What happened, more or less, was this:
I continued to be sick and we did not drive to Massachusetts on Tuesday Mar. 29 as I had hoped. The whole trip was canceled, a disappointment to everybody. It was, however, the correct decision. On Wednesday I went to the urgent care and was immediately diagnosed with strep throat. I believe it was overnight Wednesday that I was awakened by my kid at 2 am. They were freaking out. They had had a sudden vomiting episode in the bathroom, made a mess, attempted to clean it up and made things worse. And they were dizzy and half-asleep. I, too, was dizzy and half-asleep, but after a few moments was able to mostly clean up and then go sit with the kid. Thus began my dear kid's encounter with the same apparent stomach bug that my husband had had on Sunday.
It was strange: I had strep and they seemed to have some kind of GI thing, but none of us ended up catching what the others had. I never started vomiting (to my great surprise and delight) and nobody else had much of a sore throat. It didn't really make sense. Can strep cause only vomiting and fever, with no throat or respiratory symptoms to speak of? Internet research suggested this was unlikely, especially to occur in two people in a single household.
While we were home sick together all week long, my kid and I spent some quality time with each other. We played Magic. We watched TV. We hung out side by side with our separate electronic devices or books. When eventually my kid tired of spending all their time with Mom, and retired mostly to their room, I felt strangely bereft. First of all, I discovered I was still capable of becoming just as obsessed with Magic as I was when I played with my foster son a dozen years ago. Now kid didn't want to play anymore (and hasn't since)? What a dork I am. I am a 44-year-old mom. WTF.
Secondly, and more important: the awareness that there are only three more years before kid graduates from high school started hitting me hard. I enjoy my kid's company so much. I will miss them so, so much when they do not live with me anymore. Yes, I know we will continue to have a close relationship, and matter to one another, and so on and so forth. How often do I talk with my mother on the phone?-- somewhere between twice a week and once every three weeks, depending on circumstances. How often do I see her?-- probably two or three times a year, on average. There are little email exchanges, mostly prompted by her, to which I return replies remarkable mainly for their brevity. Can I really expect much different from my kid? That is not the same, at all, as living with someone and hanging out with them every day. So shut up, you empty nesters who've already processed all this and say it will be fine. It is not fine. I have no idea who I will be when the day comes that I am no longer A.'s mom first and foremost. That is painful and scary.
A beautiful post on the same topic from Jennifer Reese, who besides being the author of a frequently cited book, is also one of my favorite bloggers.
The abovementioned emotions are likely why the ensuing two weeks also went all to hell, at least initially. By April 6 or so, I was feeling pretty much completely recovered from my strep, but unable to shake the inertia and low energy state that had taken hold during a week of staying home and feeling sick and sad. I did the things I absolutely had to do: went to work my two days/week, made box lunches and family dinner, washed the dishes, purchased food when necessary, drove my kid around to appointments and rehearsals. My husband would probably point out that all this is not nothing. I suppose it isn't. But it felt like nothing. For instance, on April 3, I cooked a real dinner for my family for the first time in over a week, and wrote the following in the diary (the only entry in those three weeks, presented in its entirety):
I'm finally back to doing my job. But then I'm immediately struck with doubt. Is it an important job? Does anybody actually give a fuck?
In all the long, in-between stretches when I was doing none of these required things, I was holed up in my bed, playing Civilization on the computer or reading J.K. Rowling's (oops, I mean Robert Galbraith's) "new" Cormoran Strike detective series. Well, they are new to me. I love them. Which should not be a surprise, since I love Rowling and I love mysteries, but it did come as a surprise. What a treat to read that she plans to keep writing them "indefinitely!"
Oh, the other thing that I did was get my husband and I set up to start our Clean Gut diet. We had to wait a week longer to get started than I had planned, because it seemed pointless to attempt gut biota repair while I was simultaneously taking antibiotics. I finished the antibiotics on the morning of April 9 (my dad's birthday, which I didn't get around to acknowledging, because of the inertia. If you knew my dad, and the fact that he almost always forgets my birthday, this would not seem as terrible as it sounds. But I still felt guilty about it). We started the intro diet on Sunday, April 10. Basically, the Clean Gut diet allows most meats (not processed stuff); eggs; all vegetables except really starchy things like potatoes; berries; nuts; lentils and peas; and quinoa. It does not allow: Sugar. All grains except quinoa (not even rice, dammit). All fruit except berries. Dairy. Soy and other beans. Bacon. :( Potatoes. Coffee. It's extremely low-carb and not easy.
So, for three days we simply followed the dietary guidelines, in order to get used to the new way of eating. It wasn't so bad. On the fourth day, April 13, we began the cleanse protocol, which involves a morning shake, a regular lunch adhering to the diet, and a big dinner salad. Also a bunch of supplements: B-complex vitamins, digestive enzymes, probiotics, antimicrobials (and, no, I don't really understand how those last two do not, to some extent, negate one another). By that evening, I began to feel queasy and headachy and sick. I did some research and decided we were taking too many of the B-vitamins, cut back. The next afternoon and evening, the 14th, I felt the same, only worse. Maybe even one B-vitamin was too much? Maybe it was the probiotics? I decided to cut out all the supplements (for myself; my husband was fine) and then reintroduce them one by one. On the 15th, taking nothing, I mostly felt better, but still developed a bad headache late in the evening. Made it through the 16th, despite a long day at work and grocery shopping in the early evening, without any particular suffering. Time to try the B-vitamin again. I took it on the 17th-- okay. Again on the 18th-- okay. On the 19th (yesterday, as of this writing), I added two doses of the mega-probiotic pill, my second suspected culprit for the nausea and headaches. So far, so good. We'll see what happens.
Clean Gut requires a fair amount of organization. First, when you are on an extremely restricted diet where many things are off-limits, you have to shop often and shop carefully, in order to ensure that your limited variety of staple foods are well-stocked at home. Then there is the prepping. My first-thing-in-the-morning routine, always somewhat elaborate, has now ballooned to 45 minutes or longer. 1) feed cat. 2) take my one prescription med. 3) see if there are any boiled eggs left in the refrigerator and, if not, boil a few. 4) pour tall glasses of water for my husband and I, and squeeze half a lemon into each (another detail of the Clean Gut protocol). 5) make a big pot of green tea. 6) Make box lunches for my husband and kid. Since they both have wildly different dietary requirements now (did I mention that kid has become a pescatarian?), this takes some concentration. 7) Make a double-batch of breakfast shake for my husband and I, generally consisting of some kind of liquid such as almond milk, a little bit of hemp protein powder, an added fat such as coconut, nut butter, or avocado, some berries, and a few handfuls of greens. 8) dispense supplements.
The dinner salad is labor-intensive too, given that one is not supposed to snack after dinner or overnight: the salad itself must be full of enough calories and protein to qualify as a hearty meal. A base of mixed salad greens/herbs and various raw vegetables can be supplemented with meats, nuts or seeds, boiled egg, avocado, and-- my favorite add-on lately-- roasted vegetables, which bring out the sweetness we desperately crave. So around 6:15 you can find me going into the kitchen and starting some broccoli or squash or brussels sprouts to roast in the oven, perhaps cooking some chicken or steak or (last night) lamb kofta, maybe boiling some frozen peas or artichoke hearts... and then assembling large salads out of this most-of-a-meal that I have already created. They are really very satisfying.
Oh, and my husband-- for whose sake I undertook this project in the first place-- is doing very well on the diet. He has not felt sick at all and has had remarkable self-discipline. On certain days he feels very hungry, and then I try to up the calories and protein that we're providing, and he'll go buy a little bag of nuts at the store. He's a big man and he needs to eat more than I do. But, overall, I am very pleased that this process seems to be working well for him. He even loves the morning shakes, after looking askance at the first one.
So, reader, I am finally ready to return to you, with improved health, recovering spirit, and clean gut. I hope that we can enjoy our time together and try new experiments. Here are the few photos I managed to take during my hibernation (probably also on April 3; note the extensive documentation regarding finishing up our boiled Easter eggs):