No one likes a traffic jam. It doesn’t matter if you have Gastroparesis or are the perfect picture of health, you hate seeing a sea of break lights in front of you. People from all perspectives of health have experienced road rage and/or wanting to climb out of your skin because you simply cannot spend any more time in your car.
However, I have noticed that as my Gastroparesis flairs have become more common sitting in traffic seems to exacerbate my symptoms. What may start out as mild stomach cramping will become more and more severe with each push of the break pedal. Dizziness will start and I will begin to spin. Nausea will become practically vomiting. You feel that with each inch that you crawl that more and more energy is depleted. It is as if with each inch that you crawl that your body thinks it has just ran a mile at record speed. I was a long distance runner in my younger years and still attempt 5Ks and I can honestly say that sitting in traffic now feels like my body has gone through the equivalent to running a race. It is a very bizarre phenomenon and I can assure you that it is in a different world than what it “normally” feels like to sit in traffic.
There have been several times that I have almost vomited while sitting in traffic. There was one time that I actually did. I could tell that it was coming and that there wasn’t going to be any way to stop it. I proceeded to do what any GPer would do. I calmly removed the contents of my reusable lunch bag onto the passenger side floor, opened up the bag, and proceeded to vomit into it. I then zipped the bag shut, sat it on the passenger side floor, and waved to the busload of people in the lane next to me.
If you search hard enough, you can find a silver lining in just about anything. My silver lining in this situation was that with Gastroparesis you become so used to vomiting that you have an excellent radar for when it is coming, how much, how long, etc. You also have excellent aim. So I may have lost a reusable lunch bag, but at least I didn’t waste any energy cleaning the upholstery of my car!
For anyone with Gastroparesis, there comes a time during a flair when you just need to get out of the house and find some semblance of normalcy. It doesn’t matter that you have severe nausea, or that you are being stabbed in the gut, or that you don’t have enough energy to shower or wash your hair. You just need to get out of the house before you get too far into the depression (more on this in future blogs.) This led me to make the decision to go to work yesterday in spite of severe nausea and the day starting out with several hours imitating the photo below.
Now most people would never think of going to work after spending the better part of their morning not in the shower but on the floor beside it. For someone with Gastroparesis, we go to work feeling nauseous 90% of the time. That is a conservative estimate. We’re also not talking about some mild nausea that dissipates rather quickly. We are talking about nausea that is with you all day. The type of nausea that you know inevitably leads to vomiting. (And for a GPer, usually when the vomiting starts it takes a long time to stop.)
However, yesterday I just wanted out of the house. I wanted to try to reclaim part of my life. I wanted to try to act like I was normal. I wanted to act like I hadn’t spent the majority of my morning on the bathroom floor. So I did what most of us GPers do, I went to work and vomited a few times at work. Fortunately for me, it was only a tiny bit that I could swallow back down which meant no one would know. You would be surprised at how often this happens. I have learned to become okay with it and accept it. My rationale for this is the following: mother birds chew food and regurgitate it into their babies mouths, so at least I am swallowing my own vomit and not that of a mother bird! Yes, this rationale is a leap, but there comes a point in time when you just need to find something to make yourself feel better about the realities of your life and the fact that this nausea doesn’t go away. Not even with prescription anti-nausea medication.
So yesterday I managed to make it through my work day and back home to the safety of my bathroom floor where I closed out the morning just as I had started it, vomiting for a few hours.
If you know someone with Gastroparesis, keep in mind that their morning isn’t spent in the bathroom showering, blowing drying their hair, putting on make-up, planning out the events of their day, what to have for lunch, etc. It is usually spent vomiting, determining what is the bare minimum of energy that can be expended and still look presentable, figuring out how you are going to pretend not to be nauseous for the day, determining where is the bathroom least likely to have someone hear you vomit in, how long it takes to get to that bathroom with a brisk walk, and who to avoid all day because you flat out look like crap and are embarrassed to have anyone see you as such.