An Unbearable Itchiness of Being


Seem to be unbearably sad right now and I have absolutely no idea why. I’ve only got three options to work with:

(1)This bloody awful grey (wet) weather. What kind of fucking summer is this? Every day it’s like waking up in winter, only warmer. I need sun.

(2) Pointlessness. I’ve quit so many things, and more due to go with the sequestration (bankruptcy) proceedings, that I’ve go nothing left. I’ve stopped writing and editing; given up future volumes of DANNY; we’re closing Poison Pixie and dissolving the limited company – what the hell’s left?

(3) Mould. Fungus. “Candida”. Lots of it, galloping about my body in a ferocious and unfriendly manner. About a week after I’d finished my course of kill-all-known-germs antibiotics “guaranteed” to eradicate all those pesky H. Pylori that caused my ulcer, I started to itch. Of course, I had to itch in all my most private places. And I mean all of them. But I also got chronic itching inside my ears, in my eyes and in random places like my shins and the soles of my feet. Itching, itching, itching.

It’s been weeks now but it hasn’t cleared up. Worse, about two weeks after those wonderful cure-all antibiotics, I got up one day and felt as if someone had thrown a switch in my head. Sugar. I wanted it. I needed it. NOW.

I don’t eat sugar. It’s bad for you. And I hadn’t had any since November last year. I held out and held out and then finally caved. My cravings were for the weirdest shit. Ice lollies with hundreds-and-thousands coatings, for example. What the fuck? I never eat ice lollies. Why would your body crave such a thing? I ate packets of 6 of them, by myself, in two days. But it didn’t help. It got worse and worse. More and more sugar. Now I was adding sore teeth and bloating to the mix. No fucking wonder.

So I stopped again. Of course, it’s a nightmare, because I’ve stopped, but the cravings haven’t. Worse, the itching’s got worse. Now I feel as if my bits have been rubbed with a cheese grater. I’m raw, sore and itchy. Oh, the wonders of modern medicine.

Of course, to add insult to injury, my ulcer hasn’t healed (yet). Whether this is because the H. Pylori were dug in so well the little fuckers survived their antibiotic nuking, I don’t know. It’s part of the wonder of modern ulcer treatments that they can’t retest you for six months after the treatment. And even after that, they still can’t be sure it’s not a false positive, since the effects of H. Pylori have been known to show up in the blood for years after successful treatment. The only way to know for sure is to take a drop of your shit and test that. And that has to be done in hospital. Oh, the joy. Sore itchy bits, shit samples. There is no dignity in being sick.

Of course, I should go to the doctors and plead for Nystatin tablets, pessaries, creams and shove ’em in all my orifices, but I so do not want to go and show my cunt to some strange woman who will want to stick chunks of savage plastic inside me, give me more burning drugs and then look at me askance when they don’t work.

All this cause my Dad slipped me some tongue when I was six.

Oh yeah, that’s right, didn’t you know? H. Pylori can be passed on. They don’t know how or why, but it is. I’ve lived with Max for hundreds of years. We had him tested (he proved negative). In fact, we had to fight to have him tested. The doctors told me repeatedly that they “don’t know how H. Pylori is passed on” and that, therefore, Max didn’t need tested.

I pointed out that my father had an ulcer and I’ve almost certainly had H. Pylori since I was around 11 – 13 because I can remember first getting symptoms (sensitivity to aspirin, acid indigestion, heartburn) around then.

Some researchers even suggest it’s an actual STD, possibly passed through vaginal intercourse. Wow, now there’s a cosy one for the False Memory Syndrome bunch. Imagine if they ever prove that one. You might have forgotten, but your fucking H. Pylori won’t.

But there’s a whole host of other possible infectants (not a real word, apparently), including childhood vomiting, and good old belching. My Dad obviously belched when he was slipping me some tongue. God, I love medicine – it opens up such interesting dysfunctional possibilities.

My GP’s also gave me a false negative after my blood tests. I was sure, when I finally cracked and went to see the doctors, that I had H. Pylori. It was just too coincidental that my dad had had an ulcer and now I had one, both ‘developed’ at roughly the same age. (You can have H. Pylori all your life and never develop symptoms. But if you do, you’ll get your ulcer around middle age.)

They took a whole host of blood tests (by a dour unhelpful nurse who “agreed” to see me after they cocked up my appointment and kept me waiting half an hour). I had waited a week for this appointment then I waited another ten days for my results. I phoned up to get them ahead of time (they write) and they said, “No, all your results are clear”.

I was both disappointed and relieved. I was disappointed because I knew I was now in trouble; endless appointments, and endoscopes, and hospital visits to see what was causing the ulcer. But I was relieved because it meant I didn’t have some lousy parasite burrowed so deep in my stomach wall even stomach acid couldn’t hurt it.

I have a complete revulsion for internal parasites. H. Pylori is a bacteria, of course, but if you see a picture of it, it looks like a leech, with these long tentacles in its head. It digs these into your intestine and lives there, cheerfully destroying your gut walls and causing the stomach acid to burn holes in your stomach lining – hence the ulcers.

H. Pylori belongs to poor people, overcrowding, insanitary conditions. I may possibly have caught it, along with my dad (and maybe the rest of my family) in Czechoslovakia. When we went there the country was undeveloped and the drinking water wasn’t safe. On one of our earliest visits my mother caught “dysentery”, which I’ve now wondered if it was in fact H. Pylori infection. Her “dysentery” was acute and she was very sick, as in doctors and bed rest. For those regulars of this column, you’ll remember my mother doesn’t do “sick”. I wonder if maybe she was the unfortunate culprit since “gastric upset” is what you will see if you catch H. Pylori. The sad thing is, think of how many people must get it and not know, thinking they’ve just got a “bug” (oh, you bet you have, and you’ll know it when you hit forty too, my friend), or a touch of food poisoning.

So maybe my mum’s to blame, and her and my brother are walking around with H. Pylori too, only they’re luckily non-symptomatic. So, if you’re reading this, Andrew – GET TESTED.

But to get back to the point. About a week after I got my phone results I got a letter – yes, the letter – and it said, “Your tests have proved positive for H. Pylori”.

I felt like the world had sunk right through me. Instead of being relieved, as you might imagine, I felt furious. Trembling, destroyed furious. I wanted to lash out and break stuff. I wanted to scream and rant and rave. I wanted to cry and wail. I felt violated. No kidding. I did. It embarrasses me now, but I can still feel the sheer outrage. I remember lying in the bath that morning, crying, my brain just keeping repeating, “I feel violated”. Some filthy, dirty thing my father had given me. Because I can’t believe, no matter how plausible and TV detective forensics the Czechoslovakia story is, that I got it from any other source. He did it. All these years, lurking inside me, all the pain and distress it had caused me. I’d spent my whole life unable to deal with the most simple things like period pains because I couldn’t use the necessary drugs. Years of monthly pain, taking useless Paracetamol when Ibuprofen worked, but killed my gut – and it was his fault. That fucking dirty, filthy lousy scum-bag had put this disease in me. He’d invaded me.

If anyone had told me that I would have this reaction I would never, ever have believed it. I was completely unprepared. I felt about two years old. It’s taken me this long to be able to write about it.

I actually did feel as if I was carrying a sexually transmitted disease, and I couldn’t tell anyone about it, because it was so bloody absurd. I then had to face a long difficult (to me, feeling fragile and stupid – what a combo) fight with my doctors to allow me to have Max tested. I argued that I did not want to repeat this antibiotic medication if he reinfected me. It is incredibly strong. Believe me, you haven’t taken antibiotics till you’ve experienced the joy of ulcer medication. They give you the strongest dose of amoxicillin you can get, double it, and then make you take it twice a day. But that’s not enough, they add another antibiotic on top. That one makes you nauseous, causes pins and needles in your lips (and arm, in my case), makes your mouth taste filthy and, in my case, caused me to lose my sense of taste entirely, develop dizzy spells and feel generally lousy.

And then afterwards, I still have ulcer pain (only slight now) and, of course, THE FUCKING ITCHING

The itching’s “normal”, of course. It’s because the antibiotics have killed all the intestinal flora, you see. In fact, they’ve killed all your fucking flora everywhere. The only thing they haven’t killed is the fucking H. Pylori. I’m hoping that’s not so, but how will I know? Time, I suppose. I’m so good at “time”.

But you can see my dilemma. Or maybe you can’t. I felt invaded by the discovery (the long-avoided acknowledgement) of the Pylori. To then have to go to my – let’s face it, less than brilliant – doctors and let them poke about in my cunt. I don’t think so. Could I explain this?

Yes, of course. I could just look tragic, proffer a trembling lower lip, twist my hands in my lap and look away while mumbling, “My Dad abused me, you see… I don’t want an internal exam…” fading off into silence. Play the wounded little girl card.

DON’T WANT TO. DON’T WANT TO! Can’t face it. Can’t explain it. Can come in here and angrily tell strangers, not expecting any understanding at all. In fact, I’m probably horrifying or confusing more people than I’m recruiting right now, but that’s it. I can do this. It’s possible. Go to the doctor and let her poke about? Not possible. Explain why? Not possible. Know why? I don’t want to. Why do I have to explain? It’s my body. And I don’t want you or any other fucker in there, with your ergonomic fucking speculums, or whatever they’re called, and your patronising interference and your “interventions” (word of the week).

Out. Rouse!

So I will soldier on, eating yogurt, applying tea tree cream, taking (useless but expensive) probiotics, feeling like a small wounded child every time I go into a shop where I’m “not allowed” to buy the sugar I so badly crave, sleeping badly and worse, waking up every two hours to pee cause it burns so bad, until some day my body will maybe cut me a break and start getting better. Then, of course, my ulcer will flare up again, unrepentant H. Pylori laughing at me all the way to my next course of killer antibiotics and then back to the itching….

So… I don’t know why I feel this unbearable heaviness of being, but since we’re on the subject, thanks, Dad. It’s been great.

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