It was 2015, and my friend and I had just finished dinner at Chili’s, complete with one of those big, iridescent blue fishbowl-looking drinks. My belly was tight. My pants were tight. I looked like I would deliver a baby at any moment. It wasn’t the first time I had this feeling. It had been surfacing more and more, but only when I ate at restaurants like Chili’s.
Unlike previous years, I didn’t ignore this sign. I scheduled an appointment with Borland Groover to see what was going on. The gastroenterologist talked to me for a few minutes.
“Those chain restaurants use a lot of sugar and salt,” she said. “What you’re experiencing is common. I want to draw some blood just to be sure.”
The bloodwork came back normal. I stopped eating (and drinking) at chain restaurants. Crisis diverted.
Fast forward to 2021. Panamá City wasn’t as exciting as Costa Rica, and there was nothing left for Dwight and me to do, but eat, which was fine because I love food. I. ate. everything: pour-over coffee, ice cream, pizza, ropa vieja, fresh bass, ceviche and more ceviche. Y’all. The store up the street gave me their WhatsApp so I would know when the empanadas would be ready. I was out of control. But I didn’t know it until I was damn-near immobile on the couch with a seven-month-pregnant-looking belly.
A friend of mine had to tell me what I had was called “indigestion.” I’m not joking. I had no idea this was a symptom. I thought I’d never had it before, because even though I’d gone to the gastroenterologist in 2015, she never said that word.
(Again) I stopped eating out and drinking as much and I spent the last two weeks in Panamá walking three miles a day and biking. Crisis diverted, again.
Ever since 2017, I had a cough that would come and go. My primary doc did a chest scan. Even though it came back clear, she couldn’t tell me what was wrong, and kind of like the poop thing, it was intermittent, so I ignored it. I figured it was no big deal. But in 2021, after indulging in Panamá’s cuisine and having indigestion, my cough returned. This time, with mucus.
I guess the point of this elaborate series is to encourage those of you who are like me, those of you who see and feel what’s going on with your body but ignore it because it’s not that bad or because it doesn’t happen that often. Kind of like intuition, you always know what’s going on, especially if it’s physical because there’s literally a sign. You probably don’t need a doctor to tell you something’s wrong, but you do need a professional to provide a diagnosis and possible treatment.
Also, I know each of these events may seem unrelated, but in my gut (pun intended), I know they are interconnected. For example, after spending months listening to my body, I’ve learned that stress explicitly affects me. It begins in my belly like a message, and when I ignore it, it worsens.
Tomorrow, I’ll share what’s worked to mitigate these reactions.