Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Anxious (AKA ALL OF MY PROBLEMS, LET ME TELL YOU THEM: Gastritis/GERD/acid reflux/heartburn/anxiety)

I have had stomach problems since June of 2009. After feeling like I had the flu or food poisoning for a week but not throwing up, I went to the doctor and he said it was probably gastritis, brought on by stress (I had like 15 units, including Anatomy, that semester, plus I was working two days a week) (not to mention grief. I lost my Grandma, my Grandpa, and my Boppa [and our family dog Rosie] in less than a year), and my doctor suggested taking Maalox. My mom had Prevacid 30 mg which he said was great, I could take that once a day.

So I did. For weeks. And it helped, it did, but my upset stomach never went away. I should have gone back to my doctor (I love him), but we, like so many other Americans, had lost our health insurance. I didn't want to go in case we were denied for our insurance (whenever we next applied) because I had a preexisting condition. So I put it off. Finally I went in to see my college's family practitioner. She said, since I was running out of the Prevacid, that I could take Prilosec OTC (omeprazole, a proton pump inhibitor) every 12 hours if needed.

And again, so I did. I started getting better! I could eat things again, I could do things again. I was happier.

AND THEN. Then, came the sausage McMuffin of DOOM. I ate a Mcmuffin. I don't even like sausage, so I took two bites of that then threw it away and finished the rest of the delicious, fatty goodness. For lunch I had a huuuuge deli sandwich, and for dinner I had another huuuge meal (I have portion issues. Always need more!) The next morning I was sick. I stayed sick for two weeks, a bad, don't-touch-me-don't-make-me-do-anything-not-going-to-study-go-away kind of upset stomach, and general blahness. And for the first time, I started to experience heartburn. And acid reflux, which for me is a kind of sweet/bitter taste in the back of my throat. I felt like I had some food stuck in the back of my throat but never did. I experienced the usual "burn" around my sternum. I had to take Tums and other antacids and Pepto Bismol often. (One night, after eating wor won ton soup, the only thing that had been sustaining me for days, I had such bad heartburn/reflux/stomach I thought I might throw up, and spent nearly two hours walking around and watching silly movies to distract myself. (Thank you again, Nick, for staying with me, even though I didn't want to talk or touch or do anything but Google different reflux medications [Aciphex, Protonix, Nexium] because it made me feel better to read about how people GOT BETTER. It is possible!) That night I took, if I remember correctly, three doses of Pepto Bismol, four generic antacids, and two rolaids, plus my usual nightly Prilosec.

I now have Googled so much about proton pump inhibitors and H2 blockers that I probably mutter about them in my sleep. I know procedures. I know prices. (HOLYSHITONTOAST Aciphex prescription for one month is $205. GAH).

It has now been about four weeks since the McMuffin of Doom. I have been gradually inching my way towards feelin better again. But I am still not "better". This is messing with my life. I have dropped 13 pounds, and I am still losing weight. I have a very restricted diet (and now more food cravings than I know what to do with, or are able to indulge). My stomach is still bad, I still get heartburn, and I still reflux. I am right now.

Here's what I have noticed plays a roll in when I feel sick:

First, obviously, if I eat anything spicy, fatty, caffinated, acidic, etc. etc. I actually have cut all that out of my diet so I can't swear if it affects me, but I am too scared right now to try anything that can potentially worsen my stomach.

Second, STRESS. My God. I have a microbiology test on Thursday (today is Tuesday) and I know I am stressed about it, but I can't do anything to stop it. Every single test I have had for chemistry or micro has led to acid reflux, heartburn, and then afterwards days of stomach problems (which lead to mild intestinal problems). If I worry about school, if I worry about work, if I sorry about overpopulation . . . it all affects my stomach. I'm sure if I exercised more it would help keep the stress down. (I used to be a third degree black belt in Tae Kwon Do and worked out 5 nights a week. Then I got a job working evening hours and stopped workin out. Now I can't punch and kick people when I need to!)

Third, anxiety. Ever since my grandparents passed away I have been terrified of my parents, or my brother, or my boyfriend, or myself dying. (Also pets, friends, etc.) (Also also, having chronic stomach problems are not a good way to convince yourself that you are. not. dying.) I know that it is useless to worry about, but I can't help it. Both of my grandparents--my Grandpa and my Boppa--were sick for a long time, and I knew it was coming. My Grandma--my grandma who taught me piano for 13 years, who lived just a half-mile away most of my life, who was incredibly wonderful--it was sudden. She developed ovarian cancer, and passed away about ten months later. Throughout my whole life, I never, ever, ever thought that my Grandma would not live to see me married and to meet her great-grandchildren. It wasn't until she had passed away that I realized she wouldn't, and it just broke my heart. The fact that my incredibly healthy Grandma could be gone in less than a year made me so scared that something could happen to my parents. However unready I was to lose her, I am absolutely not ready to face being without my parents. I have gotten better, a bit, but will still from time to time have a heart-clenching, trembling moment where it overwhelms me.

I think what frustrates me most is that I have made changes, and I still have these problems. And they are affecting my life. My grades are dropping. I don't make time to see my friends because I don't feel well, and would rather stay at home. I don't see Nick as often, which makes me sad. I'm afraid to plan a vacation, because what if I get sick? Better to stay home and hide under my covers.

So. Nick's persistence has finally paid off. (He probably should have just hit me over the head with a frypan to begin with. I am stubborn). He convinced me to go see a damn doctor, already. I've waffled back and forth for days, weeks, months! Because we still have no insurance, and what if the insurance people see it and deny us (hint: they did. Boooo on Kaiser!) and then I'll never get insurance and I'll have a black hole of medical bills, waaah.

I have a doctors appointment tomorrow, with my own doctor, and I am so, so excited for it. Hopefully this is the beginning (middle?) or the road to good health. (Knocks on wood. Have recently become veeeery superstitious, as it seems my damn stomach can sense happiness or optimism and likes to slam me down with the pain).

Wish me luck! (Also, dear God, this is a novel!)

No comments: