The Monster in My Belly
This column is a reprint from Unwinnable Monthly #156. If you like what you see, grab the magazine for less than ten dollars, or subscribe and get all future magazines for half price.
Here’s the Thing is where Rob dumps his random thoughts and strong opinions on all manner of nerdy subjects – from videogames and movies to board games and toys.
Six years ago, I ate at Chipotle (not uncommon for me at that time), and I don’t know what was in that burrito other than what I normally order but what began with some unexpected gastric distress ballooned into something much worse. I endured months of chronic stomach pain because that’s how long it took to see a doctor. I eventually started feeling better once my GP recommended antacids. Turns out my stomach was over-producing acid and constantly burning itself – something that took several more months to heal. But here’s the thing: Even after six years, the monster never left my belly. In fact, the monster is my belly.
The thing I hate most about this monster is how unpredictable it can be. I’ll go months, or even a year or two, without any major problems. Then suddenly it’ll feel like there’s molten lead in my guts and I’m not sure which way it’s planning on leaving. If it leaves at all. When the monster gets angry, it might be a quick little outburst that lasts for an hour or two. Maybe a couple of days, or a week. But other times it goes on a ceaseless rampage for a month or more.
Sometimes I can quiet it down with more antacids, probiotics, or a temporary change in diet. Sometimes I’m afraid to try eating anything that isn’t extremely mild, like bread and crackers. Sometimes I’m afraid to eat anything at all.
I can’t eat onions anymore.
As I’m writing this, the monster is quieting down after another almost two-month long bender. At least I hope it’s calming down. I thought I was okay a few weeks ago, but then, suddenly I wasn’t.
I miss being able to eat what I want. I’m either too scared to try eating a lot of the foods I love right now, or I just straight up can’t because it won’t let me. I miss being able to leave home without thinking about how the monster might lash out again. I miss leaving home and not creating a mental checklist of where I know restrooms are along my route, just in case something goes wrong. I miss feeling like I can leave home at all.
This isn’t all the monster’s fault – I know this. Some of it is wrapped up in a whole lot of personal stress and anxiety stemming from 2020-2021. It’s the kind of stuff that gives a monster like this more power. And I suppose, in a way, a part of me welcomes this monster now. It’s miserable and I hate it, but it’s also been a part of me for a long time. I’m sort of used to being afraid, even though I don’t necessarily want to be. It’s familiar. In a twisted way, it’s safe. It keeps me inside, where I don’t have to worry about any surprise attacks.
It’s easy for me to say I wish I could go back in time and prevent myself from letting the monster in. And honestly, if it were possible I probably would. But we’re stuck with each other now. The only thing I can do is talk to more medical professionals and continue to steadily push myself back towards my own personal normal. And hope that someday I’m able to go outside again without having to suppress my fears first. Or maybe even go out with no fear to suppress in the first place.
Rob Rich is a guy who’s loved nerdy stuff since the 80s, from videogames to anime to Godzilla to Power Rangers toys to Transformers, and has had the good fortune of being able to write about them all. He’s also editor for the Games section of Exploits! You can still find him on Twitter, Instagram and Mastodon.