Gag Me With A Balloon

When Gretchen gave us “phobias” this week for the Spin Cycle, I was a little taken aback – I’ve just got so darn many of them.  I’m afraid of heights, afraid of the dark, am downright claustrophobic, am terrified of being smothered (don’t put anything over my face. Period.) and I tend to get rather nervous during takeoff and landing when I fly.  I won’t have a “real” Christmas tree for fear it will dry out and the lights will set it on fire, I get nervous when I go to bed if there’s still a fire in the fireplace and have I mentioned my obsession with the carbon monoxide detector in the laundry room lately?

Yes, I am a worry-wort.  It’s getting worse as I get older…I’ll probably be a basket case by the time I’m 80.

I do have a very real fear, however.  These days it manifests itself as nervousness when I have to swallow pills, but I literally am afraid of choking and for a very good reason.  I suffer from esophageal dysphagia – more specifically, an esophageal stricture – and it was caused by a combination of chronic gastroesophageal reflux diseas (GERD) and a bad bout with bulimia in my late 20s – early 30s.  Because of the bulimia, my stricture is much higher in my esophagus than one that is caused by GERD alone, and it was so bad by the time I was 38 that eating even tiny bites of food would choke me – I was living on tea, coffee, smooth soups and yogurt by the time I sought medical attention.  (I also reached my lowest weight since high school – why not?  I was walking at least 3 miles a day, since we had no car and I had to walk to and from work, and was consuming approximately 400 calories a day.)  Everyone around me learned how to perform the Heimlich maneuver.

I’ve had my throat dilated three times in ten years, which I’m sure would surprise the doctor who performed the original procedure; my stricture was so bad he told me to expect to endure the procedure three times a year for the rest of my life.  Not likely – it was a year before the second, and yet another three years before the third, shortly after I moved to Ohio.  I may have to have another, but it’s been six years since the last and the stricture is just beginning to bother me again.  Difficulty swallowing pills is always the first sign, and a couple of my larger supplements have been giving me a tiny bit of a problem lately.

I think the fact that it’s been so long since I’ve needed treatment for the dysphagia has a great deal to do with the fact that I no longer suffer from the GERD.  I used to carry an economy-size bottle of Rolaids with me at all times, but now the only time I suffer from heartburn is when I eat something containing grains, refined sugar, processed soy or vegetable oils – all of the things that contributed to the myriad of other health problems I once suffered.

Recently, a young coworker of mine (a very young coworker – he’s just turned 29) who has been on Prilosec for years to treat his GERD just underwent a dilation for the very same thing.  He’s upset, anxious and disillusioned; why hasn’t the medication he’s been taking prevented this?  His diet is atrocious – I’ve caught him eating giant Twix bars for breakfast, and there is always candy and crap in his office.  I think his main problem is that he’s simply bought into the same conventional wisdom bullshit that is spoonfed to the American public on a daily basis:  everything is okay in moderation as long you remain active and take in fewer calories than you expend.  The kid truly thinks that because he exercises and is trim and muscular that he can eat anything and everything he wants (he’s told me this) and he’ll be fine.  Well, maybe this will change his mind.

Ah, well.  When we’re young, we tend to think we will always be young.  But I’m here to tell you that you won’t be, and what you eat today will affect your health tomorrow.  So do something about it before you’re in an operating theatre, sedated, and having balloons stuck down your throat so you don’t choke to death on a spoonful of Jello.

That is all.

10 thoughts on “Gag Me With A Balloon”

  1. I’ve always had problems with pills, just swallowing them gets my gag reflex on the ready. I tend to take them with food, even a spoonful of yogurt or SOMETHING to trick myself into taking it whole.
    I thought of you on Sunday when we were coming back from a trip to Disney. I had had a cup of coffee at my friend’s house, a spoon ful of splenda since we didn’t have our stevia packets with us, oh well. About four hours later, as we left after brunch, my throat began to hurt. And then it crawled into my sinuses. And then a headache arrived. The farther we drove, the worse it got. By the time we got home, I zapped myself some soup and chased it down with NyQuil, in bed by 8. Woke up yesterday with just NyQuil brain, no other symptoms. From the sweetener maybe?

  2. Wow. So sorry you have to deal with this. I guess I’m pretty lucky that my bulemia left no particular traces that I’m aware of. So happy that you have found a diet that reduces the problems.

  3. Oh no. You are NOT allowed to turn into Mommy! Mommy is horrified of choking, but has NO legitimate reason like you do. She’s just nuts. And she can’t take pills – the doctor always has to either give her a liquid form or she dissolves them in a little water. I suspect that your 29 year old colleague will figure out that he is mortal before too long. How interesting that you’ve healed your own GERD!

    You are almost linked! Since you’re the first of the week, I have to put together a linkup post, but it will be up by this afternoon.

  4. Oh, this terrified me: I suffered for years from GERD and still have bulimia. I realize this is very personal, but would you share with me your experience with treatment and recovery from bulimia? How long did you go through recovery? Do you have any tips that could make it easier for me? And of course, did changing to a diet of real-foods help?

    Your experience is appreciated!

  5. Yucky. When will people figure out that our myriad of health problems can’t be solved with a pill? I suspect your co-worker will have a run in with reality soon. My experience is that 25 is usually the age we realize we’re not immortal, but we wait until we’re 30 to acknowledge it with real actions.

  6. Are you trying to freak me out?

    Kidding, sort of. Sorrty to her of your GERD I wasn’t aware – but the twix chap worries me a bit. I’ve been thinking about being more sensible with my diet and as I’m nearly 30 it is surely time I addressed it.

  7. Love your blog. I also once thought I could over exercise to compensate for a bad diet. Wrong. I am still trying to break a lifetime of bad habits but I am so much better today than I was 5 years ago.

  8. I completely understand your phobia! My mom has the same issue and just had her third expansion. (Hers was mostly caused by radiation treatments.) Watching her choke is horribly frightening; she’s quite good a performing the Heimlich on herself with the aid of a chair back. In your place, I’d probably feel exactly the same way.

  9. Yet another thing we have in common! I suffered from GERD for years – I had a weak muscle at the anus of the esophagus which allowed part of my stomach lining to protrude into my esophagus, causing MAJOR acid reflux. In addition, I had the narrowing of the esophagus – so choking on a bite of food was a regular occurrence. Apparently I inherited those issues from my mom, who had the same issues (as did my brother). I had to have my esophagus dilated (especially when they ran into resistance when doing the endoscopes – and finally had surgery to correct the weak muscle. After 20+ years of irritating acid reflux it was miraculously gone! And revealed that the stabbing pain I’d experience off-and-on wasn’t related to that, but to my bad gall bladder which was removed a few years ago. 😉

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