First of all, Gastroparesis Pain IS Real
In the summer of 2020, I was helping my son recover from a motorcycle accident. Suddenly, I was overcome with such extreme stomach pain. I almost fainted and had to throw myself in the shower. I was screaming in pain at the top of my lungs.
My son asked me if he needed to take me to the ER.
“Hell no!”, I replied. “All they are going to do is give me Dilaudid and Zofran. The Zofran does nothing for me, so I will be puking all night. Then sleeping all day…”
I know this drill. Been there, done that…several times. I was hydrated. So I treated myself with a hot pad, did some diaphragmatic breathing and went to sleep. All this, knowing the next day would offer me a colonic cleanse. Yay me.
And again, I survived.
Gastroparesis Related Psychosomatic Symptoms
WAIT! Don’t close this yet. I understand the anger, frustration and resentment that occurs when someone expresses that our Gastroparesis symptoms are “all in our minds”. Or they are “psychosomatic”.
But, maybe…just maybe, we might want to consider this from time to time. With an open mind, please read on.
The National Center for Biotechnology Information Website has determined:
- Gastroparesis is associated with significant psychological distress and poor quality of life.
- Patients suffering from chronic gastrointestinal conditions frequently report psychological symptoms, such as anxiety, depression, and impaired quality of life (QoL).
- Based on one study 18% of gastroparesis patients have severe depression, 36% have severe state anxiety, and 35% have severe trait anxiety.
- With limited treatment options available for gastroparesis, the importance of psychological support or intervention for gastroparesis patients has been repeatedly emphasized in the literature. 
Can you relate? And the distress and anxiety has taken me to the ER more times than one could imagine.
Depression Associated with Gastroparesis
I can’t count the number of, “I can’t go on anymore like this”, or “I give up”, posts I have seen on the GP Facebook group pages.
This is serious: IF YOU ARE EXPERIENCING SUICIDAL THOUGHTS OR THOUGHTS OF HARMING YOURSELF, PLEASE CONTACT SOMEONE IMMEDIATELY.
Or contact The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. They are available 24 hours: 800-273-8255
Getting help is not a show of weakness. Quite the contrary, it takes courage to reach out for help.
You may not want to consider “taking another damn pill”, but if it is necessary, then it is necessary. Speak to your doctor.
I also recommend not doing any research online while in this state. Additionally, you might want to take a break from the Facebook groups or online forums. Although these groups are a great source of support and encouragement, some days there is a multitude of distressed people posting.
However, sometimes you need to share your despair with your group. And most of the time, the group will help hold you up. So, use your best judgement.
In the early days of my diagnosis, I found myself in a full state of depression. I made the mistake of visiting a dysfunctional part of my family. Then I read an article about child trafficking. This along with the thought that my fiancé at the time had not really signed up for this.
I laid off the internet and met with my doctor. I accepted his prescription for Lexapro. And I started seeing a therapist and a chiropractor.
Anxiety and Distress Associated with Gastroparesis
I get it. When we don’t eat solid food for sometimes weeks at a time, fear rises up. What is happening to the organs of my body? Or the anxiety of what pain we might experience if we choose to take a couple bites of a sandwich.
“Feel the fear and do it anyway!” ― Susan Jeffers
It is to our benefit to try to take those couple of bites. Though we might feel extreme pain, we might also find that we are able to do this. If our bodies are not ready, we will know soon enough. But we must try!
Hydration is about the best thing we can do for ourselves while we are in a flare up. I tend to reach for Propel or any water that includes electrolytes. This has kept me from the ER so many times. I may not know what is happening within my body but I do know that I am hydrated.
Additionally, for anxiety and depression, check out the breathing technique below to help calm your anxiety and soothe your depression.
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During one of my sessions with my chiropractor, I fell apart. Sobbing, I let out everything I was going through on him. My chiropractor then sat me up on the table and showed me a breathing technique to balance the sympathetic/parasympathetic systems.
He recommended that I do this every time my emotions were extremely imbalanced. Out of all the treatment this gentleman gave me, this recommendation was the most valuable.
The technique is called Diaphragmatic Breathing and it would be a lifesaver to me for many years. Coincidentally, this is a breathing technique I learned during Yoga Teacher training.
And it is easy to do. In a sitting or laying down position:
- Place one hand on the middle of the upper chest and the other hand on the stomach, just beneath the rib cage but above the diaphragm.
- Inhale, slowly breathing in through the nose
- Draw the breath down toward the stomach. You should feel the stomach push upward against the hand, while the chest remains still.
- Exhale, tightening the abdominal muscles
- Let the stomach fall downward while exhaling through pursed lips.
- Make sure your chest remains still. You want to breathe through your diaphragm, not your chest.
Continue this way of breathing until you feel calm and relaxed. Do this as many times as you need according to your emotional state.
Here is a video instruction by the UCLA Integrative Digestive Health and Wellness Program:
In addition, many of us Gastroparesis warriors find support pets a great deal of help. I recently adopted Winston, my “Schnau-shund”. Coincidentally, he also has Gastroparesis. Fortunately, dogs do not suffer as badly as we humans. But we do have much compassion for each other.
Between the Covid-19 shutdown/quarantine and my Gastroparesis flare ups, Winston keeps me sane, gets me walking and brings so much joy to my life. And…he loves to do yoga with me.
I hope you find the suggestions in this writing helpful. Please let me know whether they do or don’t in the comments. And if you have anything else that works for you.
Stay blissful AND healthy my fellow GP Warriors.