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The Time I Threw Up on Myself for Years

December 23, 2011 Leave a comment Go to comments

So this story is going to get a little gross, but don’t let that stop you from reading. It’s no second asshole, but it’ll do.

I have quite possibly the strongest gag reflex known to man, much to the dismay of past and potential boyfriends. The list of things that make me gag is endless, and includes things like strong wind, cold air, and even exercise. I still can’t take a shot of alcohol to this day because as soon as it hits my throat, I shoot it violently right back up.

Anyway, when I was little, from about the ages of 4-9, I was sick with a cold on a regular basis. Sinus infections were my constant companions, and when I’d lie down to sleep at night, the snot from my nose would begin to trickle down the back of my throat.

A normal person might just cough a bit, but not me. In the dead of night, I would vomit everywhere while still asleep. I wouldn’t wake up until I eventually rolled into the now cold pile of vomit covering my pillow. In horror, I’d turn on the light and survey the damage. One side of my head would be completely caked in puke the consistency of oatmeal, and my clothes were crusty and stiff with pale pink grits. My waist-length hair would be sopping wet, and my sheets and comforter looked like they had been hit with a spew-filled grenade.

My routine went thusly: Pad out of bed, creep upstairs, sloooowly open the door to my parents’ bedroom, then stand there, petrified with fear. I hated waking up my parents every time I threw up, but there wasn’t a good alternative. They would never get mad about it, but I could tell they were exhausted and annoyed by my repeated performances. So I would stand there in the dark, my vomit-filled hair beginning to dry and crack, and wring my hands for close to 30 minutes. I’d shift anxiously from foot to foot, trying to decide who I should wake up.

My mom was usually the less annoyed of the two, but she was nearly impossible to drag into consciousness. I could poke her, call her name, shake her, even jump on her with no result. My dad was typically more upset by seeing me covered in my own digestive juices, but he could be woken up with a whisper, so he got the brunt of clean-up duty.

I would touch his arm lightly, and his eyes would fly open, confused yet alert. He’d take in my watery eyes and vomit-covered face, and let out a long, low sigh through his nostrils that set his mustache aflutter. He’d push me into his bathroom so that I could shower and clean myself up, and he would slowly drift downstairs and collect all my soiled bedding and stuffed animals. He’d sleepily run a load of laundry, nodding off periodically until I emerged warm and clean. The process of picking chunks of food out of my hair was painstaking, so these showers lasted a long time while I scrubbed.

Fresh sheets would go over the rubber mattress cover that I slept with every night, and I would fall back into an uneasy sleep. I never puked twice in the same night, so my dad would go back to bed as well. My first beloved stuffed animal, Piggy, sadly became a casualty of my overactive gag reflex. He was placed into the dryer after a puking session, and his fur melted together until he was a solid lump of fibrous plastic with a snout and two black button eyes. He was replaced by an identical pig that I called “Piggy Mach II,” unaware that mach was a unit of speed rather than a fancy way of saying “version.”

My gag reflex also prevented me from taking pills until I was a teenager. I suffered from frequent migraines when I was young, and the pain was unbelievable. The pounding would be so intense that I would start to cry, which in turn would make the pain worse, which would then make me cry harder, etc., etc. This vicious cycle would continue until the stabbing in my head would make me (of course) throw up. This would release some endorphins that would make me feel a little better, at least for a brief period of time.

A doctor put me on the beta-blocker Inderal, which was thought at that time to reduce the incidence of migraines. The tiny blue pill had to be taken whole, and could not be crushed. But my attempts to swallow the pill resulted in it shooting from my mouth and skittering across the floor. So every morning, I would dissolve the pill by swishing it around with a mouthful of water. This process took a good 30 minutes or so, and since I held the water in my mouth the whole time, I became effectively mute each day. My parents got very good at interpreting my grunts and squeaks, and I rarely had to resort to using a pen and paper.

Thankfully, I can take pills just fine these days, though I still have the digestive constitution of a finicky cat. I live a good portion of my life in constant nausea, but haven’t thrown up in my sleep since I was a child.

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