I’m not writing this for your sympathy: I have no need, or desire, to receive a plethora of ‘get well soon’ messages (not to be ungrateful – it’s just a little beside the point…) I’m writing this for the people who, like myself, cannot use the word ‘allergy’, but know all too well that certain substances are detrimental to their health. I’m also writing this for the people that goad them. The people that claim that an absence of an EpiPen is a sign that we are merely fussy eaters: that the substances we put into our bodies have zero effect on the illnesses we suffer from. The ones who believe that if a reaction isn’t immediate and deadly that the ‘sensitivity’ is fake. This horror show is for you.
WARNING: GRAPHIC DESCRIPTIONS OF THE MENSTRUAL CYCLE ARE CONTAINED IN THIS POST.
One of the main tenets of the Endometriosis Diet is removing Wheat completely. The exact process of how gluten affects Endometriosis isn’t entirely known, but ongoing research suggests that the condition may have some auto-immune elements, which would suggest that gluten may be encouraging the inflammatory response that causes the debilitating symptoms. For me, personally, Wheat is bad but Barley is a lot worse: which makes what I did just over a couple of weeks ago truly, truly idiotic.
I gave up alcohol when I was twenty-nine. Not for health reasons (I hadn’t even been diagnosed with Endometriosis, at the time) but because I got bored. All alcohol seemed to be doing was to make my filtration systems work a lot harder, and I didn’t feel as though I was experiencing anything new or interesting when I consumed it. To that end, I decided that I had had a lifetime’s worth of alcohol and that it was time to stop. I got over the missing cocktails fairly rapidly, but I never lost my appetite for beer. When I tried non-alcoholic beer for the first time the taste memory of ‘real’ beer was too fresh in my mind: what hit my tongue tasted worse than penicillin. But, by replacing the real flavour with something much worse, it did manage to curb my craving – almost completely. By the time I had a mouthful of Becks Blue, last year, I had barely any recollection of what the authentic taste of beer should be: it wasn’t exactly delicious, but the flavour was palatable. There was no way this would become a staple drink, but I couldn’t see the harm in it as an occasional tipple. And by occasional I really mean occasional – months would go by between bottles; so perhaps that’s why I wasn’t fully noticing the effects of the Barley.
In the two weeks before my period, I’m uber careful about what’s placed in my digestive system, as the changes in my endocrine system can be triggered by minute amounts of whatever it deems to be a toxin. So why I felt that it would be ‘okay’ to have a couple of mouthfuls of fermented Barley the night before my period was due to start is beyond me.
The blood had clotted to the consitency of chopped liver…
I can always tell when I’ve taken proper care of myself as the blood I pass is a full shade of crimson; and, even though I suffer at least two days of ‘Red Niagra’, I would be able for the most part to control (or, at least, plough through) the worst of the symptoms. Even when I was having a full on flare I would usually get a Michelle Pfeifer-Witches Of Eastwick moment where the symptoms would thankfully stop – leaving only the internal ‘bruising’ in their wake; which is much easier to deal with.
This time, the discarded blood had clotted to the consistency of chopped liver and, as there is very little dilation of the cervix present during menstruation, it meant that large pieces of bodily tissue had to pass through some very small spaces. The pressure of this pile of ‘rotting black pudding’ created an unbelievable level of pain that radiated through my entire pelvis and down both my legs: there wasn’t an analgesic strong enough that I could obtain legally, so a cocktail of paracetamol, codeine and ibuprofen was what I came to rely upon. This uterine hell was coupled with the internal disaster of my renal and digestive systems having their own personal conniptions. My kidneys would lie screaming whenever they weren’t swaddled in heat, and my bowel decided to hold on to as much of its waste as was possible as though it was a precious cargo to be utilised at a later date.
I was reduced to doing little more than watching Daredevil, sideways…
What truly defined this horrific flare-up though was just how drawn out this bodily trauma was to become. For two full weeks, I would wake up with the sensation of my pelvis being sledge-hammered and my kidneys being full of poison. My digestive system was in a complete state of confusion, leaving me to understand, on an intellectual level, that my stomach was empty but unable to actually feel the hunger I knew I should have been experiencing. I barely have to mention the clichéd term ‘vicious circle’ to highlight the fact that being unable to eat can hardly be considered an aid to recovery. Spring was emerging outside of my window and I was reduced to doing little more than watching Daredevil, sideways. I wish that was the end of my story; but, much like a runaway train hurtling towards the depot, just because it has reached its destination, coming to a halt is still an issue. Endometriosis crashed straight into Fibromyalgia ensuring that the end of one disaster was merely the beginning of another. Disrupted sleep, excessive pain, weekend ligaments and a continual deficit of spoons were the things that walked beside me as I headed back into the luteal phase of my menstrual cycle. And all this from a couple of mouthfuls of non-alcoholic beer!
It’s true that this was clearly a hell of my own making as it was by no means news to me that Barley might be a little bit like Kryptonite. So I wanted to share this as a warning to those of you getting harangued to “just try a little…” or are being told that “one meal won’t make that much difference.” Well, ‘a little’ is what I had, which makes it clear that a meal could mean the difference between sleeping in your own bed and spending a night in a hospital. Any and all consequences will be yours to bear: and just because the corporeal body shock doesn’t happen immediately, it doesn’t mean it won’t happen at all.