Every morning I make the same breakfast sandwich: two eggs and cheddar cheese between two slices of toasted bread. As a kid I never ate breakfast, but as an adult I look forward to it. Breakfast not only tastes good, it also gives me energy I need to start my day.
Today isn’t like the other days. On any other day, I would wash down my breakfast with a glass of milk. Today I feel brave, defiant; today, I feel like taking a risk.
Before making my breakfast sandwich, I open the fridge and peer inside. I could have milk, with its comforting pH of almost 7. It’s not much different from water, which in its purest form is a perfect 7. Courage, or maybe stupidity for all I know, floods me as I reach past the milk and pull out a bottle of orange juice.
‘Yes,’ I think to myself, ‘This will work.’
I sit at the kitchen table with my breakfast sandwich and the glass of orange juice to the side. I take a bite of my sandwich and bask in its glory, already forgetting I personally signed my death certificate five minutes ago. After every pleasure-filled swallow, I chase the sandwich down with a little orange juice until both the plate and the glass are empty.
Full and semi-interested in facing the world, I go upstairs and get ready for classes. Before I take off, I take my dog for a short walk and do a little laundry. I arrive at UMBC early, park neatly, and spend my morning taking notes in class. I feel okay so far, though I can tell there is something not right going on inside of me.
By noon, the orange juice is in full effect. From inside my stomach I feel an intense burning until it’s reached the back of my throat, and I can’t escape what I’ve done. Without another thought I go to the bathroom, brace myself against the sink and breathe in and out. I swear at myself, demanding to know why I left the house without taking an antacid first. Prilosec should consider hiring me for their commercials. My testimonial would bring other people to tears. Or maybe they’d just make viewers sicker.
To think this is me on my best days after drinking orange juice. On my worst days, you can find me in one of the bathrooms in Sondheim, aggressively duking it out with my stomach. I become Jurassic Park‘s depiction of a Dilophosaurus, spitting acid like a two-legged llama without the intent to capture prey, and also in much larger amounts.
Why do I do this? Why do I put myself through intense misery, over and over, even though I know exactly what will happen? I should know by now to control what I eat or else face certain illness. When I stop and think, I find that I DO know what not to eat. It’s why I take an antacid before or after certain meals. I know what will happen later so I do what I can to lessen my pain.
Desperate to understand why I do what I do, I turned to the Internet and came across people just like me. There are other people who put themselves through hell and back, trying to show their bodies that they make the decisions. Some people with chronic pain will refuse pain medication in an attempt to defy and control their bodies. It is their way of maintaining control over a body they feel they have lost control over. It is the same for me. Drinking orange juice or eating pasta sauce is my taking control of the body that rejects many foods I once loved. Once upon a time I could drink orange juice with pizza and not feel a thing. If I tried that now, I’d probably spend an afternoon begging for death on the floor of my Pepto Bismol-pink bathroom. I feel the effects of acidic foods on my stomach days later, and it takes a week before my body feels right again.
Imagine that: a whole week of misery after one glass of orange juice. And I know the outcome! I’ve known it for many years. I’ll never learn from my actions though. I’ll keep trying to establish control over a body I never had complete control over to begin with, a body that defies me and a body I defy in return. Cheerfully instigating my acid reflux may not seem as extreme as hanging one’s body by hooks or diving off of cliffs, but think of the worst stomach virus you have ever had. Are you thinking about it? Good. Now you know what I put myself through to unhealthily and ineffectively establish dominance over my body.
I promise I’m not as foolish as this post makes me seem, but making myself sick is pretty foolish. Extremely foolish and/or foolishly extreme.