The Other Me
‘Looking For Answers’
Although I had answers and eating correctly removed the spotfires of anxiety caused by dips in blood sugar, the answers led to an overwhelming fear that governed my life: maintaining the right diet, and eating every three hours. I had two different lists I couldn’t eat from – one a Fructose Intolerance list, another a Reactive Hypoglycaemia List. Some things were safe on one list but not on another, e.g. potato was safe on the Fructose Intolerance list, but not on the Reactive Hypoglycaemia list.
I began seeing a new dietician who was lovely and assuring, and she also had Fructose Intolerance herself, so knew what I was going through. She listed all the things I couldn’t eat. Most fruits were immediately ruled out – banana and citrus fruits the most common fruits which weren’t. She suggested to me that if I ate something that was Low GI with something that was High GI, the Low GI food should balance the High GI food out, sort of like the GI meeting in the middle.
It sounded good in theory, but I wasn’t game to try it. There’d been times I’d eaten mashed potato (High GI) with carrots, peas, and various forms of meat (those three very Low GI) but my body had responded to the mashed potato and had episodes of reactive hypoglycaemia. There was no balancing out – at least not as far as my body went.
One night, I took a walk, got home, and ate an orange – supposedly safe – but half an hour later I was shaking and panicky. I ate something to counter the hypoglycaemic episode, but didn’t feel good for the rest of the night. At my next appointment with the dietician, she suggested a particularly ripe and big orange might cause reactive hypoglycaemic issues because of how sweet it was. I shouldn’t have excluded oranges – it was just a matter of finding the right ones, but dealing with something that needed so much qualification, it seemed easier just to remove it from the equation.
I didn’t want hypoglycaemic episodes. They might be solved by eating the right food, but the episodes weren’t pleasurable, and that one severe episode – that one when I’d drank the lemon-flavoured mineral water – had been excruciating. I didn’t want to go through that again. I couldn’t. Ever.
Equally, I didn’t want to eat anything that caused a resurgence of the stomach issues. The stomach pains had been the worst things I’d ever felt – even worse than when I was sixteen, broken my arm, and suffered extensive nerve damage to half my hand, (caused by the bone bouncing up and down on the nerve the whole trip to hospital).
So I lived in a constant stage of alertness, of agitation, of fear, preying on my mind. I just couldn’t let it go. It’d become ingrained in me after what had amounted to a year of pain (with first the neck, then the stomach, then the symptoms from the hypoglycaemia before it had been diagnosed), my new reality, until I didn’t know how to think any other way. Worse, my OCD channelled into the fear, focused it, kept it prevalent in my head, and it was almost impossible to dismiss because they were legitimate concerns – this was the way I had to eat.
One night, I lay on the floor, a decorative throw-pillow from the couch under my head, and the room began to sway, like I was lying in a hammock. I went to bed and couldn’t shake this sensation. So back it was to Dr Warren, who tried a few inner-ear medications, which didn’t work, and then concluded that given my state, it was anxiety – just my general, everyday anxiety, which had been with me all my life. He recommended antidepressants, and prescribed me Tofranil.
Even these petrified me, though. A Tofranil pill was tiny – it was like the butt-end of a TicTac. It had sugar in it, it had chemicals – there was that risk it could set something off. My last experience with antidepressants – with the Anafril – also loomed over me. My body seemed so hypersensitive.
Dr Warren suggested a low dose – 10 milligrams which, for Tofranil, was a tenth of what I’d taken almost twenty years earlier. He said I should make an appointment the following week, and if I remained really concerned, to take a pill the night before I saw him so we could deal with the side effects. He was adamant this had now become my only recourse.
I filled out the prescription, looked at the pills in their foil, and thought about it and thought about it. I didn’t want to do medication again – a vow I kept making. But it was exhausting dealing with fear, and trying to navigate dietary requirements which had gained phobic proportions in my head, whilst occasionally having to deal with the world feeling like it was saying.
The day before I was due to see Dr Warren again, I still hadn’t taken a Tofranil. It was tonight or never.
That’s when I got it.
A message from Allie.