Some people say ulcer pains are either hunger-induced, stress-induced or caused by taking too much NSAIDs. Mine was caused by all three.
I was naturally skinny and hard life in secondary school had left me looking like bone. But like everyone who finishes school and stays home, I gained weight. Not bad weight but everyone around me was like, “Deborah, you’re fat now o.”
I was used to not having breakfast, eating junk all day, and if I was in the mood, one meal at night. Naturally, I was picky, choosing not to eat white rice because you had to eat it with stew and God forbid if I let my tongue taste pepper. Over the years, the sight of white rice sickened me and if I was dying, I still wouldn’t eat it. And if you know Nigerian homes, rice is always the main course.
Whenever I was hungry, my mother would yell at me to eat whatever was in the house. It would get my dad’s attention and he would complain about me being different from my siblings. Some days, I would eat the rice plain without stew. On other days, I would stubbornly refuse. I would go hungry. When I hadn’t eaten for a long time, my parents (mom especially) would convince me to eat again. When she couldn’t, she would ask what I wanted. Minutes later, I would be eating bread. My parents were paying attention to me and I was losing weight by choosing not to eat. I was killing two birds with one stone. I was a genius.
Then I started working. Once in a while, I walked to work or back home, whichever suited me, to save my transport fare. Most of my salary was going toward family and transport and I wanted something out of it to buy clothes and shoes, make my hair and glow up like my classmates. I would walk home to save transport fare and I wouldn’t eat till I got home at six p.m. to save my food money. Besides, trekking and not eating would help me lose all the weight I had gained. I was killing 3 birds with one stone. I was a genius.
I had chosen to work for two reasons: I needed the money and most importantly, I would finally be away from the house. Having been at home for a year, I needed the break. I would be working from 7.30 a.m. to 6 p.m. I would be staying away from home and making money. Murdering two birds with one stone. I was a genius.
I was working long hours, trying to balance it with my education, reading and writing and let’s not mention all the other things I was involved in. I read a lot, cried a lot, and got headaches a lot. Headache was an understatement. Migraines. When they came, I wouldn’t be able to move my head. Talking was a chore. The pain was in the back of my head, creeping up the sides to my eyes and nose. I wouldn’t even be able to cry out. They came frequently like tiny attacks . They’d cause me agony for a couple of hours,, disappear, and return the next day. They were too much–my parents were tired. They complained that I was only pretending to get out of doing my chores. So I stopped telling them. Whenever the attack came, I would drag myself to the top of the cupboard and grab two tablets of whatever pain killer I could find –Paracetamol, Panadol, Acetaminophen, Ibuprofen. And when two tablets were insufficient, I would look around, and when I was sure no one was watching, squeeze my eyes shut, pray that I wouldn’t die of overdose, and pop one or two more tablets into my mouth.
I was working long hours, struggling to read, hadn’t written in weeks, starving myself and abusing painkillers.
When the back pain came, it was sharp and for a while my chest would burn. I dismissed it as usual back pain. I massaged it, adjusted my posture, did exercise and of course took more pain killers. I complained at work and one of my colleagues at work mentioned that it might be ulcer. She and her daughter had had it before. When the pain got too much, I went to the hospital. After describing the symptoms and asking if it could be ulcer, I was diagnosed.
H. Pylori had come to live with me and it seemed like every minute, I was hungry, tired and in pain.
Hunger had never been so painful. Something was eating me, making holes and I had to eat to fill it up. Headaches and tiredness followed suit leaving me feeling useless. It was at this point I began to contemplate. I asked questions and the thought of death managed to pop up.
There was a night I thought would be my last. Everyone was asleep and I was rolling on the floor, crying as the pain took over me. I don’t even know how I got to the stairs, but I lay there, crying wanting the pain to go away. I tried to not focus on it– if my mind was occupied, I wouldn’t know what the pain felt like. I contemplated the decisions I had made and I wished.
I wished I liked white rice like normal people. I wished I had money so I didn’t have to starve myself and trek just to save money. I wished I didn’t read and think too much so I wouldn’t have had to take painkillers. I wished my parents showed how much they loved me so I didn’t have to do suicidal things to gain their attention.
I cried a lot more. When I couldn’t think anymore, with whatever strength I had, I crawled downstairs, grabbed a pen and paper, crawled back up the stairs and started to write. For the first time in months I wrote. I can’t remember what it was that I wrote but I was in tears, pain, hungry and thinking I was going to die and I wrote.
Who fears death? Not me because all men must die. It is a certainty and I will not bother myself with that which I cannot change.
But if I was going to die, I had to write something first. When my family members find my body, they’d find my pen in my hand. The thought was comforting. When I was done, I was alright. I wasn’t hungry anymore because it had filled me. There was no pain because it was my drug, moving through me, eliminating pain, healing me. I wasn’t going to die, not yet, because writing is life.