Five Things Gastroparesis Taught Me
Gastroparesis is delayed gastric emptying of the stomach, and also known as stomach paralysis. It can be caused by a multitude of things, and often goes hand-in-hand with Dysautonomia and Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome. Common symptoms are nausea, vomiting, acid reflux, bloating, and weight loss.
I have been struggling with Gastroparesis for almost three years now, and over these years I’ve done several treatments without much luck. It has restricted my diet, played a large role in my anxiety, and ultimately caused me to drop out of college.
That being said, it has taught me a lot and given me an invaluable perspective on life.
Here are five things I’ve learned to be true in the struggle against Gastroparesis.
1. Salads are a luxury I cannot afford.
Gone are the days when I would go to the cafeteria at college, order myself a nice spinach salad, and slather it in ranch dressing. Early on in my struggle against gastroparesis, I learned that salads were a luxury I could not afford. Fiber is difficult to digest and is even harder for those with delayed gastric emptying. Uncooked fruits and vegetables are often too hard on the stomach and were some of the first things to go from my diet when I began to struggle with Gastroparesis.
That’s not to say I don’t eat fruits and vegetables; however, I do adjust how I eat them. Typically, cooked vegetables are okay on my good days, and blueberries in my pancakes are always welcome. Even on my bad days, I manage to eat potatoes, which leads me to my next point…
2. Potatoes are, quite possibly, everything.
I hated potatoes growing up. I have no idea why, but I was adamantly against eating them. Fast forward to last fall. At twenty pounds underweight, I needed to gain weight, and gain it fast. I rediscovered potatoes and have survived off of this miracle food from the ground.
Potatoes are easy on the stomach, they facilitate weight gain, and have helped me maintain the weight I’ve gained. On days when eating seems perilous, I know I can safely turn to potatoes.
If Gastroparesis has done nothing else for me, I know hundreds of potato recipes now.
3.Humans revolve around food.
Oh my goodness, I never realized how much culture revolves around food until I could no longer eat normally. Coming back from my first year of college, my symptoms were worsening and my diet was beginning to become more restricted. Of course, coming back from college meant I was getting together with high school friends who were also back in town.
Everyone wants to get breakfast, lunch, dinner, or coffee. It was fascinating to me because they would suggest places to eat out, and I would say (in my typical, midwestern fashion), “Ope, I definitely cannot eat anything there.”
There were many days where I did not want to go out and do things with friends because it involved eating food (or watching them eat).
Before Gastroparesis, I never noticed how many normal things involved eating. Going to church on Sundays was difficult; there have been days when communion was too much. Humans revolve around food, and it is strange how a lack of appetite made me feel so isolated from society.
But I have been in this struggle for three years, and I have since learned there are a few food places I can eat at with friends. It took time, patience, and a lot of trial and error, but I have favorite coffee shops and favorite breakfast spots to meet with wonderful friends now.
4. Stomach issues and anxiety are two peas in a pod.
I was diagnosed with anxiety first, though my gastrointestinal issues started at about the same time. Most of my doctors wanted to write off my symptoms as anxiety, and it’s only by the grace of God that I found a doctor who would diagnose me with Gastroparesis. Even since the diagnosis, it has been an uphill battle to get treatment, because I have had doctors who claim my anxiety diagnosis is enough.
It wasn’t until I started Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) that I was told of the connection between stomach disorders and anxiety. As it turns out, gut health is imperative to mental health. Some studies show the correlation between GI disorders and mental health disorders, yet I don’t think this is talked about enough. Those with GI issues are more likely to experience mental health struggles. The mental health can then heighten the gut issues, and it becomes a never-ending loop of nausea and stress.
5. An inability to be ‘normal’ does not mean you can’t do meaningful things with your life.
I dropped out of college last fall. Classes became too much, and college was heightening my anxiety. I lost thirty pounds and was at my lowest health-wise. Making the decision to drop out and live at home was one of the most difficult decisions I’ve ever had to make. But it doesn’t mean I stopped living my life.
Even though my life is not where I thought it would be, I am happy with where I am right now. It was following my issues with anxiety and gastroparesis that I began writing, and I ended up writing novels. My plan was always to become an author, but it took gastroparesis to give me that final push. I have started attended writer’s conferences, querying literary agents, and hope to one day become a published author.
Gastroparesis is an awful disorder. But it has taught me so much about life, about living, and about what is important to me. It can take food, it can take my weight, but it will never take my passion for writing.
For more from Libby, you can follow her journey on Instagram: @libbylouguru
and her Website: www.libbylou.guru