When one bite of chicken equals 4 hours of hell.

Photo by Cherry Laithang on Unsplash

It was one bite. One bite of grilled chicken breast. I didn’t cut it quite small enough. I chewed it, but not thoroughly enough.

I swallowed.

And as a punishment I have been in absolute agony for almost four hours.

A normal person doesn’t have this. But I’m not normal and neither is my stomach. Why? Because I had 80% of it cut out almost four months ago.

I’m told I’ve had an impressive track record. In these almost four months I’ve only vomited once, when I ate too fast. That was a couple of weeks ago, while we were traveling. Throwing up was never such a relief.

The pain has been so intense I’ve had moments of thinking, maybe I should just eat a couple more bites… it will make me puke. But that’s how eating disorders get started, at least for the vulnerable… and I definitely don’t need another one of those.

I’ve taken promethazine which helps the nausea. I’ve taken pantoprazole to help with reflux (I normally take it every morning but I forgot it today). I’ve taken simethicone to help with gas. But there’s nothing to do about the pain except wait it out. I swear I hear the clock ticking, which is impressive since it’s two rooms away and I have a fan on.

I knew the second I’d eaten too big of a piece. I could just feel it. I stopped eating immediately, consuming less than a normal portion size (about 3.5 ounces) by a good bit. I’m due to eat again in about 15 minutes, but there’s no way in hell that’s happening. Which sucks because I didn’t eat as much as normal today and it’s not healthy to go without meals for too long when you’re post-op from bariatric surgery.

I also have barely been able to drink. I’m so thirsty but there’s just no room for liquid right now. I’m well behind on my hydration for the day. Another thing that, for a normal person isn’t a big deal when it’s just a day. But after bariatric surgery you are at a much greater risk for dehydration, and the climate here is very dry and today has been quite warm. Not a good combo. My lips are parched, my tongue feels like sandpaper… but all I can manage right now is a tiny sip every 10 minutes or so.

I am sleepy. Promethazine tends to knock me on my ass. But there’s no way I could lay down right now, let alone fall asleep. I am anxious (okay, I’m always anxious… but more right now than my baseline). And just for added fun I have a migraine, too.

Most of the time, the people educating patients on these surgeries haven’t actually had them themselves (there are, of course, exceptions). They have absolutely no idea how this type of issue feels. They can’t relate to the myriad of possible physical issues that can happen after gastric sleeve (or any of the others) surgery. And that’s to say nothing of the emotional issues that come with the process.

I have 100% benefitted from coming into this a non-dieter. I hadn’t been on a diet for over a decade. I had learned the principles of Intuitive Eating and I was in a really good place with my relationship with food. So many people who have these surgeries are not. I suspect that’s at least partly why so many of the people I know who have had it got sick far more often than I have. I recognized the warning signs of fullness quickly and I knew when to stop. As long as I’m being mindful, I am good. Sometimes a specific food is a problem (beef, for example). But that’s another story entirely.

Every day I have a moment (or 22) where something frustrates me or I get stressed out about this process. Every time that happens I think, oh my god if I hadn’t already been so familiar with IE how much worse would this be? How much harder would the struggle be?

I know it would be so much worse. I would probably be obsessing about my weight loss. I don’t even own a scale at home, which I had to tell two of the nurses today. One looked baffled and the other said, good for you (this is the nurse who also complimented the Fat Babe necklace I had on). I haven’t had a scale in my home in about 12 years and I’m definitely not about to get one now.

I do have my moments where I am terrified this will stop working sooner than expected. I don’t care about being thin. I didn’t do this to be thin and I won’t be when all is said and done. But obviously, you don’t put your body through this level of trauma unless you expect some kind of result from it. So yeah, if — only 4 months post-op — I suddenly saw my weight staying the same, I’d be pissed off. But not the way I would’ve been if it happened when I was a dieter. That would’ve broken me. Should that happen to me now, it will be a disappointment. I’ll be angry, for sure. But it won’t break me.

I may not feel lucky right now, sitting here in misery. But the truth is, I am. I knew what I was signing up for… I was thoroughly educated and understood the risks. Now all of that intellectual knowledge and research doesn’t prepare you for the emotional reality of being on the other side of the process. Still, I think even that is better than it could be; because I went into this with realistic expectations (if anything, mine might be unrealistic in the opposite direction of most people). I wasn’t looking for a cure all for my life. My life was and is pretty damn amazing. So yeah. I’m lucky. Even sitting here miserable.

Four hours now, officially. The pain has lessened, but it’s far from gone. I think of that scene in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory when they’ve had the fizzy lifting drinks. When Charlie and Grandpa Joe are going up, up and up to the fan… and certain death seems unavoidable. Then suddenly they burp and realize it will bring them back down. They keep burping until they’re safely back on the ground.

I could use some burps like those right now.

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Words are my superpower. Pan. Queer. Wife. Dog mom. Spoonie. Novelist. Unapologetically Me. HuffPost published.

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Juliet James

Juliet James

Words are my superpower. Pan. Queer. Wife. Dog mom. Spoonie. Novelist. Unapologetically Me. HuffPost published.

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