I often harass my kids about not using their better judgment…you know the old, “Well, if Ben jumped off a bridge would you jump too?” thing. Today, though, I need to have that conversation with myself. Last night I went a bit overboard while entertaining some friends. It’s one thing to be sick because you’ve picked up an icky virus. But, it’s ludicrous when you’re sick because you refused to listen to your own body telling you to knock it the heck off.
Medically speaking, I am not really supposed to eat and drink whatever I want because I had my gallbladder removed in 2002 when my first son was not quite 9 months old. My body cannot process high fat foods as well as it once did. The surgery was a medical necessity because, as an ER doctor so eloquently put it, my gallbladder was a “useless, completely filled beanbag.” I was having severe attacks that would leave me doubled over in pain for 4-10 hours at a time, and the attacks were becoming more frequent. Multiple doctors assured me that my beanbag gallbladder was damaged enough to become infected and potentially burst.
However, I was a young mother, sleep-deprived, and not really paying attention as the doctor rattled off post-surgical behaviors I would need to adhere to. He told me that I should be able to lead a normal life, but I would need to watch my fat intake to avoid digestive issues. In my brain, that meant that provided I didn’t try to eat a cheeseburger, fries, a shake, and a piece of cheesecake in the same sitting, I shouldn’t have any trouble. I’m a relatively healthy eater, so that menu seemed highly improbable anyway. And, any concern I had about what the surgery meant for my future went into a jar with my diseased organ. It was gone, and I was done with the stomach pain.
Or so I thought until the first time I really overdid it while eating. I hadn’t been paying attention to what I was consuming. And, that night I fell asleep feeling not quite right. I woke up just an hour later feeling truly sick. I started to think maybe I’d gotten a stomach bug or perhaps food poisoning. Nope. Turns out my body was working furiously trying to process all the junk I had eaten. After a sleepless, nauseous, and very uncomfortable night, you would think I’d have learned my lesson. You’d be wrong. Last night is a case in point. I still will occasionally forget that I should not eat whatever I want. And, since there isn’t a meter in my body that lets me know when I am reaching DEFCON 5 with regard to the amount of fat I’ve consumed, sometimes it sneaks past me one bite at a time until I am positively miserable.
As I was awake for hours last night, praying my food would digest faster and riding waves of cold sweat and nausea, I kept returning to this one thought: “Why do I do this to myself?” Certainly, I know better. This has happened to me more times than I should admit. But, it’s easy for me to ignore my body because it should simply do whatever my brain believes it should be able to do, right? And I need it to do a lot.
I think women do this quite often. We ignore our health because we are busy and don’t have time to deal with it. We push ourselves when we need to back off because we’re the mom and we have to keep things running. This is how last fall I let a cold become a sinus infection and eventually become bronchitis. It’s how I shoveled my way to 5 weeks’ worth of bed rest when I was pregnant with our second child. My employers don’t tolerate sick days or slackers, so I neglect my health and soldier on.
It’s wrong, though, how I’ve learned not to pay attention to what my body needs. I only have this one vessel and if I disregard it and it falls into disrepair, what then? Who will run my vast empire of laundry, dirty dishes, and dusty ceiling fans? Who will take care of my two small bosses in my absence? I need to remember that sleep is imperative, healthy food choice is crucial, and water consumption is compulsory. I need to use my better judgment. After all, just because everyone else is eating cheesecake and chocolate doesn’t mean I need to too…although I’ll definitely want to.