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21 January 2010 @ 03:53 pm
Dizzy? I should eat. No, wait...  
Some of you may know that I do not get hungry. As in, the sensation of hunger is a distant memory at best and I am mixed on how I feel about it.

It all started when I was about 12-13. I am not sure what initially set it off, but I think it was a combination of nerves and being seriously beaten by either my dad or bullies that may have caused a rupture in my stomach wall. I had stomach pains from sixth grade that got worse in junior high. It was played off as "an attempt to get out of school" or "worrying too much." Eventually, the pain got so bad, the school got involved and my mother was forced to take me to a doctor. "Sounds like a serious ulcer," I recall my pediatrician saying (yes, I saw a pediatrician until at age 15, until he finally told my mother he refused to see me anymore), "but how can a kid your age have an ulcer?" My mother tried her very best to get me to "wish the pain away." At first, she tried scaring me like I was some little kid trying to fool her. "I dunno..." she said with that eye like a mother trying to trap a kid in a lie, "...if this is real, they will put NEEDLES in you... and you may NEVER be allowed to eat CAKE a gain.. you like cake, riiiight...?"

Oh no! I like cake! But try as I might, my stomach hurt too bad.

When that didn't work, she tried outright bribery, "I will give you those Lego sets you wanted if you tell the doctor that you are okay." But I was apparently "stubborn," even though I really wanted those Lego sets.

Long story short, I had a massive ulcer that required a lot of medication. I also needed surgery, but my mother was afraid of telling my father, so she did what she could to cover it up. There had been "the scoliosis disaster" recently where a school screener caught me with a bent spine. It was later determined that my spine was bent in such a way that wasn't much of a threat. But in the X-ray, they discovered all these large unusual bumps in my skull, and they wanted to run more tests. My father would have none of that, since he likened the whole experience to that of a mechanic trying to get him to buy new tires when he KNEW he didn't need them. My father rubbed this in my mother's face as how the entire medical industry was run by crooks who made up stuff. I was "obviously fine and trying to draw attention to myself," and in his defense, the only thing these bumps ever did was prevent me from getting a crew cut. Because of this, when they had scoliosis screening, I was told to say I was having it treated by a medical professional even though it was never brought up in our house again. So to have surgery for a tummy ache! The nerve! I was obviously a shy trickster, in league with the AMA.

So I was put on a lot of really, really horrible medications that tasted like metallic chalk, earwax, and flavors to this day have no comparison. One of the side effects of this illness was it destroyed parts of my stomach because the medication was almost as bad as the ulcer. It ruined the ability to create certain enzymes, so dense vegetable matter like corn and beans tend to block up my intestines and create horrible cramping and gas as they sit and ferment in my stomach. But unprocessed eggs are the worst. Like eggs in cakes and stuff are okay, but if I eat a plate of scrambled eggs without anything else to break it down (like a lot of bread), will create some of the worst cramping imaginable. I have often thought if a bean and corn omelet existed, and I actually foolishly ate it, I would die like I'd been hit by Pei Mei's "Five Point Palm Exploding Heart Technique."

But the biggest side effect was it hit the center that tells me when I am hungry. The area most damaged by the ulcer (near my GI tract) means that I have no concept of "satiety," which means nothing tells my poor and often misunderstood hypothalamus when I am empty or full. Thus, over the years, I lost the ability to know when to eat. Around the same time this happened, my mother started drinking a lot more, and often she'd be completely incapacitated for up to a week at a time. When she was sober, she often overfed me to compensate for her guilt. The medicine made me gain a lot of weight, too, so eventually I stopped eating to compensate. It's easy to stop eating when you don't feel hunger. Also, bullies that used to beat me up for my lunch may still have pounded on me, but they never got lunch except when my mother made them for me. That gave me some satisfaction.

Eventually, I could go days without eating. I went down from 315 pounds to about 160 in two and a half years. I wouldn't say I was anorexic per se, but there was always some freakish inner challenge that was thrilled if I went over 3 days without food. Of course, I suffered greatly in other areas. I was always tired and listless in class, and had spasmodic blackouts where I'd forget hours at a time. My home life was terrible, but lack of food probably didn't help my depression. By age 14, I was seriously depressed and had by first suicide attempt at that age. Getting bad grades didn't help, as I rarely did homework. I just sat in my room, friendless, staring at the ceiling until I drifted off or morning came. Often, I'd sit alone in the cafeteria at the edge of a table, doing some homework or whatever.

Even when things looked up, and Child Protective Services got involved, I didn't eat that much. I ate probably about one meal a day on average until I got married at age 20. Then takayla's "three meals a day" put me into shock, and I went from 186 to 325 I am now. The thing that kept me from starving also doesn't tell me when I am full.

My ulcer never really went away. Sometimes it stays away for years. But a few times a year, when I am under stress, it comes back. Feels like a hard lump for about a week, which steadily starts to hurt like a torn muscle, followed by heartburn, acid reflux, and stinky burps. If I let it go to long, or I start to freak out over something, it makes me nauseous. But after self-medication, usually antacids and eating lots of bread over a few days, it goes away. Pepcid Complete is the best OTC yet.

Sadly, and the whole reason I posted this long sob story, is I still feel no hunger. What's that like? Well, I have to rely on other clues to remind me to eat. Looking at food is always one of them, like when other are eating. When I am bored and crave stimulation is another, which is never a good thing. But what happens when I am isolated with nothing to remind me of food and I am not bored? How long can I go without eating? It used to be a few days, but these days, I think I can only got about 15-20 hours before I start to feel dizzy. So, even since about age 16 or so, I have equated dizziness with eating. It's very easy to overeat when your hunger signs are re-wired. If the color red was a trigger to eat, I would imagine I would always eat when Santa or Carmen Sandiego were around. So when I get sick and I am dizzy for other reasons... this is not so good. I would imagine if I had a head injury and was stumbling around feeling dizzy, I'd eat until I exploded. Yesterday, I just kept wanting to eat, even though I was full... because I am dizzy due to a bad sinus infection.

And that's annoying!
rmartin_justmermartin_justme on January 21st, 2010 10:20 pm (UTC)
Whenever I read about your childhood it makes me want to cry. And go hug my kids!

We have a student at the school where I teach that is clearly having seizures. He has problems that indicate he may have suffered brain damage. Yesterday, the school even called an ambulance and had him sent to the hospital. For lunch, on a good day, he brings potato chips and juice to eat. His mother's take, even though the hospital said he needs to see a specialist, is that he's fine and he's just playing around. The school was able to enroll him in the free-and-reduced lunch program, but I don't know what else can be done for him.
feyandstrange on January 21st, 2010 10:47 pm (UTC)
I've lost some of my ability to estimate hunger as well, due to illness and things, and I have some similar digestive issues, although probably gut rather than stomach. (I can't really handle fiber, much as you describe, or anything spicy, and am mildly/moderately lactose-intolerant.) It does suck, as does what I call "the beige diet" when I'm not feeling well.

And boy, do I know that dizzy thing! I am almost always a little dizzy, but I can never tell if I'm *more* dizzy because I need food, I missed a pill, I'm getting sick, or what. I also have crappy low blood pressure, so I get the dizzies from that, and sometimes I've had enough food but forgot to put salt on it and need salt to keep from passing out. I've spent the last four days of stormy weather thinking I might have a cold or a relapse, only to finally figure out that the low pressure front had given me one hell of a sinus headache, but that I'm not actually "sick".

IIRC you are borderline diabetic; do you check your blood sugar to know when you need to eat? Do you try to eat at regular times? Those are supposed to help. Too much sugar and fat can apparently also mess with the ability to identify fullness; I just learned that the reason I can eat steak until they run out of cows is apparently because the body doesn't really have a way of telling fullness from animal fat.

I saw a news piece ages ago about how they are developing blood-sugar-testing contact lenses, that will have a little colored dot in one corner; you look int he mirror, see if the dot is red, yellow, or green, and know whether you need to eat. I totally want one of those.
Roguedeadly_touch on January 22nd, 2010 01:08 am (UTC)
Ooh, that horrible cramping! I'm still trying to figure out what it is in my diet that makes me sweat, double over, and occasionally scream in pain; sometimes it seems like everything causes it. I thought it was dairy, but now I'm just not sure.

Hate that dizziness when I forget to eat, also...but I must shamefully admit I am feeling a bit envious of the ability to not feel hunger, even though I know it's not a good thing! Eating gets in the way of ART and DOING THINGS!!!
uurdalauurdala on January 22nd, 2010 07:08 am (UTC)
Here's what works for me -- take it or leave it.

Schedule your meals. Stick to the schedule. Put an alram on your iPhone or something if you can't remember when to eat.

Prepare or take (if your food is made for you) modest servings. Do NOT go back for seconds or thirds, no matter how not full you feel.

It will take a lot of getting used to, since you're modifying an ingrained self destructive behavior, but stick to it. You will feel a lot better for it once you've adjusted. Enlist Christine's help with this. Nothing is as effective as a loving spouse supporting you through the transition.
Jasenjastengel on January 22nd, 2010 06:00 pm (UTC)
I agree
Support makes the difference... lack of support feels as damaging as intentional sabotage.
Jasenjastengel on January 22nd, 2010 05:59 pm (UTC)
always hungry... similar but not the same...
I am pretty much always hungry... even when I am stuffed full... I have read it's a symptom of the diabetes, but it doesn't make it easier to deal with... I have learned to ignore the feeling of hunger most of the time until it gnaws like angry weasels, but sometimes it means I go for long stretches without eating... which is just as bad for for me...

The trick (so I am told) is to eat on a schedule, not based on hunger... 3 meals + 2 snacks is the accepted... or 5 small meals... and portion control... I have been getting better at that... I use to almost never have leftovers from going out... but often now I bring home a third to a half of a resturaunt portion...

My biggest issue is snacking... I am always hungry so I always want to snack... when I am at home alone, unless I can distract myself, I can hear the snackfoods call to me... so I try to not keep snackfoods in the house. I dunno how I am going to handle it when I have kids...