science experiment, everyone!)
4. Where are the zombies? (Right behind you! Run! RUN!!!)
5. Marry me? (Sadly, Cha-Cha is in a relationship.)
6. Can a person get worms from biting their fingernails? (?????)
7. How often should I drink and drive? (Please tell me that this is not a real question.)
8. What is a hot Halloween costume that’s not too slutty and not a cat? (A PANDA!)
9. Do you have to have your period before you get a perm? (Uh . . .)
10. (Asked in Celebrities) How tall do tunicates get? (Gay Panda had to look that one up, too.)
UPDATE: (In explanation of **) Lest anyone think I bash all doctors, Gay Panda would like to state that when Lady Friend had a terrible fall, her doctors were absolutely wonderful and knowledgeable people who did not treat her with voodoo. The only reason she is walking today (still blithely unaware that Gay Panda is writing this journal) is due to a team of fantastic doctors. Gay Panda has just had some bad ones.
Important lesson just learned - DO NOT under any circumstances read Gay Panda's journal while drinking hot coffe and waiting for class to start. Bad things just happened when I read your safe word.
It's taken me a long time to learn these things too. Only recently did I realize that there are triggers to my moods. Boyfriend kisses make me happy. Boyfriend arguments make me sad. So those "random" moods must be caused by SOMETHING, it just might happen to be something supplemental (be it food, sleep, or vitamins) from my life. It's very heartening to realize that it's something that can be controlled.
GERD makes me sad because my boyfriend's sister's new baby has it. I suggested that it could be from her eating wheat, and she said she might get him tested for celiac. MIGHT? While your baby cries and writhes in pain after eating?! Also she said that her other babies had a similar problem but they tested negative so she didn't change anything. [[cries inside]]
[QUOTE=Gay Panda;575340]Can a person get worms from biting their fingernails? (?????)[/QUOTE]
Ha ha! My mother told me I would get worms if I bit my fingernails!! She (of the medical field) was quite firm on this. I still bit them for years and years - like some science experiment - and never got worms. (thank goodness - have you seen photos of some of the worms that come out of people - ewww). Of course, now she has no memory of this.
[QUOTE=Gay Panda;575340]What is a hot Halloween costume thatís not too slutty and not a cat? (A PANDA!)[/QUOTE]
+10 -- jeez, lack of imagination if you can't think of a costume that is not slutty
[QUOTE=Gay Panda;575340]Do you have to have your period before you get a perm? (Uh . . .)[/QUOTE]
If you mother says so ... yes.
[QUOTE=namelesswonder;575656]Only recently did I realize that there are triggers to my moods.[/QUOTE]
What a revelation that was to me! In college, upon being asked why I was depressed, I would have given the answer A below, when the truth was B and I didn’t fully understand the connection.
A: I am depressed because I am depressed. (It’s like the reflexive property of a=a, the one that we all got right on our Elementary Algebra exams.)
B: I am depressed because the Perpetually Arguing Panda Parents have devolved into War with the cubs strung out between them. Our family Titanic has hit the iceberg, and we’re going down. I am depressed because Mother Panda is pushing me hard at a major for which I have little aptitude and zero interest. I can’t bear to disappoint her. I am depressed because I’ve realized that I’m gay, and at night, I slink out of bed and walk to my church, and stand in the dark courtyard before those closed doors and cry, begging God to make me straight. I do not know if the sin of suicide is greater than the sin of being a homo, and I am repulsed to be in my own skin.
Of course these triggers led to depression! But that would have been news to me at the time. I thought that I just had a chemical imbalance.
With all of the laughing I have done going through your journal, your last entry made me circle sad faces on feelings charts. :( Well maybe I am just making sad faces on my response, but you get the point. I am hoping that you are no longer repulsed to be in your own skin, or feel the need to conform to someone else's expectations of you. That would be such a shame.
[QUOTE=newlifejourney;575903]With all of the laughing I have done going through your journal, your last entry made me circle sad faces on feelings charts. :( Well maybe I am just making sad faces on my response, but you get the point. I am hoping that you are no longer repulsed to be in your own skin, or feel the need to conform to someone else's expectations of you. That would be such a shame.[/QUOTE]
Thankfully, that was years ago! It was an awful feeling as a teenager to know that the person I was becoming would be such a disappointment to the people I most wanted to make proud. But, in time, I accepted that I was going to be their disappointment, and though it was hard, I had to let that go. I could not dedicate myself to a study and career that I loathed just to please Mother Panda; nothing that I tried changed my sexuality; I bowed out of the parental war because I never enlisted of my own free will. So I remain their disappointment, but I have a more honest and happy life for it.
I'll post something funny tomorrow so that you can return to circling happy faces on your feelings charts! :)
Smiling again :) I totally understand where you are coming from though. Being a teen isn't easy. No matter what we do, it seems like we are always disappointing someone in some way. I am not quite 19 yet, so still working through it myself.