P.S.A: Quit the Gimme, Gimme

Lying, spitting, and smoking make it to my Top 5 Pet Peeves list. There’s another that REALLY irks me, but I don’t hear too many others complaining about it.

Borrowing.

I got a lot of reasons to dislike this (and i’m fully aware I only listed 4 peeves). To the point where I’ve established a no-borrowing policy that I often re-iterate to those who ask me. Maybe you find this selfish. “But what’s wrong with helping others if you have it?”

I won’t say that I NEVER do it. I’ve grudgingly obliged at times when family members REALLY needed it. But I strongly believe against it and I don’t do it myself because I believe it’s a selfish thing to ask of somebody, ESPECIALLY since 99% of the time, they don’t REALLY need it.

Remember the current economic climate of our country, with the majority of us living paycheck-to-paycheck, and an overwhelming many collecting roommates and AirBnB-ing our extra spaces for additional income. A rich man likely won’t notice some missing funds; do they even online bank regularly? But if you ask the average American to borrow $100, it’s not exactly a small amount of money to temporarily part with. It’s exactly BECAUSE of our country’s economic climate that when emergency expenses pop up, we’re unprepared. Unexpected accidents, random government bills and unpredictable circumstances do arise, yes. And I get it; sometimes you just don’t have it and if your credit is also shot, you’re in a bad spot. Good financial responsibility dictates that one SHOULD have an emergency savings account for things like this, but understandably, it’s difficult to build one up. But I can count on one closed fist the amount of times people have asked to borrow money from me that were actual emergencies.

You’re going on a cruise and forgot to budget in your flight to the cruise so you can make it to your vacation? Not an emergency.

You want to visit some dude you’ve been seeing but don’t have enough money for the Metro North ride so you asking me? Not an emergency. (Why isn’t the guy paying for you??)

Your sister (who I never met) is asking to borrow money from YOU because she’s already borrowed too much from ya’lls parents and YOU don’t have it to lend her so you asking ME to lend to YOU to lend to HER? Helll nahhh, KEEP ME OUT THAT DAMN CIRCLE PLEASE.

When did we become so entitled to asking people to part with their hard-earned cash (and trust me, if you work in today’s world, it’s hard-earned) for our frivolities? And so selfish that we’re not even ashamed to do so?

Those who borrow like it’s nothing: How do you think the person who has the money you’re borrowing from, has it at all in the first place? Maybe they got this good ass job with an awesome salary so they have a cushy bank account. That could be it. But more than likely (since most of us DON’T have that), they’re practicing the good financial habits you’re not. They’ve put in the work to build up a savings account to have for emergencies. Their emergencies, not yours. They’ve cut back on the things you didn’t. They’ve stopped eating out as much or ordering take-out, made a conscious effort to buy less shoes and clothes, fancy lattes and liquor. They budgeted and went without some things they wanted to attain some non-paycheck-to-paycheck security for themselves.

THAT. SHIT. IS. NOT. EASY.

And this is why, when you come with your hand out after you bought all the shit we’ve restrained ourselves from buying, it’s a slap in the face. Because even though we know it’s easier to spend than save, we’ve done the hard part of sacrificing, not through magical superpowers but by exerting self-control, and you could damn well do the same too. But you choose not to because you’d rather have the things you want when you want them, without sacrifice.

Do you ever think that the person you’re borrowing $200 from now has $200 less to manage in their bank account even if they’re getting it back in a month or so? Probably not. But imagine someone came to you and borrowed $200. The fact that you have to borrow yourself, means you’d be in quite a jam and something essential probably ain’t getting paid that month. We all have the same bills. Rent, food, electricity, transportation. Some choose to have excess bills they can’t keep up with. Some WITHOUT these bills still find the need to borrow. The only person I’ve ever borrowed from really was my mom. And that was to help pay off my student loans. A decade ago.

I went through that struggling period that most of us do, where I was overworked on a $450/biweekly paycheck, making ends meet off a retail cashier’s paycheck. And not once did I ask to borrow some extra cash to “have a good time.” I saw coats I fell in love with that I couldn’t buy (damn you Hootenanny). Restaurants I couldn’t eat at. Events I could not go to. I sunk into a pit of depression, then worked my ASS off to crawl out it, because it was not someone else’s responsibility to make those things happen for me. And I didn’t WANT anyone to feel SORRY for me and give me a handout either.

Let’s not act not like we all don’t want to go on that vacation. Or get those shoes we really like. Or go out and be a baller one night on the town. We all deserve it. But we shouldn’t be asking people to fund that shit for us as a loan.

I had an ex who asked to borrow money from me for everything: weed, liquor, cat food, groceries, a new $200 watch to look good on vacation, dinners out, a cabin rental for HIS friends to hang out, a new video game that he couldn’t wait until the end of the month to get. I even funded multiple trips for us where I picked up the tab on everything up front (Universal, Otakon, Boston) simply because he didn’t have it. He never did. God forbid if I hadn’t been on top of my money and an emergency had happened (and there were a few) we would have been up shit’s creek without a financial paddle, screwed on rent, screwed on trips, screwed on life. I had to budget for “twos” at all times, as if I was the sole provider of the household and not dating another adult with a higher salary than me. That kind a silent pressure builds up like you don’t even realize the more you get taken advantage of this way.

Now I may feel strongly about this, but I’m not a tyrant. There are innocent reasons to borrow. Maybe you’re out with a friend and they find this *Insert Rare Quest Item* they’ve been after for awhile now and don’t have the money for it on them but goddammit IT’S ON SALE NOW. Perhaps you’re a parent and you find the season’s sold-out “Tickle-Me-Elmo” that will make your kid’s Christmas day in an out-of-the-way store and you can pay your cousin back on the next paycheck if they spot you for it now (that is love). Maybe there’s a trip/event/experience coming up that someone would LOVE, but they didn’t budget for because they didn’t realize it was happening and you want them to join in on the fun too. Maybe your cousin is just having a rough time with life and you just wanna spot them for the night and help them feel better.

But if you’re someone who makes a HABIT of borrowing from others on a consistent basis, you need to re-evaluate your situation because you’re living above your means and counting on others to help support your lifestyle. It means you need to look back and see what you bought the past month that you really didn’t need (and trust me, you WILL find things you did NOT need). And if you’re not willing to do that, and would rather burden someone else with helping you out because it’s the easier route, you are lazy and selfish and unwilling to sacrifice as an adult should.

It annoyed me to no end that my ex would order clothes, indulge in all the world’s vices, insist on ordering lobster dinners and $80 meals on Seamless, then ask me to fill in the salary gaps until he could make it to the next check (why the fuck wouldn’t you budget properly??). Now it’s never my business what others do with their own money (so long as you’re not coming for handouts after you recklessly spent your shit on something stupid). As long as you can handle your business, go crazy; spend all your extra cash on Amiibos, sunglasses, Groupon experiences, premium Patreon packages, whatever. But don’t count on someone else to help you make it through life because of it.

I like where I am in life right now. I work for an awesome remote company. I’m lucky enough to be able to afford my own apartment in NYC without roommates (oh thank God). I’m trying and maybe failing to build up a Roth IRA for the future, a savings account for unexpected expenses, and a checking account cushion so that I don’t need to count the days till my next paycheck. I avoid fancy restaurants, try to cook at home as much as possible to save money, and leftovers are my life. I don’t buy expensive handbags or shoes, and shop at places mostly when the 50% off sales are going on, unless it’s Marshalls, TJ Maxx, or Forever 21 (and I still go for the clearance sections there). I know when to NOT buy that $3 hot dog or soft drink off the cart vendors or at the gourmet deli because the cart or bodega two avenues down got it for $1-$2 less (Don’t buy sodas from 7-11 in New York, guys, it ain’t worth it!!).

I’m not jet-setting around the world (unless my job is sending me), but I try to plan a vacation on my own maybe once a year. And hell, that only started a year ago. And I’m not hitting the bars or clubs every Friday at the end of the week racking up $100 bar tabs. I’m frugal with my spending so that when I see something I REALLY want or something I would LOVE (or when the stupid medical bills come in from that thing you didn’t really need to go in for), the money is there for me. Not the person who wants to borrow it from me. I attained a level of independence for myself so I could remain self-sufficient and rely on no one; not so I could play the Monopoly banker making sure there’s enough for everyone else’s luxuries.

I never expect a standard from anybody that I don’t live up to myself. I live below my means so I don’t owe anybody shit.

Pun intended.

Remember that old line adults always told you growing up? “You can’t always have everything you want.”

We grew into adults and became borrowers and forgot.

~Tael

The Tummy Troubles Tribe

You’re about to learn way more about my internal organs than you’d probably care to, and I apologize in advance for that, but I’ll try to “de-gross” it as much as possible. For the past few months I’ve been dealing with digestive trouble that has deeply affected my day-to-day life. I am no stranger to stomach issues. I was your typical problem-picky-eater child, which likely contributed to the constant stomachaches I had throughout grade school. I also found myself exceptionally prone to food poisoning, and motion sickness in cars, but not amusement park rides. Go figure. Once, in middle school, my stomach pains were so excruciating that I was sent to the nurse’s office. She correctly identified my lack of fiber and dehydration; I gulped down a few bananas and chugged water and felt welcome relief as I emptied myself in the school bathroom after.

Some time later, my tummy troubles evolved with enough severity to grant me my first trip to the ER. I couldn’t have been older than 14. A doctor probed my young, previously un-invaded anus with a gloved finger, to which I could not properly respond to his questions and prompts on whether the pain was exacerbated because there was a finger up my butt and I was 14, dammit. So he sent me to radiology for an ultrasound which showed…a whirlwind of gas? They explained that too much air was in my stomach; a combination of carbonated beverages, fried foods, and swallowing air while eating, most likely from talking at the same time. As a result, my bowels had become inflamed. Lesson learned. Even today, I find I still hold my breath sometimes while eating, in a subconscious act to ward off accidental air gulps.

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For awhile after, it seemed to do better, and was well-behaved throughout high school and college. It seemed I was finally outgrowing my membership with the Tummy Troubles Tribe. I tried to reward its good behavior in turn. The more I ascended into adulthood, the more I realized I should take more accountability for my picky eating if I wanted to be somewhat MILF-like and still be a ninja at age 60 (shout-out to Aunt Sandra). I had started incorporating gym sessions into my lifestyle, and learned that fitness and eating better were two-fold, so I’d have to step up my nutrition game as well. At the ripe age of 27, I cautiously waded into the world of vegetables, beginning with sweet potatoes and asparagus (shout-out to NerdFitness for the gateway veggie suggestion), eventually added kale, spinach, brussel sprouts (shout-out to Jo-Jo for that introduction) and got reacquainted with beans and lentils. I severely diminished the amount of processed fast foods I ate, bade farewell to quick meals from McDonalds, Burger King, Wendys, etc… (although Sonic and Dairy Queen still get a pass once in awhile) cooked more basic meals at home, stopped buying 2L soda bottles for the house just because they were cheaper, and drank more water. Candy bars in the front of bodegas and drug stores became invisible to me. Junk cravings decreased. Don’t get me wrong, I still love my cookies and cakes and I still indulge when the craving hits, but cleaner eating pulls me now.

Imagine my surprise when, after over a decade of smooth sailing and self-implemented gut improvements, my tummy troubles returned with a vengeance and landed me in the ER for the second time in my life. A debilitating cramp seized the lower right hand portion of my stomach after returning from a trip to Antigua. When it didn’t subside for 3 days, my ex-boyfriend pushed me to go to Urgent Care. After some gentle prodding and mounting concern that it might be appendicitis, Urgent Care referred me to the ER, a place I swear to never return to unless my limbs are dismembered or my intestines are spilling out. After 9 hours of unsympathetic nurses who hooked an IV to my hand because they couldn’t find the veins in my arms, inept doctors who couldn’t make a proper diagnosis, an ultrasound, CT scan, and physical examination by a surgeon later, I was told I had fibroids. While one of the earlier moron doctors had said that wouldn’t be the source of my pain, the surgeon confirmed that, yes, fibroids can absolutely hurt. And a quick Google search confirmed this, especially when they undergo degeneration. Millions of women suffer from fibroids and just as many of them experience symptoms as the ones who don’t even realize they’re there.

At that point, the ER felt like prison: they had not allowed me to eat all day, the hospital-grade pain meds through the IV hadn’t done shit so I had long since ordered them to disconnect it, and I wanted my real clothes again. I was relieved when they released me to go home with the diagnosis: fibroids + take ibuprofen. I was ready to suffer in the comfort of my own apartment. I medicated with Motrin and marijuana for the rest of the week until the symptoms drifted away. And all was well until a year later.

I first felt the crampy twinges in the same spot the brutal pains had occurred a year before, but on a much lesser scale. Instead, it was now accompanied by discomforting bloating and fullness. Eventually, I realized I wasn’t going to the bathroom as much anymore. Maybe once every 4-5 days and when I did, it was tiny pieces. My body wanted to release, but my booty wouldn’t. Google told me this was a constipation indicator. I tried all the recommended remedies. More apples, bananas and pears. More veggies. A spoonful of olive oil in the morning on an empty stomach along with jumping jacks. Coconut oil. Apple cider vinegar ingestion daily. I already log numerous Pokemon Go hours of walking and 2.5 gym sessions a week, so it couldn’t have been a lack of exercise.

A month later, with no improvement, I shakily told my current boyfriend, who proved to be incredibly supportive of my situation. It was time to up the ante. First, I pulled out the big guns and tried a laxative just to make sure, you know, it worked. It worked all right. Then we began a regimen of fruit and veggie smoothies blended each day with chia seeds. I began adding things I never ate. Strawberries, blueberries, grapes, peaches, carrots. I started drinking kombucha. Tried bone broth. Upped my probiotic count. Abdominal massages. Eight glasses of bottled water a day and I abandoned tap. I kept a food journal for a month and referred to the Bristol Stool Chart more than I’d ever had in life. Someone with a normal digestive system would have been glued to the toilet. I tried removing certain foods for testing purposes. One week I did away with dairy. Another week, seafood. Tried removing gluten for a week before realizing if you want to have a gluten test done to see if you have Celiac’s, you have to actually be ingesting it. Lame. But now it had been two months and I was still not consistently improving, so I scheduled an appointment with a gastroentologist to have my butthole probed again for the second time in my life. They did a bevy of bloodwork testing for food allergies, thyroid issues, diseases and imbalances. All negative. We scheduled an ultrasound to take a look at what was happening in there and make sure the fibroids discovered the previous year hadn’t become an issue. Unlike the last time I’d gotten an ultrasound in my childhood, this one didn’t produce much, except a growth on my liver that needed to be checked out via MRI. One MRI later, they said it was Focal Nodular Hyperplasia, a fancy term for a small, benign mass that doesn’t affect the function of its host. Along with the fibroids and the non-threatening lump discovered in my breast years ago, I’m accumulating quite the collection of benevolent tumors inside my body.

“So what’s wrong with me then?”

My gastro diagnosed me with chronic idiopathic constipation, which basically means, cause unknown. Over $1000 in doctor’s visit’s later (yeah, that’s WITH health coverage) and I get a diagnosis that says “We dunno why.” Her solution: go on Miralax long term. “It’s very gentle, you won’t get explosive diarrhea, and I even have babies on it.”

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True Life Feels

It will soon be 5 months since this new ailment has afflicted me and I am slowly learning to accept it. Something like chronic constipation may not seem like a big deal until it’s your body that’s not working the way it should, and until you need to rely on supplements and additives to be “normal,” you won’t know what it’s like to fear what will happen if their effectiveness fails. I am ridiculously thankful that I don’t have the pain or distention of severe sufferers; my liver is working fine, I don’t have the sort of fibroids that make me look 7 months pregnant, nor do they bleed when I work out. I’ve forgotten they’re there since my last ER trip. I’m blessed to be able to still live a relatively normal lifestyle, just one more centered around the bathroom. But at times I do feel like the universe has a very backwards way of rewarding me for attempting to pursue a healthier lifestyle.

Currently I’m operating well enough on a daily dose of Miralax, magnesium supplement at night (shout-out to Amazon for the Natural Calm), an almost-daily home-blended fruit/veggie shake and a double dose of probiotics. When I vacayed in Mexico, I saw TSA workers examining the powders in my vitamin containers, questioning my potential to be a drug runner. Some days are better than others. Staying active helps take my mind off the feeling of internal fullness that varies on a regular basis.

It’s slightly annoying when those close to me downplay the situation, even when I know they are trying to help. When my mom off-handedly comments “You and your bestie love to create problems with yourselves that aren’t there,” I answer back, “Yes, because I shelled out hundreds of dollars in doctor’s visits and endured multiple needles because something isn’t REALLY wrong with my body.”

Or if someone says, “Oh, just drink coffee! That always helps me go!” I would think if it would have been that easy, the doctors would have suggested it. But I doubt the COFFEE will solve what the fruit, berries, spinach, kale, chia seeds, flax seeds, oatmeal, olive oil, coconut oil, pumpkin seeds, and various fibrous additions cumulatively have not done, as well as hydration that makes my pee so clear, I could probably boil tea with it.

Google (as well as the doc) tells me CIC may vanish just as randomly as it crept in. But there is no way to know. Until then, I keep my stomach prepped for the day it might, by remaining active, increasingly choosing organic, maintaining increased fiber intake, continuing to drink probiotic drinks and include fresh garlic and ginger in my meals, as well as spices like turmeric and cayenne pepper. I practice stretches, abdominal massages, and even kegels, in the hopes that I can rebalance my body and guide my digestive motility back into submission at some point. Stressing about it multiplies the stress, so I try not to let it affect my day-to-day too much, pray over it and adapt to it, though it times it can get depressing.

I’m sharing my story because I’m not the only sufferer, and we need to talk about it. The docs don’t have a cure nor a reason for this condition, so it appears we are stuck in this tribe. If you know someone with similar symptoms, or if you have tips on how to manage CIC that have worked for you or another, please let me know, because the Internet is flooded with hopeless anecdotes on this condition. 😦 It is affecting more of us than you think.

~Tael