It wasn’t because I ate too much or too little.
It was sharp, severe, unforgiving, and in the center of my being. And it wasn’t going away.
I was just under 10 years old, and when I started to miss school because of the pain, my mom thought it was time to visit a doctor. Our family doctor set up an appointment at the hospital for me, where they would shove a long, thin tube with a little camera lens on the bottom of it, down my esophagus.
Awake through the whole procedure, scared, crying, cold from that backless hospital gown, gagging and calling out for my mom while two nurses stood above me. All I remember about them was their voices (“no, no dear, don’t do that”) and their heads floating above me, with a huge florescent light behind them. I just wanted it all to be over.
But this was just the beginning. Multiple ultrasounds followed, along with having to drink a disgusting thick goo of chalk, and finally being prescribed these large, white horse-pills for the pain.
“Reflux-esophagitis”, the doctor concluded, was the diagnosis.
I was given a booklet of all the foods and beverages I could no longer consume, and sent on my merry way.
The pain didn’t go away. It was always there. And eventually, I gave in to it and assented to it just being a part of me.
It took several years to realize and understand that the physical pain I experienced was not a result of acid reflux or poor diet. Unfortunately back then, parents and doctors were not too familiar with, nor spoke very fluidly of mental illness.
The stomach pain was a direct result of depression and anxiety.
If you had asked me to describe it when I was a child, I might have said something along the lines of, “feeling like a knife is stabbing me between my ribs.” If I ever had to guess what being stabbed felt like, perhaps this was it.
The sad thing is, that even today, twenty something years later, people still aren’t comfortable talking about depression, or any other mental illness. One of the reasons why is because not many people have been educated on it, unless they know someone they are close to who has suffered from it, or because of a relative, etc. Outside of extenuating circumstances, people just don’t talk about it or learn about it or educate on it.
I want to change that.
How’s your tummy feeling today?