Guest Post: Gastroparesis – Curse or Blessing?
The honest and heartfelt article below was written especially for this blog by Marta Luzim. Marta is a Psychospiritual therapist, as well as a fellow GPer and one of my clients. I hope that Marta’s words will inspire you to take a closer look at your own journey and remind you that, whatever your circumstances, it is possible to learn to live well with gastroparesis. ~Crystal
Gastroparesis – A Curse or a Blessing?
By Marta Luzim, MS
In August 2004, my mother died in a psychiatric ward. Four months later my sister, Carla, committed suicide. A tragedy that rocked my world to oblivion with repercussions that changed my life forever.
Immediately after my sister’s funeral, I began to regurgitate. Day in and day out. Four to five times a day. Over the next two years, I lost 30 pounds, developed an anxiety disorder because I was choking on food stuck in my esophagus, and suffered depression from isolation from the inability to play, work and participate in a normal life. I was in and out of hospitals with little help from the medical profession. Over the next two years, I went to four gastroenterologists, all of whom put me through a litany of tests. One asserted that I had severe acid reflux and took out my gall bladder, and prescribed Reglan. That made things worse. I had a delusional reaction to the drug and ended up throwing it in the garbage. My symptoms progressed and were more unmanageable.
Finally, a friend recommended her gastro doctor who prescribed motility testing. Lo and behold, he informed me that I had idiopathic gastroparesis. I had no clue what this disorder was, but the doctor suggested Domperidone. The prescription had a positive effect and symptoms decreased, although not entirely in a way where I felt well. After six months, he suggested Botox treatment. Directly after the procedure, I had severe pain and extreme spasms. The reaction settled down and I felt better for several months. It didn’t last. The doctor then informed me that I would most likely have to get these injections every six months, with no guarantees, and that he wouldn’t do more than three treatments. The stress was greater than the temporary results of the procedure. I said no. He then talked about inserting a pace maker into my stomach. My fear heightened. Surgery at that time was not an option for me.
Not knowing what else to recommend, he referred me to an “expert” who specialized in gastroparesis. After a long interview of my childhood history, he diagnosed that the condition was caused by the shock of my sister’s suicide coupled by a history of childhood abuse that traumatized and shut down the communication between my brain and stomach. He said that I suffered from post-traumatic stress. The doctor wanted to put me on anti-depressants. I refused. As a Psychospiritual Therapist, Metaphysican, Creative Arts and Emotional Body healer, artist and writer, I knew that an anti-depressant would numb out my feelings. Throughout my life, I healed my childhood trauma through natural, creative and holistic mental/emotional therapies, without drugs. I said, “I will find an answer elsewhere.”
From the constant vomiting, my habits of eating started to imitate that of an eating disorder. The anxiety, depression, and rage I had over a body I no longer had control over intensified. The chronic condition robbed me of my sense of taste, my safety, and my sanity. To make things worse, I judged and blamed myself for this condition, being a professional in the field of psychology and metaphysics. I criticized myself for not having the answer to this life sucking condition.
I developed a phobia around food, supermarkets, restaurants and crowded places. For a extended period of time I had to lug around a pan or cup in case I had to vomit, pack food and have Xanax on hand in case I had a panic attack. I wasn’t the person I once was. My life became an empty shell of regret and darkness. I feared death and crumpled into despair. I was angry at God and lost faith in myself. A healthy, active, creative person for most of my life, I now saw myself as a sick person with little hope.
Finally, after wanting to hire hit men to murder and maim my doctors, I plied myself out of the puddle of mess of inhumanness gastroparesis beat me into and became pro-active. I knew I had to pull on every resource to heal myself and fight for my life. I had to find the light at the end of the tunnel. And I did.
Through a diligent search I found Crystal Saltrelli, a nutritional counselor for gastroparesis, Leslie Landy, an amazing acupuncturist, and Sophia Cayer, an expert in trauma and abuse. I began a ritual of meditating, painting and writing. I guided myself like I was my own client and delved into my heart and soul. I proceeded on a journey to transform my life. I didn’t know what I would find.
Through the next three years I turned myself inside out. I delved into my psyche, my lifestyle choices and learned about my body and digestion and how it functioned with gastroparesis. Crystal taught me about gastroparesis-friendly food. She helped me to teach myself how to eat, and listen to my body with mystical sight and ears. When I was hungry, when I was not, what my body felt like after each meal, each bite, and each taste. Tuning into every nuance and reaction to how my body responded to types and amounts of food I could digest. How much rest I needed between meals for food to digest. I felt like I was playing Russian roulette until I found patterns and a rhythm of eating with my gastroparesis. (Thank you Crystal!). Soon, I found a “normality” with food. Supermarkets, restaurants and crowds became a part of my life again.
The rest was magical and darkly challenging. I found out, in spite of my professional training and years of my own personal healing, that I had unhealed grief and anger from my family’s deaths. In addition, I was grieving a part of my life that no longer had meaning to me. I realized that, as many people as I’ve helped to heal, I had been neglecting basic needs, dreams and desires of my own. The “expert” doctor was correct in that I was still suffering from post-traumatic symptoms from childhood abuse on top of the stress, trauma and anxiety from gastroparesis. I had to slow down! Stop! Re-configure my life. Deeply listen to my own inner guidance and wisdom.
Soon, gastroparesis and all its octopusy hands around my neck loosened. I found a new level of care, self-love and purpose to my life. I was re-inventing myself. I completed the novel I had put off. I opened avenues in my heart to work more deeply with clients, and I found new ways to connect to myself as a wife, mother and woman. I started an organization, Give Her AVoice, Inc., a non-profit which raises funds through theatrical productions and workshops to support women who are recovering from abuse and trauma through holistic and creative processes.
Now I give into more sleep, more alone time. I am more honest with who I am; saying no to what doesn’t serve me, saying yes to what is surprising and unfamiliar; simple things like taking a nap or watching three funny movies in a row. I stopped trying to prove I am not sick, stopped trying to look normal and allowed myself to flow more authentically with my time and energy. Today, I have a much wiser understanding of gratitude. I know that life is precious and I am mortal. I feel ignited to love more fiercely and with renewed commitment.
It is not an easy road living with a chronic condition. So much that other people do not understand. So much to still understand about yourself. The physical adjustments, the mental and emotional challenges, the sensitivity to your needs, the time and patience to find compassion for your own circumstances… and the knowledge to becoming new, knowing that you are well, alive and living according to a new plan in your life.
Gastroparesis, in spite of the good days and bad days, has given me a new perspective on how to live my life. I cannot flagrantly waste my time. I must use every moment to continue healing, growing and finding what makes me happy. I did feel cursed when gastroparesis bestowed its harrowing presence in my life. There are still times I am saddened by the hyper-vigilance and certain restriction gastroparesis holds me to. However, what’s more important to me as I look at the palm trees swaying from my kitchen window, the clouds puffed up and sailing across aqua skies, I breathe in, and realize I am writing and reaching out to whoever reads this article. I feel blessed to be able to share and help.
All of you who are steadily working to live, heal and understand yourself with this condition, you are a unique individual. Each of you has the innate wisdom to find the answers that will support your well-being. Living with gastroparesis evokes the courage to find the truth in your own life. Allow whatever ails you to be the light to show you the way to your true self. Gastroparesis strikes with a hard blow, but ultimately, with patience, compassion and self-inquiry it can be a path to self-enlightenment. Don’t ever give up. Every day brings new awareness.
If you are interested in counseling for the emotional, spiritual and psychological adjustments of living with gastroparesis, you can contact Marta at www.martaluzim.com, firstname.lastname@example.org or 954-752-2227.
Marta J. Luzim, MS is a Psychospiritual therapist, Founder and President of Primal Healing and Art, and the 501(c)(3) charitable non-profit organization Give Her A Voice, Inc. (www.giveheravoice.org). She has had a private practice for thirty-five years focusing on women’s issues, mind/body healing, relationships and healing the trauma of abuse. She holds an MS in Counseling Psychology and a BS in Education. In addition, she is a trained Hypnotherapist, certified Metaphysician, Intimacy Trainer, emotional-body healer, emotional intuitive, certified rebirther (breath work), certified Kaizen Creative Coach and Florida State Mediator. Marta is an artist, novelist, poet and playwright. Her personal passion to share, heal and teach, combined with her creative and academic expertise have brought her clients from around the country.
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