Godzilla is attacking the city, and your body is his stomping grounds.
(Warning: This could be construed as graphic/gross by some. Proceed with caution)
Phase One: A general feeling of unease.
When Godzilla decides he’s going to attack a city, he doesn’t usually call up the person in charge and say, “Hey…yeah…I’m gonna be there in about six hours, sooooo…..do what you gotta do.”
In much the same way, when food poisoning first begins to enter and lurk around your system, it doesn’t give you any real warning other than a feeling of unease. Not impending doom, not yet. Just ‘different.’ According to my research, the gestation period can be anywhere from two hours to 90 days, so sometimes, there is no real concrete way to tell when or where it first breaks in. But once it’s in, you’re doomed for a roller coaster ride straight to the bowels of hell. Emphasis on bowels.
Wednesday after lunch, my pants (which normally fit fine) were constricting. I felt as though my skin was being stretched to capacity, as if I needed to break outside of my own body. I also had an intense desire to lay down. If only I could rest, things would be so much better. A few closely timed bathroom trips later, I knew I needed to leave work early. My Mom was worried I wouldn’t make it home, but I assured her that home was only 18 minutes away and surely I could make that distance with no problems.
Phase Two: The initial attack
I didn’t make it.
About halfway home (and no bathroom for miles) I felt like my body was being enveloped in light. I started to see white and I knew I was going to faint. I couldn’t drive any further without being a danger to myself or other cars. I could feel the wave rising in my body fighting to take over. Godzilla was here.
I uttered an expletive (just being honest) and jerked the car into the nearest turnabout I saw. I opened the door and unbuckled my seat belt in one motion. In the next second, I was vomiting everything I’d eaten in the past week. One leg was hanging out of the car along with one hand bracing on the gravel. As the goop drained toward it, I moved my thumb out of the way and looked at the contents. “I don’t remember eating potatoes with skin on them” I thought before I another wave hit me and I added to the collection.
After I knew I was done, I pulled my hair back, and informed my Mom of my whereabouts. I felt ten times better, and showered immediately upon arriving home. A good nap and I’d be back to normal.
Phase Three: This means WAR.
That it is over so quickly and easily is a lie from Satan himself. Godzilla, aka Food poisoning, is only warming up. He’s taking a quick breather while he refuels. Because here’s the thing. Whatever it is that has caused this ruckus in your intestines/stomach is going to come out, and it’s going to keep coming out until you are an empty, shivering, delusional husk of a person.
It was after the shower that the chills set in. My body shook so violently that I feared I would bruise something. Another wave of white light turned into another wave of vomiting/diarrhea. And then another. And then….another.
Sidebar. Sometimes, when I’m really sick, I’ll play this twisted game of “Would You Rather?” When I have a migraine–“Would you rather have this migraine or a raging case of diarrhea?” “Would you rather have this laryngitis or the flu?” –I’m not saying it’s a good game, just that it’s a game. A case of mindfully bartering my various temporary illnesses in an attempt to make the best out of my current situation.
However, should at any moment, the choice be ‘food poisoning’ vs. ANYTHING ELSE, I’d choose the anything else.
Our first meeting came in August of 2010. I ate a frozen meal from Kroger that just didn’t taste ‘quite right.’ Having never experienced food poisoning before I didn’t put much stock in this early warning bell.
Not until about three hours later when I woke up and proceeded to spend the next eight hours alternately weeping, praying, vomiting, and you can guess what else in my bathroom.
I never, ever forgot that experience, and because of that, I knew exactly what I was going into. It didn’t make it easier, and I was still delusional by Thursday morning. I woke up every hour on the hour to vomit or have diarrhea or both. I truly and honestly didn’t think that much food could possibly exist inside a person. I lost just shy of six pounds.
During Wednesday night into the wee hours of Thursday morning, my mind had somehow convinced myself that if I made it to six am, I was going to live, and be completely cured. Every time I woke up and puked, I would then shout (to no one), “See you in an hour!” and go back to bed. Then, I would lay there, doze off, wake up and mutter, “only three more trips and you’re cured,” “only two more trips and you’re cured”…..I also had a high fever, which explains this completely ludicrous belief.
Phase Four: The Noodle
After that night of utter misery, and continually vomiting until it was just green water (more on that later) the fatigue set in. The body is finally empty, Godzilla has stomped his way out of the building, but the building has been smashed to the ground. It is now that the rebuilding begins. Your insides set to work making everything whole and right again. But this is going to take time. LOTS of time.
For me, victory on Thursday was found in being able to move from the couch to the bathroom, or the bed to the bathroom. Because, just because my stomach was empty did not yet mean my intestines were. I still was not able to stand upright. I walked, hunched over like a 1,000 year old man from room to room, carrying my little trashcan ‘just in case.’ Nothing else mattered. I didn’t get on social media, using the phone hurt, and even the thought of texting actually exhausted me.
I couldn’t just lay there in silence though. When we’re sick, our taste is odd. Some people like cooking shows, some like reality tv, I like old Westerns. They are something I can fade in and out of and still usually keep up with the plot. Grit TV was running a marathon of Charleton Heston westerns, so I lay there and listened to my personal friend Chuck (I got his autograph as a teenager) gravel his way through about six hours of television. I have no idea how any of them turned out, but I’m sure he was fine.
Phase Five: All the Sleep
Friday, I was scheduled to work but another hot spot of fever broke out and I decided to reschedule. Because I had read that rest during this phase was the best you can do, I prostrated myself on the couch and watched two movies I’d been wanting to see for months. Then I watched more television that night. Literally nothing else got done. Friday night all the sleep I hadn’t been able to obtain since Wednesday caught up with me and I slept for about ten hours.
Saturday morning, I woke up at 8am and felt ambitious enough to try and help around the house. I had toast and applesauce (more on that later) and then vacuumed the carpet. However, I had to take frequent breaks. After I finished, I ate some jello and was so exhausted I took a two hour nap.
Saturday night was the first time I actually felt something akin to hunger pains, so even though I gave it some serious side-eye before eating, I attempted a sandwich, and THAT made me so tired that I was ready for bed right after dinner. I’ve been sleeping like it’s my JOB.
Which brings us to right now; Sunday afternoon. I’ve been awake, I’ve had a sandwich, and I’m ready to attempt some ‘real’ food tonight.
Things are finally looking up.
Food poisoning is actually more common than you might think. According to a January 2014 report, the CDC estimates that 1 in 6 Americans will get it every year. (You’re welcome other five people in my grouping, you’re safe this year.) 128k are hospitalized and 3k actually do die from food poisoning.
I really, sincerely, hope that nothing like this EVER happens to anyone reading this, but if it does, as a two-time endurance champ, here are a few tips I’ve learned.
1. Be sure it actually is food poisoning, and not the flu or some other illness. I knew it was food poisoning for me because I never, ever vomit when sick. The last time I did was in 2010, during my last round. According to the mayo clinic, the official symptoms are:
- Watery diarrhea
- Abdominal pain and cramps
2. If it is food poisoning, Pedialyte will be your Godsend.
The reason so many people die from food poisoning is dehydration. I felt like I could drink a lake during the first several hours of my illness. My Mom (whom I will forever thank) came over and spoon fed me ice chips with a splash of tea. I then, against my own better judgement, tried some ginger ale. I capped it off by taking a sip of water before bed. DO NOT DO THIS.
You will only end up vomiting up the contents later, and it will be a gross, scary shade of green (which I did, during my night of hallucinations.) However, for me, this confirmed to me that it was food poisoning and not just a flu. For lack of a better way to explain it, the green water means we’re at the last of the contents in the stomach. This should be the last time you vomit, and for me, it was.
Pedialyte is better than water, gatorade, or any other kind of drink. It tastes like flat, terrible sprite, but it will become your nectar of healing. Sip it slowly and increase your intake as you can. After waking up each hour on the hour, I went to the fridge and drank a few sips. I recommend every family in American keep a bottle in their cabinet, just in case. And drink it all within 48 hours of opening.
3. Ask someone to come sit with you during the first hours. This process will destroy your body, and mess with your mind. Having my Mom there to change out wash cloths, talk me through my chills and remind me I wasn’t going to die as I lay there moaning was invaluable.
Also, if you have pets, it helps to have someone to let them out and take care of them. I’m not saying things went to anarchy while I was incapacitated during those first hours, but I let the cats out, had an attack and couldn’t let them back in right away. A thunderstorm approached and the outside screen in the living room is now shredded. Also, two of the goldfish are missing, and the turtle is looking guilty.
4. Liquid Benadryl (for the Fever) and Seabands for the Nausea. You can eat approximately two crackers and it will be enough food on your stomach to handle the Benadryl for your fever. Chase it with some Pedialyte and you should be okay. I get car sick, so I have a set of sea bands on hand at all times. They are wrist bracelets that you can purchase at Wal-Greens or other pharmacies that work like acupuncture by pushing on the inside of your wrist, helping to quell nausea. I slept in them.
4. Do not try to eat before you should. The Pedialyte will keep you hydrated and a human can go a couple days without food. (Other than the least amount of crackers possible for the medicine) Don’t give your body more fuel to push out later. I waited until it had been at least nine hours since I last threw up before attempting real food of any kind. The first food you should try first is either applesauce or toast. That was my first meal Thursday night. I had it again for breakfast Friday morning, and graduated to chicken noodle soup for lunch. The recommended diet is BRAT (Bananas, Rice, Applesauce, Tea and Toast)
5. Rest. No seriously, Rest. From everything I read, this will take you out of commission for a good 48 hours, if not longer. As documented many times, I am an anxious person, so not being active is very difficult for me. In this case, I had no choice. Even if I wanted to work, I was physically and mentally unable.
Oh, and forget about this being a great diet. I gained back two pounds just from eating toast and drinking tea.
If this Godzilla of an illness doesn’t return for another five years, it will be too soon.
More info on food poisoning: