It was October 2019. I was a month out from giving birth, recovering from a pretty bad hemorrhage after a precipitous induction, and super anemic. Our landlord told us we had to move because some of our son’s toys had gone down the drain and (possibly) caused a clog in our tub. I had just gotten off antibiotics for mastitis and an ear infection, trying to wean because of my history with recurrent mastitis, and eating all the carbs and sugar and caffeine to comfort and keep me going.
One night I had a couple beers with some Thai food, lamented the fact that my older son and husband were out of town for a conference, and fell asleep anxiously awaiting their return while worrying about the many boxes needing to be packed for our move. I woke up the next morning with heart palpitations, a surge of anxiety, and burping with these gasping for air burps that involuntarily robbed me of my breath every 2 seconds. I felt so outside of my body with a fog that I recalled getting after being on multiple rounds of antibiotics when Gabe was an infant.
I began the 3 month dive into the Dr. Google pool that day, searching for answers. What seemed most likely to me was that I had an ulcer. My sister in law who is a doctor recommended Omeprazole. I ran out the door to the pharmacy and bought the PPI, a medication I had never heard of before. Within three days of taking the PPI, I had phantom leg pains. I stopped taking it, concerned. The pains stayed for over 2 weeks, but then they turned into tingling sensations, spreading from my arms to my legs to my face. They didn’t go away for weeks and weeks. I was convinced I had Multiple Sclerosis. My mom flew out from California to Massachussetts for the second time in a month to help my husband and me manage everything. I could barely care for myself, let alone my children. David, my wonderful husband, needed to work, and I didn’t know what was happening to my body and the brain fog was so intense, it was hard to put a sentence together. I spent every waking moment on my phone or computer, searching for answers and looking for MS support groups. I went to see my (new) primary caregiver (I had never needed to see anyone since first moving here the year before) and she dismissed my symptoms as postpartum anxiety. I cried for days straight it seemed, feeling so out of control of my body and just wanting answers. Why couldn’t I perceive cold or heat correctly? Why did my pinkies and hands feel weak? Why couldn’t I stop burping?
I got a GERD diagnosis in the midst of all this from my doctor’s office’s Nurse Practitioner. I got a new doctor…she greeted me with “you again?” when I’d walk through her office door.
I went to the ER, thinking I had MS, and feeling like asking my doctor questions just annoyed her. They didn’t find anything on the MRI or the various blood tests they took, including Lyme. I saw a chiropractor, desperate for any sort of help. (He wanted me to come three days a week, which was not going to happen.) I started going to therapy. I was put on an SSRI (Celexa) for postpartum anxiety. I got an endoscopy and was put on more PPIs. They made me feel crazy again. I went off them again.
The endoscopy showed my Lower Esophageal Sphincter was “gaping” open. The Physician’s Assistant told me my choices were basically surgery or medication for life. I refused to believe those were my options. The SSRI started helping my mood and my energy levels, and the sensations started to slowly slip away. Unfortunately, it also made the burping come back even more intensely than before.
I started going to a postpartum acupuncturist. She was able to help my crazy sensations during the treatments and I found acupuncture to be the only space I felt I could truly RELAX.
I got a new doctor, one who listened to me and helped me wean off the Celexa. We flew back to California for Christmas and even though I burped through every second of that trip, I believed that once I got off the SSRI, I could start to heal and maybe my LES would start to close.
It was a lot more complicated than that. But so began 2020.