5 Things That Happen When You Live the 'GI Experience'
All chronic illnesses are unique, as are the experiences of those patients. Many of us have multiple chronic illnesses and recognize how different they can be. I have rheumatoid arthritis and gastroparesis. My rheumatology experience is all about identifying and embracing my inner senior citizen. Most of what I experience with arthritis goes back to the idea that on paper I’m basically 95 years old, and I’m OK with that.
For me, the GI experience is that of losing all boundaries and becoming resistant to feeling awkward or uncomfortable, in way that doesn’t happen with my other chronic illnesses. You have to ask questions that you never expected, sayings like “you’re full of shit” take on a whole new meaning, and you start to know where bathrooms are located everywhere you go. Honestly, it’s like identifying the emergency exits on an airplane. It’s just second nature.
Now, I in no way want to diminish the seriousness of any kind of condition. All chronic illnesses are a pain in the ass. GI conditions just happen to be literal pains in the ass.
1. You lose all boundaries when it comes to doctor-patient interactions with your gastroenterologist and discussing your health. The first time my GI doctor told me she needed to do a rectal exam, I was hoping a black hole would appear in front of me and I would fall into the abyss. By the third or fourth time, I was joking that I usually make people buy me dinner before we go that far.
2. In the same way, GI conditions make other kinds of appointments less awkward and eliminate most boundaries and embarrassment. Nothing puts a pap smear into perspective like a rectal exam. There are some similarities there, sure. You’re literally letting it all hang out off the edge of an exam table and counting spots on the ceiling tile hoping it goes quickly. It’s a whole other level of weird, though. Trust me.
3. You no longer feel embarrassed checking out at a pharmacy. You think buying tampons is awkward? Try buying two enemas, a bottle of magnesium citrate, and a box of laxative suppositories all at one time. Also, try running into someone you know during that shopping trip.
4. You stop feeling grossed out or embarrassed by your medical paperwork, and you really don’t care who sees it. I left endoscopy pictures of my stomach on my kitchen table a few months back, forgetting that I had friends coming over. For me, it’s like leaving a grocery list on the table. I don’t even think about it. There’s currently paperwork on my kitchen table about an upcoming anorectal manometry. Yes, that’s a thing. It sounds like either a form of medieval torture or an alien probing technique, but it’s a thing. No, I’m not looking forward to it.
5. You lose sight of other people’s boundaries. Losing these boundaries makes the experience a little easier. Being embarrassed all the time is tiring and anxiety-inducing. However, it means that sometimes I say way more than the people around me want to hear. I’m far more likely to make someone else uncomfortable than I am to feel that way myself. Sorry that you didn’t want to know I’ve been constipated for two and a half weeks. Also, sorry that you didn’t want to hear about last week’s uncomfortable encounter with an enema.
If nothing else, at least the GI experience makes getting a bikini wax no longer awkward.
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