Gut Feelings

June 8, 2022

I’m on the back end of a panic attack, trying to restore my gut flora. Work begins the same way every day, with whatever emotional balancing act is necessary to make it seem like something I want to do rather than something I have to do. It’s neither and both, and I’m not interested enough in what that means to expand upon it.

That round of antibiotics left me fucked up. I don’t know where the science is yet on microbiomes but I’m convinced killing all the little colonists in your stomach has a distinctly negative effect on your mental health. I feel incredibly overwhelmed, like there’s a lot bearing down on me. And, while I do have external stressors like everyone else, there’s nothing unique about the last couple of weeks. I feel a sense of loss, like I’ve had a miscarriage. I keep clutching my stomach, “my baby…” and my words fade out like the heartbeat of an embryo.

So I’ll drink my Kefir and eat my Kimchi and take my 50 dollar pills from the Vitamin Shoppe and if that doesn’t do it I’ll have to call the psych and get back on Lithium.

I love the Vitamin Shoppe. Reminds me of my mom and all her kooky New Age beliefs, the very same ones I thumb my nose at in times of stability and then crawl towards for salvation when I just can’t keep it together. I’ve watched her put herself in the hospital with bleach and heavy metals but her resolve and determination to find some alternative solution prevents me from feeling pity or even shame. I know vitamin C can’t cure cancer but should I ever be handed some kind of terminal diagnosis I know for a fact I will be at the Vitamin Shoppe, loading up, trying to bring myself closer to something familiar despite understanding the inefficacy of the treatment. In a lot of ways the Vitamin Shoppe is closer to a church than a pharmacy, holistic medicine is just transubstantiated optimism. I’ll take the useless herbs and find myself in communion with the folks that prioritize faith over knowledge. Because with death as an inevitability, ultimately the goal for anyone should not be to not die, but to not die alone.

And I guess you can find that at both New Age end of life retreats or in the ICU, in the drum circles, dictating the rhythm, or listening to the sounds of the other heart monitors while you count your last breaths in the emergency room. I think that process sort of works itself out and it’s relatively easy to look around at the very end and say, we’re all here. Smile, and at the very least, testify to your audience that when it’s their turn, they’ll be okay.

But life is a misnomer, everything is at least in the physical sense, an entropic process, and you’re always “dying”. How do you go about not dying alone when you’re on the subway? In line at the bank? And the very worst of all – sitting on your phone, staring at a bunch of grotesque social interactions mediated by secret algorithms?

It seems almost impossible. Everything is too individuated. Death in the most simple terms is a little pencil eraser that goes around the boundaries of a person, both physically and spiritually, and erases the lines and allows the colors to bleed out over the rest of us and into the material world. The most powerful repudiation of death is to assert the validity of those lines, to affirm the individual, and keep the eraser at bay. Healthy people don’t want to share death with you, nor find commonality in fragility and impermanence. The closest they’ll get is seeking overlap in values or interests, or principles or beliefs, and this works in the short term, but ultimately leads to further conflict. Fragility is the only universal commonality.

I don’t know how to do it, and it’s time to take my prebiotic pill and wash myself, pack up and fly to another town in an attempt to find the answer.

Likely I’ll start shitting normally again and just write the question off as mental illness. Otherwise it’s time to pay someone 300 dollars an hour to be a private audience to these thoughts, get a prescription, and then take a lonelier but more effective pill.