Disclaimer: When I use the term regular or normal when speaking about people, in the context of my blog pertaining to health at least, I am referring to people who are generally healthy and do not suffer from chronic illness, pain or any medical conditions. I am well aware that there are many perfectly healthy people who have other problems unrelated to health,but whose problems are equally as hard. I try to never minimize a person’s life or compare them to me, nor do I assume people who do not have my specific problems are perfect or lucky. No one is perfect, whether in health or other. We all have problems that we battle, and we must be kind to each other. I only say regular or normal for lack of a better term to describe those who are in good health. It is not in judgement or disdain, and I hope my dear readers understand this. Now, on with the show.
I have experienced some fairly strange illnesses throughout my life. Nowadays, I normally assume that whenever I am ill, it is definitely some weird Celiac thing, or a problem with my immune system, bones, nerves, or any other part of my body that has enjoyed making me a little more miserable. It doesn’t always occur to me that despite all the weird things my body has done, I still get regular colds, or stomach aches not due to my disease, but due to the fact that I love food a little too much and will gladly attempt to eat my weight in M&Ms, and those are things that even regular people go through.
One of the weirder conditions I have is called Gilbert’s syndrome. I would explain it, but this does a much better job. Mayoclinc.org states:
Gilbert’s syndrome is a common, mild liver condition in which the liver doesn’t properly process a substance called bilirubin. Bilirubin is produced by the breakdown of red blood cells. Gilbert’s syndrome typically is harmless and doesn’t require treatment.
That basically sums it up. Well done, Mayo Clinic! Having Gilbert’s just means that my billirubin blood tests enjoy confusing doctors by fluctuating constantly. The more interesting side effect from having this condition, though, is that I am an ultimate light-weight. Being a pretty large girl at six feet tall and 150 pounds, most people assume I can handle alcohol well. They are all very wrong. My limit is usually three glasses, and I generally only drink wine that is sulfite free. Whenever I drink I always take proper precautions: drinking tons of water, keeping a full stomach, and only ever drink if my health and depression are at their best levels. I never drink when I am ill or if my anxiety and depression are exceptionally high, because not only will it make me feel worse, but I refuse to use alcohol as medicine. I only have it in celebration.
Yesterday was one of my best friend’s 25th birthday. Since I hadn’t had any episodes for three weeks, and I last drank in October, I figured it was safe to honor my darling bestie and drink with her and my friends at a party. As I started drinking I immediately felt the effects of it, feeling warm and fuzzy, becoming a little less reserved and a little more talkative. My friends were elated that I was drinking with them, because since I usually don’t drink and can’t eat any of the same foods they have at parties, they were happy to have me be able to experience something with them (keep in mind, never once have they pressured me to – my friends all know I am pretty sick most of the time and are nothing less than kind and understanding about it).
After only 11/2 glasses of wine, I became not only drunk, but terribly sick, which doesn’t usually happen that quickly. I felt incredibly nauseated, my head was throbbing, and I couldn’t stand up without feeling like I would fall over. It was like being drunk and hungover at the same time, and I was in complete misery. By 10:30p.m I was out of service, huddled up on the couch, wanting desperately to rip out my stomach.
The night carried on and I felt increasingly sick as well as increasingly saddened by the fact that I was practically stuck to the couch, unable to actively socialize or participate in all the fun of the party. My head started to spiral, and I thought of all the horrible reasons this experience with drinking was so bad, while the ones in the past had been so delightful. Was my Celiac Disease acting up due to something I ate that wasn’t safe? Could it be the Hereditary Angioedema causing this? Do I actually have that disease? Will it alter my life forever? Am I going to have an episode right now, right here, in front of all my friends, ruining my bestie’s party because she will have to call an ambulance? The questions were endless and painful, and my brain began to feel nearly as twisted as my stomach had. I couldn’t even go home because I had been drinking. I was trapped, I was sick for an unknown reason, I was scared, and I was slowly morphing into my friends’ new couch.
One of my friends in particular came to sit by me later on, asking if I was okay. Despite him being drunk, he wanted to make sure I was well. Sidenote: this is the first group I have ever had who have not only been kind about my illnesses, but also actively try to help or at least keep an eye out for me. Every other group I have had eventually cast me out because of my situation, or told me I didn’t fit in with them. These people now are like my family and I love them with my entire soul. I began to cry, telling him how my health had exceptionally been bad lately, but was good the last few weeks, how I felt like I was ruining the party, how I was scared of a new disease I might have, how I didn’t want anyone to feel bad for me or pity me, and how I wanted nothing more than to just be a regular 24 year old for one single night, without any complications. He was very sympathetic and consoled me, assuring me that things were not as bad as I felt they were. In my head I disagreed, but having him just care was more than I could really ask for to begin with.
Around 1 a.m the sickness began to subside, and since people were getting tired, more of them came to sit by me. We talked and played Super Mario (horribly hard by the way when drunk. Those little shy guy bastards are so hard to pick up and throw, and I kept falling into black abysses which really pissed me off), and I was feeling a little more normal. But my stomach was still threatening to explode, my head threatening to implode, and my anxieties about why this was all happening to begin with were looming over my head. At one point, one of my other extremely close friends came to talk to me. He had asked when I had eaten last…and that question made a little lightbulb go off in my darkened mind, because I realized I had not eaten a real meal since 4p.m, aside from a few cookies I had before drinking. He informed me that no matter who you are, drinking on an empty stomach is generally a terrible idea. I didn’t realize how long it had been.
Well. Look who fucked up like a regular person.
I know, right? If you’re screaming at your computer screen, or want to throw it out the window, I apologize for being an idiot. No scary diseases or painful attacks this time. It was only me being a distracted 24 year old at a party. I sort of failed at it, but my friends told me that this is something that happens to everyone at some point.They reminded me that we all still had fun during the moments I wasn’t sick. It may sound silly, but being a medical mystery most of my life, hearing that from my friends felt almost reassuring. It made me both extremely happy that for once, I wasn’t any different or any more sick than they were. But at the same time, it saddened me because I realize the other 99% of the time, I am. But for now, I choose to enjoy this 1%. Minus the hangover, of course.
Next time I drink, which probably won’t be until the summer, I will definitely be eating my weight in M&Ms before I start with the wine. What…bad idea?
“So, this is my life. And I want you to know that I am both happy and sad and I’m still trying to figure out how that could be.”
-Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky