Thursday, May 31, 2007

What Galls You

Memorial Day was memorable this year.

I woke up at 5 a.m. with acute abdominal pain and incredible heartburn and thought, wow, this is a job for Tums. Or Mylanta. Or Maalox.

Sweet M woke up and looked at me and asked, bewildered, "Is it time to get up already?"

"No," I said, "I just have a stomach ache that woke me up."

"You know," she said, in that funny prescient way that she sometimes seems to have, "you should really see a doctor — right now."

The on-call 800-number nurse for our HMO shared Sweet M's opinion, so off I went to the ER to be sonogramed, IV'ed, blood-worked, EKG'ed, and CT scanned. They returned with the verdict that I have gallstones! Ouch, ouch, and more ouch!

It doesn't surprise that I would by now have gallstones. You could say that I have been galled all year by the various things that have come our way in terms of Sweet M's educational opportunities. And I'd certainly have described myself as filled with bile on more than one occasion. But little did I know that it was precipitating into little pebbles under my ribs. Along with a bit more grey under a patina of highlights, these little rocks are my body's souvenirs of this challenging school year.

When they released me with my handy Rx for mega-painkillers, I came home and Googled gall bladder and Chinese medicine, and low and behold, the gall bladder meridian is also associated with assorted health problems that had been emerging lately -- severe headaches, nausea, and, of course, that blinding rage, that child-avenging menis, the my friend Kristina writes about lately.

So I've been galled this year, and now it's written in my body.

Then tonight Fathersvox got a call from his family; his dear sister who spent much of her life teaching developmentally different children has been diagnosed with ovarian cancer. I am grateful for my little gall stones, which are an order of magnitude of concern about 100 million times less than hers.

Now she is the in an ER in Montreal waiting for her surgery. It took two months for her to get the tests to diagnose this . . . two months with a fast-spreading malignancy and a maternal history of this remarkably deadly illness. Our health care systems are broken — the Canadian system possibly as broken as the one here in the states. Our educational systems are broken.

And yet some people take this in stride. They aren't enrgaged. They don't somatize — they aren't sporting a little internal bundle of stones precipitated by the angry heat of liver chi percolating a little pouch of bile. How do that do that? How do they just chill?

If you can do this, how do you do it?


kristina said...

I do not know! Having been working my way through a bit of bile myself..... hot tea, good music, lovely children, good good friends (spouses of course included) are some remedy.

In the good old days (perhaps during grad school, eons ago), I would also recommend a good book (no time to read anything it seems these days) and a blanket and a comfy chair.

VAB said...

Sorry to hear about the gall stones. Be gentle with yourself.

I've had no small quantity of bile production myself this year. Physical activity helps. Meditation, though difficult, helps. There's a Shambala place in New York. They aren't half as flaky as they may appear. That said, I haven't done any in months, but it does help when I do it.

Focusing on our guy, and not other people's perceptions of our guy, helps.

I hope the stones go as quietly as possible.

Anonymous said...

Uh... gallstones aren't somatization, they're gallstones.

Early-onset gallbladder disease is genetic in my family (I've had gallbladder symptoms since childhood and had to have it out by early adulthood, same as my mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother). Somatization isn't.

Niksmom said...

Somatization or not, the gall stones are painful for sure!

I've found that getting plenty of physical activity (be it walking, going to the gym, gardening, dancing) helps me burn off some of the more intense energies I can build up (like a good head of steam when i get really hacked off!) so that I can clear my mind and relax a bit and focus on what really matters to me.

I do think that our energies manifest themselves in our bodies. Perhaps not as directly as somatization but more likely through one's natural inclinations to (a) not exercise enough and/or(b) not eat as healthfully as we could --especially under times of stress. In so doing, our bodies seem to have a lesser defense against illness/disease. Just my thoughts based on my own personal experience.

Whatever you do, I hope you feel better soon!

Maddy said...

Oh I'm sorry to hear about that [my brother had them as well as my mother]
I had stomach ulcers in my early 20s [divorced, single mum, short of cash etc. etc.] Though recently they say that they're not stress related at all.
My knowledge of any medical matter could be written on the back of a postage stamp, but nonetheless I wish you better soon.
Best wishes

Anonymous said...

Very best of luck with the gall stones. I know how they hurt. Somebody recommended two things to me: vinegar, and beet juice. Beet juice is YUCKY (well, to me anyway). But I find that I like the vinegar. It really does seem to help, and I have no idea why.

MothersVox said...

Thanks to everyone for your thoughts and support, and to everyone that emailed as well. I'm feeling vastly better, and it was a busy week (reported in the next post) that required that I be on my feet.

I am not sure this is somatization, Amanda, but since I have no family history of this, and since I am so sorely galled these days, it does make a sort of "theory of the humors" sense. If I had porphyria or something else that runs in my family, I wouldn't think of it as somatization . . . And maybe it isn't anyway. Thanks for raising that point!

Bob said...

If you can do this, how do you do it?

Gin martinis. Not a healthy solution, but it works for me.

Realize, I work in one or two of the other broken systems - the foster care system that you write about later and the criminal justice system.


MothersVox said...

Ah, gin martinis! Now there's a concept that's time may have come. Or perhaps vodka martini's . . . gin would do me in.

Great bumping into you here Robert D. Will I be seeing you near DC in a few weeks?


Anonymous said...

you know what's actually good? beet juice AND vinegar combined, though i'm a vinegar FAN.

SO sorry about the gallstones. i am galled by it. i hope for your SPEEDY and complete recovery.