Heartburn

Through sheer chance my G.I. doctor found I had Barrett’s esophagus during a routine physical.  The lining of my esophagus was turning into that of small intestine.  That sounds scary.  The doctor asked me if I had an acid reflux.  I didn’t.  Part of  the lining of my stomach was also turning into that of small intestine.  That spelled the possible C word.  I was told I must have a silent (symptomless) acid reflux and I’ve been on medication since.  Eventually my stomach lining turned back to normal, but I still have Barrett’s esophagus.

I haven’t had stomach issues for a long time.  Definitely I didn’t have heartburn.  Then I remembered I often had stomach ache when I lived with my mom. I remembered my mom used to tell me that my younger brother had a delicate digestive system.  When he got nervous or stressed, he threw up. I didn’t thow up but I remembered that after I left home for college, I sometime induced vomiting, probably more often than average young women.

Something clicked.

My original home had been making me sick.

I ran away as far as possible.  There are a continent and Pacific ocean between my parents and me now.  I visit them once a year and that is our compromise.  I used to stay with them for more than a week.  I got depressed.  So my stay got shorter every year.  One year, after spending 4 days or so, I had a severe stomach pain.  Another year, after spending several days with my Mom, I suffered IBS like symptom for two weeks.

My mom has spent her entire married life feeding somebody.  It was her role in the family.  She has taken care of my father, who has type 1 diabetes, for half a century.  It requires a lot of work to feed a diabetic.   Both my brother and I was a light eater when we were little kids, so it has become her mission to feed us as much as we would ingest.  Through therapy, I realized that my mom force-fed me and I was exercising to set a boundary by saying,”No, thank you.”

I told her I usually didn’t eat breakfast.  I woke up to find a breakfast ready on the table.  What can I do?  I ate breakfast: ham and eggs, toasted bread, and yogurt, milk and coffee.  Mom brought a jar of homemade jam to the table and told me to add it to yogurt.  I only ate plain yogurt, so I said, “No, thank you.”  “It’s too sour without jam.  You should add it,” mom insisted.  “No, thank you,” I said.   I told her I didn’t usually have a breakfast, that she didn’t have to prepare mine.  The next morning I woke up to find the same breakfast ready on the table.  “Do you like to add the jam to your yogurt?”  My mom asked.  “No, I told you I didn’t eat sweetened yogurt,” I said.  “It doesn’t taste good without jam,” she insisted.  “No, thank you,” I said.  I set a boundary firm, don’t I?  The next morning I woke up to find the same breakfast ready on the table.  I found she had added her homemade jam in my yogurt bowl.  I didn’t say anything.  I stopped feeling.  When it doesn’t matter what I want or what I don’t want, why should I feel anything.  I swallowed the sweet yogurt in silence.  “It is good, isn’t it?” she said.  That night I had an acute stomach pain.

It isn’t about a spoonful of jam in my yogurt bowl.  The same pattern repeated again and again for lunch, dinner, snacks and everything else.   Eventually I became a foie gras geese.  No wonder I had issues around eating.   I still can’t tell if I’m really hungry or not.

I told my friend the story and she said, “You have a nice mom.  She likes to take care of you.”  She made me feel that I was a thankless brat.  I felt like throwing up.  If you force a piece of chocolate into a child’s mouth, it still tastes sweet. But it doesn’t mean the child wants it.  “I told you it was delicious, didn’t I?   You like it, don’t you?  I was right.  You were wrong..  You don’t know how you feel so I’ll tell you how you feel.  I am right and you are wong.  How you feel doesn’t matter.”   This is how we lose the ability to be ourselves…

If you still think forcing a piece of chocolate in a kid’s mouth against his/her will doesn’t matter, just substitute it with a more sinister word.

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