I’m still writing about how to beat writer’s block, but since my journey took a weird detour, that’s where we’re going this week.
This isn’t a post about mental health, though I do talk about depression a bit; this is a post about body health and how it influences everything.
For the last month and a half, I thought I was depressed. Nothing was helping, not observing my thoughts and using cognitive behavioral techniques, seeing my therapist, spending times with friends, listening to happy music or exercising. Worse, none of my writer tricks that I’ve been talking about were working either and I COULDN’T WRITE. Which of course just made me feel more depressed and useless since writing is usually a way to keep me mentally healthy. I haven’t written fiction in over a month now. It’s been terrible and I’ve been blaming myself. (Yeah, I know, not helpful and not the only wall I’ve been beating my head against.)
It’s been terrible.
And apart from that, I was sick. Stomach problems are the worst (ok, everything is the worst when you are having it). (Side rant about food poisoning: it is the common cold of the tropics. I’ve had two colds since I moved to Thailand, but I had food poisoning four times in the first two years.)
So I went to the doctor. Go, me! I hate going to the doctor. She said, You have the same thing you had last year, SIBO (small intestine bacterial overgrowth). I didn’t believe her, it didn’t feel the same, but I thought it was worth doing the breath test. She told me I had to wait a week, for certain medications to clear out of my system, and during that week I went on a restricted diet and felt a lot better, though not perfect and I was like, “Hot damn, the doctor is right, I have SIBO.”
So I was excited to do the breath test because ANTIBIOTICS are a fucking miracle, in spite of the test itself, which involves eating white food the day before (boiled chicken, fish or eggs and white rice with no seasoning besides salt and pepper) and then fasting 12 hours before the test and the 4 hours while the test is administered. You breathe into a tube attached to a plastic envelope every 20 minutes. It’s kind of cool, like a mobile pulmonary test.
Also, Thailand is amazing, they give you the results right away. But those results said: No SIBO. Devastation. Close to actual tears in the doctor’s office since no diagnosis means no treatment.
But I went home and my body was telling me, This is SIBO. I looked at my journals from last year, and my symptoms were the same. So I texted my awesome nutritionist from last year and told her what was going on. And she said, Hey! Fun fact, a lot of doctors think there are only two kinds of SIBO (based on the type of bacteria you have too much of) but now researchers think there is a third kind which doesn’t show up on the test and there’s no test for it. You might have hydrogen sulphide dominant SIBO. And then she went on vacation. And my doctor basically told me she didn’t believe in three kinds of SIBO, and I started feeling worse and worse and and there was a lot of lag time in there and I kept eating the regular SIBO diet because it had helped before. Meanwhile, don’t forget, I’m so depressed that I didn’t write an April newsletter, I haven’t blogged for more than a month on one blog and a month on this one and still no fiction. Wednesday night I felt so bad I was almost crying but I knew I had an appointment with my nutritionist on Thursday and I was really hoping she could help me again like she did before.
So we talk, and she says, let’s try the low-sulfur diet and I’m like, Why didn’t you tell me this before you went on vacation cause I’ve felt like I’ve been carrying a balloon in my belly and that balloon is made of pain. But I’m desperate so I go on a low sulfur diet and the first two days are awesome. My stomach stops hurting for the first time in weeks, I wake up with energy and not depressed. Here I was thinking I was depressed because I was sick, as a kind of side effect, but this felt like depression as a symptom. But it turns out that along with all the digestive problems of HS SIBO, brain fog and fatigue and trouble remembering things are legit symptoms.
I’m not better yet, because there are some bureaucratic complications,(and more tests, including the breath test AGAIN), but the low sulfur diet (with some further restrictions, like no vegetables–I was a vegetarian for 20 years!) is helping. I feel much better than even a few weeks ago, and for the last few days I have tentatively put down a few words of fiction in the morning.
It turns out the writer’s block was depression and the depression was a symptom of being sick.