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Antigone is a blogger who goes by her nickname "Annie". She is a wife to Deven Bowles and dog-mom to a rescue named Rhett. Gastroparesis became a big part of her life when she was diagnosed in 2016 and it has been a struggle ever since to balance health needs with being up on her feet. That said, she credits her medical conditions with pushing her to start Sugarfree Media so she can determine her own schedule – she’s never looked back! Her favorite activities are jogging, writing, gardening, playing with her pup, yoga, cooking, and drawing. She loves anything active or creative!
Q: What is your biggest inspiration?
A: The past few years, my inspiration has come from a lot of places. But in terms of getting back up from Gastroparesis and living my life, President FDR has been huge. He had a much more severe, painful, visible handicap than mine... And yet he went on to run our country longer than ANY OTHER MAN ever has! He got us through the worst war the world had ever seen. He even started a charity and medical facility for other people with his condition. I went on an FDR documentary kick for a while… Whenever I was sick in bed and feeling sorry for myself, I would pop one on… And suddenly, I knew I could conquer anything.
FDR had a destiny to fulfill, and he never let his health slow him down. I feel the same way about myself, and in my darkest moments, he inspires me to keep fighting.
Q: Who is the person (or people) who has gotten you through the most?
A: My boyfriend, Deven, hands down. I have no idea where I would be without him. He has held my hair, laid with me on cold bathroom floors, and stayed up to all hours of the night to make sure I was never alone. He has made countless trips to Walgreens or the grocery store to pick up what I needed. When I was first diagnosed, he got me these colorful, reusable straws to sip water from, a bright turquoise vomit bucket, a GIANT pillow to prop myself up with, and even socks that say “I am shitting rainbows!!!” I would just lay there wanting to die… And he would get me water with my straws, my pillow, turn on my favorite shows, and pull my little rainbow socks on me. He grabbed crackers and my vomit bucket when they were needed. He ran me to the hospital more times than I even can remember, and each time I was either on the brink of losing consciousness and actively vomiting as he drove. He is a saint in my eyes.
Q: While you have been going through this condition, what has been the most unexpected and rewarding thing you have experienced?
A: I guess just inner peace. Since I have been sick, I savor small, happy moments more. I savor my family. I savor so many things I previously took for granted because I realize that any moment where I feel good is something to be celebrated. I have gotten in touch with who I am, what is TRULY important in life, and left the rest behind. It sounds crazy, but I started my business because of my Gastroparesis! I had always wanted to be a blogger. But once I started getting sick at work, my boss and HR became a nightmare to deal with. I took a temporary disability to try to find meds that would help or some type of routine… But it didn’t work. I kept getting sick. I slowly realized that the risk I had always wanted to take was actually compatible with the lifestyle I needed to live due to my stomach… I took the plunge and never looked back! So Gastroparesis really led me to my career in a sense.
And now for the whole story, in her own words! Antigone wrote the following about her experiences with Gastroparesis:
“After college ended, I went through a particularly turbulent time. I moved to NYC, got my heart broken, got fired from a job, left NYC, moved home, moved to Dallas, and got a series of new jobs trying to find the right fit. I managed in retail for a while and encountered a TON of stress. From screaming customers to holiday chaos to employee theft/ drama – I finally stepped into a sales role as a personal stylist and thought I had hit the jackpot! I finally found something that worked for me. But it was stressful in its own way, and all of a sudden, my stomach was bloating up… and I mean BLOATING. Not the type of bloat that your average self-conscious sorority girl complains about…I mean, I looked 8mo pregnant! I am not exaggerating. I started getting nauseous whenever I would eat, I gained weight, and eventually started having what I now know to be GERD. So yeah, I thought I was pregnant!
Off I went to the Gyno… And nope. Nothing abnormal after ultrasounds, blood tests, the works! My lady parts were working fine. So what was inside my belly?!
I started freaking out a bit at this point… I’ve watched enough Grey’s Anatomy to be half convinced I had a tumor or had swallowed my unborn twin! Luckily, I went to UT Southwestern and saw an incredible specialist named Dr. Murakami. But in my mind, she was Christina Yang when she bluntly said to me: “oh no, I wouldn’t wish this on my worst enemy!” Yikes… Zero bedside manner, but she was right! She sent me off for a “Stomach Emptying Test,” and she was correct: I was severely delayed and had Gastroparesis.
Honestly, at the time, I was just so happy to have a diagnosis that I was excited to get on track with a dietician and some supplements… I thought we would have this thing figured out in no time! But that’s not how CHRONIC conditions work… They never really go away.
Grasping that I would have to deal with this condition indefinitely, well, it took a long time to accept. I fought it, HARD. I tried every diet in the book from vegan to gluten-free to meatless, the works! Tried every supplement under the sun. I even saw a Chinese Dr. and tried Eastern medicine. Nothing helped. So finally, I threw up my hands and said to Deven, “I just need to learn how to live with this.” And that was a major turning point for me.
From then on out, I just ate what I felt like eating in small quantities. Anything that helped a little became part of my routine. I found meds to help in emergencies, and I learned my way around local hospitals. But the two biggest changes I made, both had to do with managing my stress levels and lifestyle.
Given that Dallas is bigger (and perceived as more exciting) than OKC, my boyfriend Deven used to always commute to see me. I had rarely visited him. But for a bunch of reasons, we made the decision that I would move to him to consolidate our things before making a bigger move back to New York. So, I reluctantly moved to OKC… But once I was there, I felt SO good you guys… I felt better than I had in a long time! I used to love a fast-paced lifestyle, because I am a go-getter by nature… I used to think I needed to be the best and biggest at everything! But since getting sick, the slow just feels SO GOOD. It calms my entire system. And I am much healthier and thus, more productive! This move to OKC probably saved my life. I wish I were exaggerating, but I am not.
The second thing that really helped with lifestyle, SURPRISINGLY, was getting on an anti-anxiety med. As I was starting to get sick, I experienced my first panic attacks. I had SO many things I wanted to accomplish, and yet there I was, bed-bound every single day… It was worse than death in my mind… Just watching your youth and opportunities dwindle away while you were miserable in bed? The worst! So I started getting a lot of anxiety about how I would live the life I wanted while also taking care of my health. But once I got to OKC and got settled, I saw a psychiatrist for the first time. Through a test I took on the computer, she showed me that my anxiety was so bad that it was actually causing me to have a lack of focus and mild ADD. I got on an anti-anxiety medication, and shockingly, it’s the med that has helped my stomach the most of anything I have tried.
Now, I probably sound like I am all better now, living this happy lifestyle. LOL. That is far from the truth. I still get sick 1-2 days most weeks and even ended up in the hospital two months ago. I have to be very careful with food and alcohol and balancing those with a routine of hydration, 8+ hrs of sleep, tons of vitamins, and more. But I am doing much better than I was at the beginning – I even started my own business at this time! So now I work from home (on my blog! Give me a follow sugarfreemedia.co!) and can work when I feel physically able, rather than pushing myself and ending up in bed for a whole week. I wanted to share the background of my personal story in the beginning because I believe my stress and anxiety were the most significant factors in causing my Gastroparesis. If you are currently struggling with Gastroparesis, try to look at your body and mind as one, rather than two separate spheres because they are more intertwined than we could ever understand! Mind/ body/ spirit balance is the BEST way to get feeling better – I swear! Consider making bold moves away from your sources of stress, and I promise, it will help your physical symptoms lessen. If you have any questions, I would love to be a resource for anyone out there struggling – feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org”. – Antigone Transcribed 8/3/2018
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