Sick and Tired
Does this sound familiar?
I had cramps and gas. I had no energy. I felt sick and tired of being sick and tired.
Fear, Social Isolation and Depression
I did not dare to be far from a bathroom. I do not feel comfortable going to a movie or for a long walk. I am afraid to tell my friends or they will not want to be with me. I was afraid to do normal social activities that I used to love.
Everyday, I sweated my commute for fear that I might get stuck in traffic and have to go poop. I need to be able to do my work. I am afraid of an accident in the office.
My bloody diarrhea and cramps was scaring me. My doctor said I might need surgery. Will I need one of those bags? My doctor thought he was reassuring me when he said that my situation was not my fault. He said that ulcerative colitis is inherited and chronic. I felt stuck. I felt lost and depressed.
Well, who wouldn't feel depressed with this situation. Digestive diseases may not be the most dangerous ailment in the life threatening category, but they are among the worst in the category of social isolation and loss of quality of life. Eating is an integral part of many social events so digestive problems are almost impossible to hide.
Our "Second Brain" is in Our Gut
There is a large mass of neurons, a kind of second brain in our digestive tract and guess what? 90% of the body's serotonin (our "feel good" chemical) is produced in our gut. You are not making serotonin if your gut is unhappy.
On the SCD diet, you are not stuck, not helpless, not powerless. You can stop living in fear, dread and pain. Yes, it takes some work, especially at first but SCD will enable you. The SCD Diet can give you your life back.
Wendy writes - When I got ulcerative colitis, I had been having to wake up just about every hour with gas and frantically stumble to the bathroom. I had to keep a flashlight next to my pillow. I was exhausted from constantly getting up and then, after getting back into bed, trying to drift back to sleep only to have to dash to the bathroom again - false alarm sometimes - sometimes not - but always my sleep was destroyed. I pledged that I would give anything for a decent night's sleep. My night adventures made me too tired in the daytime to think of doing anything about it.
Fortunately, I stumbled across Breaking the Vicious Cycle on the internet. I was so desperate that I felt that I did not have anything to lose by trying it. I started the SCD Diet and the symptoms immediately diminished. Finally, I could get some decent blocks of sleep. First 2 hours at a time, then three, then four. I was so grateful that I thought that this alone would make me happy. I had "dodged a bullet," saved from a life sentence of feeling chained to the bathroom. With SCD, I felt a euphoria and a sense of empowerment.
Feeling Stuck in the Kitchen
I am a person for whom cooking is a not hobby. Cooking to me has always been a chore. I cook because my family and I need to eat. After the euphoria of the early days, I was eating only a few basic foods and I began to get bored with what I was limited to eating. I became grumpy and irritable about the work involved in converting the kitchen - purging it of foods that were not permitted on the diet, reading all that darn fine print on the labels, discovering that most of the supermarket was a danger zone as were most restaurants.
On retrospect, this feeling might have actually been a function of the fact that I was actually feeling better. I had enough energy to get mad. I had grown used to the convenience of using some prepared foods and eating out. The thought of having to do all that cooking forever annoyed me.
All my life I had fought for women to have opportunities for activities outside of the kitchen and now I felt that I was going backwards into the kitchen, a feminist trapped in the early 1950's. Then I read that Elaine had counseled those who complained about all the cooking, "Better in the kitchen than in the bathroom." She definitely had a point there, I thought.
A Sense of Loss - A Need to Grieve
As with any chronic illness, there is a sense of loss. There are true losses when one has digestive ailments. For a while, I grieved and mourned and felt sorry for myself that I could no longer go with enthusiasm to an "all you can eat buffet." That situation no longer represented a fun opportunity but the danger of getting sick. Now it is not a fun exploration but a search and a struggle to find something to eat at a buffet that would not make me sick.
I loved many different types of ethnic restaurants and those were now basically off limits or very limited. I could no longer travel with enthusiasm, as I had in the past, to distant countries where I did not speak the language to try strange and different foods. That part of my life was gone forever. I had to understand in detail what I was eating.
I felt sorry for myself that every party, every day trip, every vacation, every meal away from home was going to be a big fuss. I could not just "fit in." No more take-out food. I also was very, very fond of chocolate. Two weeks into the diet, I tried just a tiny piece and was up all night again. Chocolate no longer looks good to me.
Feeling Alienated and Different
I felt alienated from the world, a weird person who eats bananas instead of bread. I can no longer just go for a quick lunch with the girls at the fast food places. There is nothing I could eat at a typical Superbowl party. I felt like a freak, an outcast. Every meal outside of my kitchen seemed like an expedition. A psychologist told me that my feelings are legitimate feelings of loss and should be recognized. I needed to find ways to express my frustration and anger. I definitely recommend long walks, active sports and batting cages. See The SCD Athlete.
For months I felt tired and hungry all the time and initially I was losing a lot of weight. Fortunately, I discovered the BTVC-SCD Yahoo group (http://health.groups.yahoo.com/group/BTVC-SCD) and learned about Flare Ups and the fact that when thirty feet of my insides were converting, the digestive system needed a lot of energy. They moderators said all of this would pass and eventually, it did.
Finally, my food list was big enough so that I could make some combinations of foods and use some sauces. The first taste of tomato sauce made me feel a lot better.
Frustration and Betrayal from Lack of Support from Family and Friends
I was very lucky in that my family supported me. They were just happy that I was not miserable. I know from others that it is very hard when your spouse or parents do not understand or even try purposely or unwittingly to undermine you. "I just put in a little." Sometimes you learn this after you have eaten their food. Now the gathering is spoiled for you because you are preoccupied with worrying about the possible consequences. You feel frustration and anger and betrayed betrayed by that person whom you trusted.
I try to focus on the social aspect of any food gathering. I always carry my own tea bags in a small baggie in my purse after the following episode. One afternoon I went to a friend's house for tea. I asked if she had green tea and she said she did. But then I noticed that it had vanilla. I did not know if it was the kind of vanilla I was allowed on SCD, so I said, "How about just some plain old tea?' She had some "plain old tea" but then I did not feel comfortable with that tea until I had examined the ingredients on the box. It was awkward. I felt embarrassed making her feel that I had to check up on her, but I know that being fussy was important for my healing. Now I avoid the problem completely. By having my own teabags, I can focus on our friendship and our meeting.
The ignorance of professionals can play a role in our frustration and isolation. Several days before going to a sophisticated area restaurant where we had reservations for a family gathering, I inquired about what they put in their butternut squash. The proprietor assured me that they never use sugar! My heart soared. Then he added, "Only pure maple syrup." My heart sank to my knees. I was relieved to know about the problem before hand but I was upset at his lack of understanding about what was in his food. I negotiated that a serving of butternut squash be set aside for me with absolutely nothing in it.
The Exhilaration of Feeling Well Again
After about eight months, I suddenly felt full of real energy that lasted throughout the day. Today, a year and a half later, I feel the best that I have ever felt in my life. I feel on top of things. My spirits are great.
Impatience and Frustration at Pace of Progress
My food on the SCDiet is still very limited. I can still tolerate only a part of what is allowed on the SCDiet. Others on SCD are having fruit, fruit juice,raw salads and coconut flour, but not I.
But I feel so great! My medical and dental check-ups are all good. The dentist said my gums are the best they have ever been. Everything has improved. Now I have put back some of the pounds (and a few more).
Adapting Old Habits to New Ones
Dr. Daniel Amen writes in his many best selling books on the brain that the brain does not know if something is good or bad for you. It only remembers that it liked something and would like it again. For my afternoon snack, I am now as hooked on nuts and honey the way I was hooked on chocolate. Others live for the smoothies.
This diet takes perseverance and faith. Sometimes there are flare-ups and you go two steps forward and one step back. You may feel frustrated and upset. That is normal. Punch a bag - meditate- but do not quit! Your set backs are just a another stage of your healing. The diet is working sometimes when we do not realize it. See Flare Ups.
I have never felt happier. I have figured out how to cope. Eating is not the only way to socialize with my friends. If we are out for a walk, for lunch, I suggest that they gather at my house. They may bring in from a take-out place and I have my own food. It is less noisy at my house and we are not stuck with the crowds at lunch.
I have learned to structure my life so it works well with SCD. I am confident. I can do anything that I want to as long as I have control over my food situation. You can too. Thousands have. You will feel so great, you will eventually stop caring about the foods you cannot eat.
If you see me on the street, just wave. I am the one carrying the banana.
If you want to learn more about the food/mood connection, a book that has been recommended on the BTVC-SCD Yahoo group about the mood and food connection is The Mood Cure by Julia Ross.
Another recommended book by the BTVC-SCD group is The Gut and Psychology Syndrome by Dr. Natasha Campbell McBride.