A near death experience can change a person’s life. Mine was no different.
The weeks leading up to our wedding were hard for me, to say the least. I wasn’t nervous about the act of tying the knot, that wasn’t it. In fact, I’d never been so sure of a decision in my life. I was pumped to get married to John, my soul mate, supporter, and biggest fan. I honestly don’t know what it was, but the closer the wedding got, the sicker I was feeling. I was stuck in a painful, vicious cycle. I was stressed, of course, as every bride is before their big day, but with each passing day, my physical pain increased, aggravating the anxiety. It got to the point that I was experience Gastro paresis, where the digestive tract literally shuts down. My mouth wasn’t producing saliva, I was not digesting my food or passing bowels, and at times, I was even throwing up food that looked exactly the way I’d swallowed it, whether it was minutes or hours after I’d swallowed. I just kept telling myself, “Everything will be ok after the wedding, you can do this.”
The wedding day came and it was all I could have hoped and dreamed. Truly a wedding that every little girl has fantasies about. It was the perfect day, with ideal weather, in my dream venue, with all of our friends and family around showering John and I with love. It was one of the most spectacular days of my life.
But the day after the wedding I felt no better, and I shrugged it off as a fluke. I was determined to not let whatever was happening inside my body get me down. I had no idea what it was, but I started looking into my symptoms again, with doctors, naturopaths, and even psychic healers.
Those of you out there that are sick with undiagnosed pain understand what it’s like. To spend countless hours at the doctors, experience dozens of different tests, and be poked by what seems like an endless stream of needles. I was getting so much blood drawn that I was pretty much walking around with a Band-Aid on my arm at all times. Often, they’d have to remove it just to take more samples.
The most frustrating thing when you are a “sick person” is to be sick with no answers to the issues. You explain the pain to doctors and nurses alike who stare blankly, not really grasping what you’re experiencing. On two separate days, John and I found ourselves in the emergency room, begging for answers, to which we received none. On both occasions, we left after several hours with no additional information, and prescriptions for anti-nausea medicine that didn’t work.
It got to a point in mid-July where I could barely keep any food down, and a friend from Tucson suggested I travel to see her psychic healer. Having barely gotten out of bed in over a week, I knew the travel would be too much, so I told her that although I’d love to see the healer, I wouldn’t be able to make the trip to Arizona. My dear friend Dara, who I met through this very blog, took it upon herself to drive the psychic healer all the way to San Diego to see me, despite the fact that she is very sick herself. They arrived on a Thursday morning, and spent six hours with me.
The healer changed my life, she was unlike any doctor I’d seen, yet full of power and astounding wisdom. When she placed her hands on me, focusing on what was going on inside my body, she pointed to the three specific spots in my stomach that were aching, “Is the pain right here and here, with the most pain right here?” I nodded as tears streamed down my face. Life and western medicine has taught me to be skeptical of things like this, but how did she know so quickly where the pain was residing? She went on to explain that there were two blockages and a very swollen spleen, all issues that doctors had failed to notice in my numerous visits in the prior weeks. She was able to clean out my spleen (I noticed that a lump I’d had in my abdomen was immediately gone), and move the blockages, which I could physically feel inside my body as she performed her treatment. It was insane, with just this woman’s energy, her knowledge of eastern medicine, and years of experience; I began to feel immediately better. I truly believe she saved my life.
Her and Dara were in San Diego for less than 24 hours, but I was beyond grateful for their visit. At the very least, I had stopped vomiting, and was able to keep down food for the first time in over a week. However, the issues weren’t resolved, and although I was now able to eat, I still didn’t know the root cause of the discomfort.
I did an extensive stool panel and another SIBO breath test just days after seeing the healer. In addition to these tests, I was seeing an endocrinologist, my primary care physician, and a therapist. They ran test after test and I patiently waited for answers.
Just last week, I received a call from my naturopath that they had found the cause of the issues I’d been having. My SIBO and Candida were back, and worse than ever. Although no one knows the root cause of either of these ailments, I was back to square one and now knew what I needed to do. If I’ve learned anything in my last month of therapy, it’s to let my body feel the emotion, instead of holding it in, so I spent last Friday night weeping about how shitty life can sometimes be. I cried about the prospect of another 4-6 months of treatment, I cried about the fact that I’m insecure about how skinny I look, and I cried because of the pain. Sometimes life just sucks, and I let myself feel it all night.
Saturday morning I woke up with new resolve, and the determination to beat both SIBO and Candida for a second time. I figured, if I’ve done it once, I can certainly do it again, right?
Since then, I am once again finding myself buying hundreds of dollars worth of supplements, breaking out the pill containers I’d stored in the back of the cabinet, and preparing myself for several months of being “sick”.
One of the most difficult aspects of my sickness is that most people simply don’t understand. I find that having gut issues or unknown illness or just pain in general is very hard for people to understand. Don’t get me wrong, I am not holding it against anyone, by any means. It’s just that, when a friend tells you they have something familiar like cancer, they are given hugs and friends will weep with them about this awful diagnosis. When I tell people what I have, I get a baffled, sympathetic look and an “I hope you feel better soon.”
My gut issues have connected me with dozens of men and women all over the country who reach out to me for support and answers. Although I rarely have answers, I do have support. Great pain at such an early age has shown me how to truly be empathetic with others who are also experiencing great pain. That pain doesn’t necessarily have to be physical, but it can also be emotional. One of the hardest aspects of my gut issues is how isolating it can be. Oftentimes, I feel utterly alone. I can’t eat out with friends, I can’t go out and have a casual drink, sometimes I can barely get out of bed to go to the bathroom. That kind of pain is only understood by someone who has also been in pain, and I am so thankful to have experienced it this early in my life, so I can support others going through their own.
This time around, though, I’m finding it really hard to be confident within my own skin. I’m starting this round of treatment at a lower weight than I have been in the two years I’ve been working on this. I weigh about as much as I did in high school right now. I get comments from strangers I don’t even know, and lots of sideways glances. Nearly every time I’ve seen my primary care physician, I am talked to about eating disorders, and they even suggested a psychological evaluation (which I did, it wasn’t fun). Being sick is hard, and being skinny is sometimes even harder.
To all my friends and family, those that support and love me, I know how skinny I am right now. Believe me, this is no eating disorder, I struggle every. single. day. to eat my food. Sometimes every bite brings me pain, but I am determined, and feed myself bite after bite of food that doesn’t taste good in my mouth. There is nothing more difficult than feeding yourself one bite after another that not only tastes unsatisfying, but oftentimes brings me discomfort. When I’ve finally finished a meal, in addition to feeling accomplished, I feel weak and tired as my body struggles to digest.
You don’t have to tell me how skinny I currently look, I know for myself that this is not the weight I want to be. I stand in front of the mirror sometimes tracing the outline of my own bones, with tears streaming down my face. I’ve been trying to love myself for who I am, and right now I’m sick. I’m learning how to love sick Melissa just as much as I love spunky, healthy Melissa.
The other day I texted one of my friends about how discouraged I was about my weight, because I’m embarrassed when people I don’t even know make comments. She said to imagine myself in a protected energy bubble and to tell myself “I only let love in and shield myself from other people’s projections of themselves.”
I know that those of you that love me are only worried, but please understand that I am too. Instead of commenting on my weight, give me a hug and a word of encouragement. Sometimes the best therapy is a loving embrace and a shoulder to cry on. It’s accepting the fact that sometimes life is shitty, and we don’t know why certain things happen. There is no need to feel sorry for me, no need to feel awkward or uptight around me. There is also no need to feel like you have to give me an answer as to why I’m experiencing this. It is what it is, and if I can accept that, I’d love if you could to.
Lately, when I’ve been looking at myself in the mirror, I feel empowered and full of strength. I’ve begun to realize that my frail, skinny body is simply the house for my strong and willful spirit. The bones that I can see and outline with my fingertips aren’t a cause for tears, they are a cause for celebration. These are my battle wounds, clear indication of a sickness that’s plagued me, but that I plan to beat. I feel amazed that this little shell that houses my gusto has made it this far, and I know it will carry me through the next few months to health. I need all of you to believe the same thing.
Life will sometimes hand you lemons, I’ve certainly learned that firsthand, but it’s what we make with those lemons that matters. If my pain has taught me anything, it’s to support those also in pain. If my insecurities have taught me anything, it’s to appreciate and love everyone for who they are, regardless of how they look. If my experiences have taught me anything, it’s that life goes on, whether we’re ready for it to or not, and we may as well hold on for the ride.
Although Candida and SIBO have been a proverbial thorn in my side for the last two years, I’m grateful for the personal growth they have given me. When I beat these buggers for a second time, I will truly feel unstoppable, and for that I am thankful.
Thank you for all of your support. Life is good.