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Why Thanksgiving Worries Me as Someone With Gastroparesis

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It wafts through the house – the smell of fried chicken. I start to get hungry, a feeling I am somewhat unfamiliar with now. I want to eat the chicken, dip it in some ranch and enjoy the home-cooked comfort food.

Instead, I’m in my room, texting my S.O. to ask him to tell me how it is, but not in too much detail.

Seems a little odd, right?

Well, not really, if you are someone who lives with gastroparesis. Gastroparesis is when your stomach and small intestine don’t move food along correctly because they are partially paralyzed. What this has meant for me is that it is almost impossible to eat. I can have mashed potatoes and gravy and other soft foods. But in general, I stick with nutrition shakes. They are safe. I don’t get sick. I feel better and can be more functional because my whole gastrointestinal system isn’t flaring up and causing me discomfort.

It’s been like this since June. You get used to it – the not eating. In general, it doesn’t bother me, but today, with the smell of fried chicken in the air, it’s hard.

In less than three weeks, we will be celebrating Thanksgiving, which has always been one of my favorite holidays.

This year, we are all going to my great aunt’s, and the whole family is coming in from out of state. We haven’t gathered like this in years. I can’t wait.

But at the same time, I’m terrified.

Just sitting in my room right now with the smell of the chicken, I feel like one of Pavlov’s dogs.

What is going to happen at Thanksgiving? What am I going to do? How am I going to handle it? Will the temptation be too much? If the smell of fried chicken makes me feel this way, what will a whole house full of Thanksgiving smells do to me?

I feel the anxiety rising from my stomach into my chest as I ask these questions. My heart starts to beat a little faster; my thoughts come more quickly.

Deep breath.

I honestly don’t know how I’m going to do it. All I can do right now while sitting in my room drinking my strawberry nutrition shake instead of eating chicken is…nothing.

Because I don’t know how I’m going to handle it. I don’t know how it will go.

I know I can’t eat. But with a holiday centered around eating, how is that going to go?

With a huge Armenian family and food that represents my culture and my roots, how is it going to feel to miss out on that while everyone else gets to enjoy?

What am I going to tell people? I know there will be questions.

The anxiety rises again.

Deep breath.

I’m sure I will get through it. We have made plans to conveniently miss the major meal times at both my aunt’s and my S.O.’s house. I have to get through it. There’s no other option.

I’ve made it almost six months without really giving into eating too often. The temptation gets me less often now than it did before. But still, the smells are hard. It’s hard to sit and watch people eat. It’s not something I do often, especially when it’s something that smells so appetizing in the air.  

I’m nervous. My anxiety is telling me not to go. But the thought of missing out on seeing all of my family is too painful to consider not going.  

On Thanksgiving, I will have to dig deep to find the smile to put on my face, the air of not caring. I might snack on some appetizers, depending on what the mushiness level is.  

Honestly, I will be happy to be with my family and my loved ones. I have missed them.  But I will long. And I will struggle. But some things are worth struggling for.

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Originally published: November 9, 2016
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