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Grace & Grounding: The Gospel of Healing

The Weight We Carry

By Shereá Denise

There's a leak in this old building and my soul has got to move.

My soul has got to move.

Song - There's a Leak in This Old Building by LaShun Pace

I know you are likely wondering what a SIBO Breath Test is. I will explain more about SIBO and the SIBO Breath Test at the end of this post.


What some people tend to forget most about illness is how the efforts to mask your illness can sometimes take more of a toll on you than the actual sickness does. I am reminded - again - of my childhood on church pews, hearing many a worshiper declare, “But I thank God that I don’t look like what I’ve been through.” I was always skeptical of this particular expression. That skepticism was rooted in knowing that - if nothing else - people always put on their best face to come to church. This particular statement was one that taught me early-on to put on my best face, to mask my troubles, and to focus on making sure no one else could tell what I was going through.


As I am writing this post I am laying in my bed with painful tingling in my legs and feet, stiffness in my knees and right hip, ongoing gastrointestinal problems, random bladder spasms and inflammation symptoms, and continual skin reactions. I am both fearful about eating and concerned about losing more weight. I am teetering between tears of exhaustion and gratitude for making it through the night with nothing too crazy occurring within my body. I am also frustrated. Having been on antibiotics for more than a week and watching my symptoms worsen rather than improve reminds me of why I stopped getting my hopes up about healing, diagnoses, and solutions after about a year into this process.


In addition to going through these sometimes debilitating health challenges, I am struggling with the fatigue that comes from trying to hide said health challenges from everyone else so that they will not see me as less than, difficult, or weak (whatever that means). Not looking like what I have been through means that I try to prevent people from centering my health, but my mask causes them to forget that my health issues exist altogether. People not recognizing the amount of physical and emotional pain that you are in can cause them to have inconsiderate and unreasonable expectations of you - both at work and in your community. (There is also something to be said for the continued inconsiderate and unreasonable expectations that you may have for yourself, but we will save that for later.)


The fatigue is not just limited to trying to look the part of a healthy person. It is also connected to the anxious thoughts and obsessive planning for worst case scenarios, the worry while waiting for each set of possible test results, the meaning of worsening symptoms, as well as the gratitude for the negative test results laced with a hint of frustration because those negative test results put me further away from a diagnosis and a treatment plan. The unexpected change from finding comfort in food to developing a fear of food, nervousness about how every bite has the potential to affect my body and whatever semblance of control I was trying to maintain in and of itself is exhausting. It takes a lot of breath work, affirmations, and the occasional fit of tears to make it through each day, hour, or moment. Though I am no longer 370 pounds, this emotional weight seems heavier. Learning to carry this weight does not get easier by buying larger clothes, different shoes, or bra extenders.


There are so many words that could be used to describe the last 2 ½ years: Surprising. Difficult. Life-altering. Frustrating. Amazing. Disappointing. 


Let’s be clear: I do not regret my decision to have weight loss surgery. The process has opened my eyes to a plethora of things that I would not know about had it not been for this particular journey. The last 900+ days have been far from a waste, but each day has come with its own amazing highs and devastating lows. 


I began writing this post on May 31, 2023, after several weeks of finally owning and expressing the negative feelings that I have about my health and what I have been experiencing on the other side of 230+ pounds lost. People think this process is all new outfits, transformation pictures, and non-scale victories. In some ways I was of a similar mindset. Now I am too tired to put together thought provoking or encouraging transformation posts, I long to be at least 50 pounds heavier, my side-by-side pictures are non-existent because of the current state of my skin, and I cannot recklessly spend money on clothes because I want to be sure to be able to pay for any medical expenses that may come up.


Fast forward.


On June 23, 2023 I learned that I had tested positive for both Hydrogen and Methane-dominant SIBO. Based on the research I had done for several months prior, this diagnosis did not surprise me. My treatment was fairly simple: 14 days of taking an antibiotic 3 times per day. Unfortunately, I am writing this on day 10 of treatment and I do not feel much better. I am hopeful because - at a minimum - I finally have a diagnosis that makes sense and could potentially explain all of my symptoms. 


In the days prior to and since receiving my results I have been working to avoid those foods that may trigger my symptoms (such as foods containing gluten or that are considered High FODMAP) and finding alternatives for the staples in my diet that are no longer an option. Based on my Therapist’s recommendation, I stopped researching (as much, LOL). I also started acknowledging  what I had accomplished by advocating for myself. This included realizing and accepting that I had done all that I could to address and resolve my health issues. I am continuing to work on not personalizing or internalizing things and recognizing when I am operating within a narrative that is not my own. Some days this looks like ignoring commentary from others regarding my appearance. Other days this looks like consciously choosing not to dwell on comments from random people that could evoke fear or anxiety about my health or feelings of guilt about what I can and cannot do.


Of the countless things that I have learned during this process, accepting that I do not have to deny my own health issues and/or pretend to be okay for the comfort of others is high on that list. Sometimes you truly have to allow yourself to look like what you are going through and that says no more or no less about who you are as a person. Anyone who tells you differently - at the church house, at work, or elsewhere - is telling you that the thoughts and feelings that others have about you and your health take precedence over honoring the space that you are in and the feelings that you have about yourself. They are wrong.


“No one talks about how exhausting it is to pretend to be okay. Moving through your day while grieving, sad, angry, anxious, depressed, etc., requires a lot of effort.” –Nedra Glover Tawwab


Let’s talk about SIBO (small intestinal bacterial overgrowth):

As an aside, when you encounter someone whose appearance has changed or who may not appear to be operating as they normally would/as you think they should, your commentary is rarely needed. Before offering unsolicited advice or remarks, ask yourself if what you are about to say is kind, helpful, or necessary. Do not project your thoughts or concerns onto people who may already be fighting battles that you do not know about or who may be struggling in ways that you do not understand.

Read Part One: We've Come This Far By Faith

Read Part Three: Learning How to Breathe

Find additional posts and resources here.

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