A Host of Ailments


I’m not a total hypochondriac. I’m just a small one. In my early 20s, I thought I was dying from something just about every other week. Now it’s more like every other month. So that’s an improvement.


All in all, I’m pretty healthy. I try to take care of myself as best I can. I exercise 5 days a week, I try to get 7-8 hours of sleep a night, I don’t drink too much, and I eat right…for the most part. Lately, I’ve been partaking in a lot of ice cream and sundaes. Recently, me and the rest of my small group girls were dubbed honorary pregnant ladies due to our willingness to indulge in the cravings of one of our members who is due with her second child next week. I’ll take that honor.


With all of these healthy activities going on (I’m just going to consider the ice cream as a positive mental health activity), I get incredibly frustrated when my body doesn’t cooperate and feeds into my hypochondria. The worst thing ever has been my ongoing battle with digestive issues. That probably started when I was in college. I went to see a GI because I was really gassy and bloated and generally very unladylike for several months. He examined me by touching my belly and looking down my throat and pronounced that I should eat fewer beans and raw green vegetables and take a fiber supplement. That worked for a while. Things started to get worse right around the time I turned 30. It seemed like I was on a constant cycle of constipation and diarrhea. The gas and bloating were back. I basically felt like crap all the time. I went back to the same doctor I had seen in college. He didn’t seem to think there was much to be worried about when I expressed my concern that I was rotting from the inside out from a tumor (or several tumors) that I imagined were reeking havoc on my guts, but he did do a test for Celiac for good measure. That came back negative. After several more months of discomfort and a horribly chronic case of heartburn that seemed to come out of nowhere, I decided to try a new doctor. This guy. Man. Worst bedside manner of anyone in life. The first time I saw him, he hardly looked at me and told me I just had IBS. He did, however, think it was a good idea to do a hydrogen breath test (which involves drinking a small cup of sugar water and breathing into a tube every 15 minutes over a 2-3 hour period), since a lot of his patients with IBS symptoms tended to test positive for something called SIBO (small intestine bacterial overgrowth…that’s a mouthful). I took the test and, sure enough, got a positive result. He put me on an intense course of antibiotics to get rid of the bacteria and a prescription acid reducer for the heartburn. A month later, I was feeling pretty awesome, with the exception of the raging yeast infection I got from the antibiotic. No worries, my gynecologist fixed that up right away.


My improved health lasted for about 6 months before all of my symptoms started coming back. The heartburn was the worst of all. When I went in to see the doctor again, he said he could give me another round of antibiotics but that I was probably going to have to deal with this for the rest of my life, which was okay because it wasn’t a terrible disease like Crohn’s. (Thank you, sir, for your support and sensitivity.) He told me to take Prilosec for 2 weeks to see if that helped the heartburn. I did and it helped, until I stopped taking it. At that point, he decided I should have an endoscopy to see what was going on in my stomach and esophagus. The results of that showed some mild gastritis (which is essentially an upset stomach) but nothing serious. He told me to continue to take Prilosec as needed for the heartburn and sent me on my way. I was so annoyed. Even though I wasn’t dying on the doctor’s table, I felt awful and decided I need to figure something out. I did some research about SIBO and heartburn prevention and found that a gluten-free diet was helpful for reducing symptoms in certain individuals. Aside from the occasional special treat (say, a bite or 2 of baguette in France or a dessert that Chris deems “worth it”), I have been gluten free ever since. This has made a huge difference. I still have issues from time to time, but it is nothing like what I was experiencing a few years ago. I also went off of Prilosec last summer, about the time I went off of the pill, and I’ve been doing very well. I can count on 1 hand the amount of times I’ve gotten heartburn since, which I’m essentially considering a miracle.


So, I think I need to take a breath. Because I’m not done.


The rest is not nearly as extensive but almost as annoying. My skin has been a disaster since coming off of the pill. My chest and back especially have been out of control with breakouts. I feel like a teenager again with all of the acne body washes and creams. At 34, I have no desire to relive my teenage insecurities (thank goodness I’ve come to love my small chest, or I’d really be in trouble right now). Even before stopping the pill, I had some crazy rash on my face that the dermatologist diagnosed as something unpronounceable that is in the same family as rosacea. Apparently, this skin condition has a tendency to pop up in your early 30s and can come back at any time, so lucky me. AND I went in to see the dermatologist a couple of weeks ago because I thought I had a similar rash in my arm pit. It wasn’t a rash. It was age spots. Awesome. Thanks.


I’ve also struggled A LOT with seasonal allergies. I remember having some sinus issues as a kid, but that worked itself out pretty early on. Around the time we moved to DC in 2008, the allergies started. I went to an allergist to see if I was reacting to anything in particular. I got the full treatment of allergen needle pricks. I didn’t really react to anything aside from dust (impossible to avoid), wheat (gluten-free diet, check), dogs, and chocolate. Cue the wide-eyed emoji, because, eff that, I’m not getting rid of my dogs or chocolate. (You might as well tell me not to breathe.) All of the reactions were relatively mild, so there wasn’t much they could do for me but suggest a nasal spray (which ended up giving me terrible headaches, so I stopped using it) and that I take Zyrtec daily. Zyrtec did help, and I took it until about the same time I stopped the Prilosec (both of which I stopped in preparation for getting pregnant). I was doing great and very happy that I didn’t have to take so many pills every day. Over the last week or so, with the change in weather, my allergies have been making a comeback. Yesterday was by far the worst. I had a sneezy, runny, and congested nose all day and was so tired that I was in bed with the lights off last night at 8:00. I’m really trying to fight the battle against taking medicine because everything is so inconclusive about how it can impact implantation and early conception. So I’m left with the difficult choice between relief and being miserable for a baby who doesn’t even exist. Decisions.


I haven’t mentioned my mouth guard! I don’t even grind my teeth. I clench. In fact, I clench so hard that I get headaches and dizziness if I don’t wear it. I’m currently on my second mouth guard because I destroyed the first one. Chris says it’s because I’m an angry sleeper. Based on the nature of my dreams, there’s probably something to that.


In sum, I’m a hot mess. I think I’ve sufficiently grieved all of my ailments for now and can effectively move on with my life.

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