Thursday, November 25, 2010

Old enemies

I have some pretty bad memories growing up of trying to get rid of my acne. My mom would pin me when I was little to squeeze out a blackhead. When I was older, she made me wear makeup to cover it all up and bought me all sorts of medicated face washes. I would often wake up in the morning having felt like I didn't sleep, my face swollen and puffy, and in tears with pain. I eventually determined that I was sensitive to Salicylates. They are in aspirin, acne medications, and anything mint. So, I did my best to avoid the obvious culprits. But I regularly got guilted into using my acne facewashes, would wake up before school in tears and pain, and get shamed, yelled at, or occasionally thrown out of bed and across the room to motivate me to "get my ass to school".

At this time, I also simply stopped eating. I was too sick in the mornings to eat, would eat what I could tolerate at lunch, be half-starved by afternoon snack, and then devour whatever was given to me at dinner even if I hated it. I rarely felt good after dinner. I would get extremely tired for about a half hour, then anxious and jittery and incapable of sleeping for HOURS later. It worked out ok for me though, because it meant that I could stay up later doing homework. I never could concentrate on my homework while my mother was awake and in the house. Thankfully she went to bed early most nights. I had to get up at 6am though for school, so I rarely slept more than 6 hours.

We also had a "bread drawer" where we kept all the bread, cookies, chips, etc. By the time I was in High School, I had long ago refused to eat sandwiches or anything out of the drawer. I also refused to eat cereal and pretty much any fruit that was in the house (usually only grapes and apples). I had either oatmeal, a waffle, or nothing in the morning. I tried convincing my parents to let me go vegetarian at one point because I hoped that would make me feel better. Their response to that was to prepare ONLY pasta and meat dishes for a month. My mom refused to even prepare our normal veggie side dishes.

I was wild, unpredictable, moody and emotional as a child and teen. I had poor concentration, was easily provoked into a screaming rage, and would go days spinning out of control in a manic whirlwind followed by weeks and months of depression so deep, I didn't even have the motivation to try and kill myself. I knew something was wrong. But the doctors said I had a clean bill of health. I apparently wasn't "crazy" enough to be allowed to see a therapist. If I tried to utilize the school therapists or go to the nurse, my mother would guaranteed find out (she worked at the school) and would harass me until she found out my "reason" for going and then would yell at me that I was just fine. Needless to say, I don't have fond memories of growing up.

Since then, I have been searching for the answer to what was causing me to feel so bad and act so out of control. I was diagnosed with Celiac disease and that answered a lot of questions. I've found many more food intolerances since then too. I've always avoided salicylates outright (like aspirin and face wash) but never more than that (except a brief time in college when I only used salicylate free soaps, shampoo, toothpaste, etc). The problem is, and I've said this over an over.... the healthier food I eat, the sicker I get.

Guess what?!?! Salicylates are found in MOST fruits and vegetables. Growing up, I didn't eat a whole lot of flavorful foods that have natural salicylates in them. We had a pretty crappy diet of nothing but pasta and meat and salt and pepper. We didn't eat veggies or fruit or have nuts and seeds and spices, teas or condiments. But as I have searched for "safe" food in my gluten free, dairy free, soy free, yeast free, oat free, and corn free diet.... I have started to eat a lot more veggies and oils and vinegars and spices and all sorts of things. But I still stay up late wracked in pain (and there are no "safe" pain meds for me to take) and wake up feeling like shit. I go through the day in a stupor and my 6 years of chronic diarrhea is only getting worse. Granted, I'm a hell of a lot healthier and more functional (at least cognitively) than I was growing up. But you know what!?, I just want to have a good solid crap and a restful night's sleep. Is that really too much to ask???

I'm not happy about trying an elimination diet to see if salicylates really are my problem. There is a pretty good likelihood they are though. This is going to be really tough. Its kinda crappy to realize this on Thanksgiving and going into the holiday season. I finally thought I had figured out something so that this year I can FINALLY partake in the festivities and not just stand around starved watching everyone else pig out. As much as I don't like it, I also don't have the luxury of throwing out all the food in my house and restocking with "safe" salicylate free food because I am beyond poor. Its going to be a tough journey of negotiation and gradual replacement of the most troubling culprits to start with. The salicylate diet is much more complicated than a gluten free diet. Wish me luck! I am going to need it!


Marcia said...

Have you ever looked into the Feingold Program. The discussion of salicylates caught my eye but as I read about your self control issues, it further motivated me to post here. The Feingold Programm, a support group, deals with both problems: support, finding products free of salicylates and certain additives. Please check it out:

Another Feingolder

Jasmine said...

You mentioned you have no safe pain meds... I'm not sure if you have looked into it, or what your opinion of it is, but have you thought of looking into medicinal cannabis for it's pain management properties?


Vickie/Alex said...

Thanks Marcia for the tip. I've actually been looking into the feingold program.

Verity: I have tried med. cannabis but it is not very helpful to me because of my salicylate sensitivity. Salicylates are in most plants. but i'm glad that you brought it up. It gives me some ideas!