When the Stomach Strikes Back

Freshman year of college my dorm was hit hard with the Norovirus. The experience for 48 hours was half zombie movie, half Biblical plague. Every 15 minutes I would hear a door open, rushed footsteps followed by the violent har-bar-baugh vomit noises coming from the bathroom. 

Three doors down. Two doors down. Right next door. The virus was inching closer.

I had quarantined myself in my dorm room armed with Febreze and Clorox wipes. Pepto Bismol on tap.

I have no problem with any flu involving the facial region. Stuffy nose, sore throat, migraine, toothache, pink eye, no problem, rub some chicken noodle soup on it, move on. But involve the stomach and I become terrified. I envy people who can get a stomach bug or have a bad round of sushi, throw up, shrug and say, “Welp, I feel better now, let’s go drink.”

For me, I go through the five stages of grief and question my entire existence.

Ever since I turned 18, my stomach has started to draw lines in the sand with foods it will no longer accept. Think of my stomach as a vending machine and my greasy diet as the crumpled up dollar bills. In 2008, my stomach made it perfectly (and painfully) clear that chili dogs would no longer be accepted as currency. Chili: fine (without beans of course). Hot dogs: fine. Together: not a chance.

Jalapenos have been an ongoing struggle. I am not ready to give these up, but each time I have nachos or jalapeno poppers my stomach pulls me aside and politely says, “Chris, we need to talk about jalapenos,” before lighting my esophagus on fire.

A few weeks ago, my stomach staged a fried chicken revolt. This deeply troubled me, because even more so than jalapenos, I am not ready to let fried chicken go. Chili dogs, fine, whatever, not a major puzzle piece. Fried chicken though? What about me and my brother’s new Go Chicken Go tradition at Christmas time in Kansas City. Or what about church potlucks when you could always count on the bucket of fried chicken to help fill your plate and protect you from any questionable casseroles.

I did a lot of thinking on the floor of the bathroom that day and came up with two pieces of deep fried Medium Rare advice, one on how to bounce back from borderline food poisoning and second on how to potentially become a better You after a stomach disaster.

Bouncing Back 

The mistake I made with chili dogs was giving the negative trip too much power. I’m going to dip into a little bit of “apply this to life as a whole” stuff so bear with me.

Say you bomb a presentation and decide I’m never going to speak in public again. Or a relationship ends out of nowhere, “I’m not going to date anybody for at least a year.” The negative experience gains too much power and it will become harder and harder to overcome. The healing process will go much faster if we find a way to hop back into the equation and prove we can reach a different answer.

Stand up for your favorite greasy foods. Try the exact meal again. If you continue to get sick, offer the stomach some lettuce or broccoli as peacekeeping gestures. If the stomach still revolts, then it may be time to retire the food from the rotation. Don’t fret, there are plenty of other greasy fish in the sea.

The Value of the Stomach Humbling 

I take my health for granted. When I’m feeling well and things are going well at work or life in general, it’s easy for me to get caught up in an ego trip of how self-sustaining I am. I paid rent AND parking AND bought groceries and still have $11 to put away in savings. Look at me being an adult.

A stomach attack deteriorates me to my most pathetic self. This last one, one that will go down in history as the Fried Chicken Incident of 2015, I was sitting on the couch that night–after a day in bed drinking Gatorade and eating Ritz crackers–and I was unable to finish my chicken noodle soup and four Saltine crackers.

Ashley was setting goals for me, “Alright, two more crackers, five more bites of soup.” It’s hard to feel like a big strong protector of the house in that moment. If someone were to break into the apartment I think they would look at me and say, “Hey, I’ll just rob next door, why don’t you get some rest.”

It’s good to be reminded of weakness. Life, at least for me, tends to be a pattern of, “Everything’s falling apart, help! Alright cool, things are good, things are really good, this is great. Dangit, things are falling apart, help! Sweet, where was I, oh that’s right, things are great.” Usually the event before the, “Everything’s falling apart” is a setback or a major change I wasn’t prepared for.

The good ol fashion stomach bug, on the other hand, is a nice way to experience the same pains of a setback without A) actually having a major setback or B) having the setback last longer than 24 hours.

Next time you are looking to humble yourself, become less prideful or whatever other ego related trait you want to work on, no need to check out any books, no need to go to any seminars or live in a monastery, just order a chili dog and let the stomach do the work.

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