My struggles with my gut are well documented here. Thoughts of suicide, overcoming my irrational fear of discussing the performance of my body with anyone in case it turns out that the fact that I have diarrhea would make me a social outcast and laughingstock, the endless research and struggle to figure out WHAT is causing it this time.
Last weekend, I planned to have two lovely people over for margaritas on Saturday. Thursday, I felt unwell. Really, I’ve been feeling a specific sort of unwell for awhile, but it would generally come and go. Belly pain, transient nausea, diarrhea even though I’d entirely given up sulfites. But it would usually get better. By Thursday night, my belly hurt all over, like any minute an alien would burst out and frankly, I’d be so happy to have it out that I’d name it, get it baptized and put it in my will. So, Thursday after dinner, I decided I should *not* take Imodium, hydrate like mad, and fast for a day.
I found that to be very mature thinking. No rush to fix it, no panicked taking of medication that would make it worse, just be sensible and wait it out. “Meditation is really working for me” I congratulated myself, glancing at the medicine cabinet with scorn. I got up Friday and my gut chose to evacuate all contents. “Okay,” I thought, “we are on our way to feeling better.” I drank lots of water. I also started that day with an email from the producer of a film I am working on (the director is an asshole and it is a whole other post to discuss) saying that they were going to shoot a scene in less than a week so guess who needed to costume an actor pronto? So, with my stomach an agonized, angry pressure drum, I got my ass out there. One estate sale, four thrift stores and three hours later, I didn’t feel any better, but I had found some things to use.
The pain never let up all day Friday. I didn’t even feel hungry. Saturday rolled around and I was up several times to the bathroom between 1:00 am and 10:00 am. I decided that this was FAR MORE than any normal situation. My entire belly hurt. Under my ribs, around my belly button, up high, down low, red fish, blue fish, here we go. I finally gave in and cancelled our margarita party and went to Urgent Care, which activated my medical PTSD. I was convinced they would blow me off, or determine it was gas, or something equally embarrassing. My blood pressure was 150/100 something and when I explained that I have “white coat syndrome” the nurse said, “Oh, well, we don’t bite” and later the doctor said “Well, I don’t wear a white coat” and I do hope there is a special place in hell for them. NOT. HELPFUL.
I told them all I knew. I mentioned that gallstones run in my family. I peed in a cup and they did an X-ray. The doctor said that he didn’t think it was gallstones due to location of pain and, “You’d be vomiting.” They declared it a virus and I went home feeling stupid. They gave me something for the nausea I didn’t have and the gut spasms I also didn’t have. Between Sunday and Thursday, the pain settled in to my upper right just under my ribs and hurt all the time (do you see where we are going yet? yes?). I followed up with my doctor on Friday. I told him the story. He looked at me.
“That sounds to me like gallbladder,” he said. “That’s what I told Urgent Care,” I said. “Wow.” He said, “You’ll be pissed if turns out that’s been the problem all along, huh?” Me: (unable at that moment to process this statement),”Uh. I won’t be mad?”
So he scheduled an ultrasound and I went home, and did more research. I’ll be goddamned if I don’t have every single fucking symptom.
Now I am torn between being really pissed at the Urgent Care doc who could’ve solved this mystery last week, being hopeful that maybe we have found the reason I have had this ongoing issue for so long, being negative and assuming it isn’t what I think it is because the world hates me and being upset that if it IS gallstones, it’s not like they’ll just immediately fix it. No. There will be more tests. I’ll go along trying to eat as little as possible and worrying about Suprise! Diarrhea! (C) because my body isn’t processing fat very well while the system slowly bleeds me of cash and then even more slowly sets about solving my problem. Maybe.
Takeaway? If you are a medical care provider and don’t have anything helpful to say, don’t say anything. I’m not 5, so I know it’s not LITERALLY “White Coat Syndrome”. Also: tell everyone you see every goddamned detail about your diarrhea. Tell them what color, what you ate, when it happens. They will generally NOT ask you, because they came up in a system of shaming patients instead of helping them. But tell them anyway. At least then when they fuck up, you can be smarmy and say, “See, here? In the notes? Here’s where I told you what you needed to know to make the right diagnosis.” There’s nothing better than being self-righteous while you’re in the bathroom.