For the past few years, on and off, I've been dealing with stomach problems. I wake up in the middle of the night with horrible pains in my stomach - sharp, acidic pains. And then I have to... go to the bathroom, for lack of a less gross term. I have to go to the bathroom A LOT. I have to live in the bathroom for a couple of hours at least.

My response has been to chug Pepto-Bismal and try to sleep off the pain and hope for the best. Every time I would think of calling the doctor, my pains would go away for a few months, only returning when I'd forgotten my plans to call the doctor.

Yesterday I had a doctor appointment for other reasons, but I had another little stomach event in the morning, so the appointment ended up being all about my stomach. I was asked where the pain is exactly, when it happens, whether I think it could be food- or stress-related.

And that's the thing right there - I think it's caused by stress, anxiety, worry. And I told the doctor so. I've looked at what I have eaten before these little stomach events, and I've found no pattern (and, frankly, if I'm lactose-intolerant or allergic to glutens, I'll be very upset). But I have noticed a higher occurrence of stomach events when I'm stressed out. When I'm not in my right mind.

And not too long ago I would have told you that I'm a pretty even-keeled person. But no. No. I am a stoic person, and there is a big, big difference.

I was a very anxious child. I was constantly worried, it seems, and the worry only abated when I went away to college. Before that, I was worried that I'd be left behind on car trips, so much so that I'd try to memorize the route we took so that I could reverse it and get home. I was afraid to buy things myself in a store, because what if the rules of society changed, and a gallon of milk was more than the $5 my mom had given me? Once I started driving, I was worried about pumping gas, about doing it wrong - or, if I was on the reservation, where the gas stations were full-service, I'd worry about embarrassing myself somehow in front of the attendant.
What if I got yelled at?

And the fact is that I DID get yelled at a lot while I was growing up, and not by strangers, but by my grandmother. From the ages of 9 to 16, I was constantly doing things wrong, wrong, wrong. Never mind my good grades and my quietness and my inability to say "boo." My nerves were constantly jangled. No wonder I was anxious.

College was a nice respite from any responsibility of any kind - it really was. I was hardly ever anxious, and while I had a lot of fun, I also started developing the stoicism that has become a sort of trademark (unless I'm pouring my heart out over the internet).

But after college came grad school, and even with a full scholarship and a stipend, I had a ton of money woes. And the money woes brought on full-out panic attacks. Full-time jobs didn't always alleviate the money woes, but instead added on woes of their own (oddly enough, the panic attacks subsided at this point).

And now here I am, surrounded by woes of one sort or another, anxious as hell and trying to act like I'm not. Of course it could affect my health! My doctor said that a lot of women seem to see their worries manifest as stomach problems.

So I'm getting tested to see if I have "bad bacteria" in my stomach or digestive track, or if I'm lactose-intolerant. I've got a prescription for Prevacid. If the tests come back negative, will it be anti-anxiety meds for me? Given my history of acting tough and gruff, the idea of calming down chemically is oddly soothing.



Popular Posts