Back to Eating Like When I Was Thirteen… Mostly

When I get so lost that I forget where I was going… I stop, take a few deep breaths, and then continue paddling forward. My gut and I have been approaching eating in this way since last October… But fresh focus and deep breathing has not resulted in the revelation of a dietary plan we can follow for good. The most recent attempt, which never materialized (thank goodness!), consisted of a designed diet that was to take into account all my health needs.

I spent a week or so reading about how this food molecule reacted with that other one; and how a different food was great for my stomach, but if I ate it too close in time to this other one, then the combination would turn the bacteria squatting in my intestines into The Hulk.

In a moment of pure frustration… right after my nutritionist and I realized that regardless of how we approached the situation, I would end up eating the same things over and over and over… I said, “You know, I had no stomach problems when I was a kid. Maybe I should just stuff my face with what I used to eat then, and see what happens.” To my relief—and if exhales are any indicators, to the relief of my nutritionist, too—he agreed with the spirit of my outburst (I might’ve been yelling when I made the proposal *cough*).

While growing up, the bulk of my diet was fruits and vegetables. Egg, fish, poultry and meat were used almost as condiments. I drank tea in the same way other children drank milk; I hated milk. And I would not touch rice or beans without the encouragement of bribery.

My days started with wormwood tea, chased with a cup of sweet ginger tea. The first was intended to treat intestinal parasites; the latter to keep me from going into dramatic shock, due to the disgustingly bitter taste of wormwood tea. Breakfast was a boiled green banana or plantain with a boiled egg. Sometimes we would go wild and have some cassava or white-fleshed sweet potato instead of banana or plantain… the egg was rarely substituted.

Lunch was rice, beans and some kind of meat or fish or vegetable in sauce. Whenever I got my way, I would eat a fried or charcoal-baked green banana. Dinner and breakfast looked very similar, but the egg was fried or substituted by something like salami. I didn’t like the smell of salami, so I just ate my banana. On cool days, we had hot chocolate and bread, or something like it. No milk in my hot chocolate… unless someone wanted to see me gag.

So… I can’t really replicate what I ate when I was younger and wilder… and with a less ridiculous digestive system—I mean, we grew or raised most of what we ate—but I can eliminate processed foods (and things like dairy and too much meat) almost completely.

And if this doesn’t work either, then I shall crack my fingers, bare my teeth, rub my tummy, and come up with something else… How do you get over life’s hurdles, my Wicked Luvs?

Baked Shrimp and Veggies with Ginger, Dill and Orange Juice
(last night’s dinner)
Baked Shrimp and Veggies with Ginger, Dill and Orange Juice

– 13 shelled shrimps (defrost and pat dry)
– ½ cup baby red potatoes (sliced)
– ½ cup carrots (sliced and then cut into half inch chunks)
– 1 medium orange (juiced without pulp… about 2 oz.)
– 2 oz. ginger (cut in strips)
– 1 tsp. dried dill
– ¼ tsp. of olive oil
– Salt to taste (I use less than ¼ of a tsp.)

• Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F
• In a sauté pan, heat the olive oil
• Add shrimp, ginger and dill, and sauté over high heat (stirring frequently) until there is no visible moisture left in the pan
• Add potatoes, carrots and salt; stir for a few seconds;
• Add orange juice and remove from heat
• Pour the contents of the sauté pan in a small baking pan, cover with aluminum foil, and bake for 21 minutes
• Remove foil, and bake uncovered for 13 more minutes

* makes about two cups

A Healthy Dump Might Un-Pinch Your Face

“There are just some things you aren’t supposed to talk about,” Zoe said. “Rude topics that make people feel uncomfortable, you know? No one cares about what happens when someone else goes to the bathroom.”

“No shit,” Myrtle’s best friend said to his fingernails, before assuming a serious expression and refocusing on Zoe.

Myrtle burst into laughter. Then she had to take a few quick breaths to settle down. Her stomach harbored a time bomb that could turn Roman’s hilarity into dangerous business.

Zoe glared at Myrtle. “See? That’s what I’m talking about. You and Roman are incapable of having a conversation without bodily functions in it. People don’t like that. They just don’t. Your behavior comes with consequences. Have you thought about how I feel when someone who knows we’re friends laughs at you? It hurts me, Myrtle. It does.”

Roman must’ve felt the heat rising in Myrtle’s temper, because he took a few steps forward and stood between his best friend and Zoe.

“Don’t be ridiculous,” Zoe said to Roman, when he suggested that she should leave. “Myrtle hasn’t completely lost her mind. I’m sure an upset stomach doesn’t make anyone crazy.”

“It’s okay, Roman.” Myrtle’s voice came out soft and cool, and she was grateful for that. “Zoe’s right.” She nudged him aside, until she was able to get face to face with the other girl.

Zoe smiled. “I knew you had sense, Myrtle. I knew you would see things the way—”

“Shut up.” Myrtle’s words spread, red and tight, over Zoe’s face. “Stop saying my name. Stop jabbering about things you don’t understand. Stop telling me to be ashamed.”

“I didn’t say that. I just meant that there are other ways.” Zoe crossed her arms. “You used to be normal, Myrtle. And now, now you are always trying to get attention in the wrong way. Other people have stomach troubles. I’m sure yours aren’t…”

Myrtle grinned, showing her teeth until the other girl lost the end of her sentence. Zoe was an insensitive piece of human garbage, but she was neither stupid nor blind. “Walk away.” Her hands were trembling, yearning for the sharp song of a slap.

“You’re crazy,” Zoe said, backing away.

The slap-craving hand grabbed the front of Zoe’s t-shirt. “Not crazy,” Myrtle said. “I’m suffocating in the little box of your expectations. I can’t go another day pretending that being human, that being sick, that being me is a disgusting secret I must keep from your sensibilities. If me being me makes you feel uncomfortable, then you walk away.” Letting go of Zoe’s t-shirt, Myrtle added, “By the way, a healthy dump might un-pinch your face. It always leaves me feeling a deep sense of cleansing.”

Roman began to laugh. Myrtle joined him with a series of controlled giggles.

for she who came bearing a giant pine cone and a twisted stick…

Process Note: Last year, while I was trying to learn about Crohn’s disease and other inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD), I came across a blog written by a young woman who lived with a severe form of IBD. I can’t remember the exact name of the blog, but the title included “Poo”. All her entries were about the adventures of a person with a very limited diet, and who had to use the bathroom dozens of times a day. She filled her posts with hilarities… even the sad ones.

A reader, who called herself “Just a Friend”, left a comment suggesting that what the blogger shared was shaming family and friends; that although Just a Friend “felt sorry” for the blogger, the latter had no right to do what she was doing. I read the words over and over, asking myself, Is this self-centered heap of dung serious?

Living with acute stomach and intestinal issues is a fulltime job. In fact, going through life with any illness that reshapes one’s entire lifestyle is hard, hard, hard and harder. Humor helps the brain deal with the terrible things it cannot control… Empathy can be soothing… Pity rots… Acknowledging that illness as a natural thing that happens to people keeps everyone’s guts from getting ripped out.

IBS Art CompetitionI found this powerful image here, but believe it might be part of an exposition titled “Experience of Illness”. I have not been able to find the artist. If the piece belongs to you, please let me know and I’ll give you credit (or remove it, if that’s your desire).