I remember the moment I got sick.
It was a snowy Maine night in December of 1991, halfway through my senior year in high school. I was playing pool with my boyfriend in his parents’ garage—smoking Camel cigarettes and listening to The Doors on cassette. It was my turn to take a shot when a wave of nausea washed over me. Within minutes, it progressed into what I thought was the flu—body aches, fever, fatigue, the works.
After several days in bed, my mother took me to the doctor, who diagnosed me with acute gastroenteritis and handed me a prescription for antibiotics. When that didn’t work, he gave me another round.
A downhill battle
Two weeks later, I dragged myself back to school—still shaky, pale, and queasy.
It was the peak of the ski team season (the only sport I ever took to), and I couldn’t wait to get back. I loved whooshing through the woods—up and down narrow, winding trails. Alpine (downhill) skiing was a whole other story. We only had five girls on our team, so we all had to race in both styles, regardless of skill level. My goal on those days was just to make it down the hill alive.
We met on the mountain on my first day back to practice. My skis felt like lead, and I could barely lift my legs as I made my way to the chairlift. I’ve never been so grateful for the long, frigid trip to the summit—just to have time to rest.
I mustered up the energy to start racing again a week or two later, but I wasn’t out of the woods. My stomach felt constantly unsettled, with waves of intense nausea that would come out of nowhere. I swigged Pepto straight from the bottle and chomped on Rolaids and Tums to get through the day.
Little did I know, I was making things a whole lot worse.
No matter how crummy I felt, I was determined to keep living like a “normal” teenager. The last thing I wanted was for anyone to think I was sick or weak or weird—including my boyfriend, Pete (at least that’s what I’ll call him here).
Pete was a bit of a rebel who was always getting into some sort of trouble. And I seemed to be looking for trouble at that age. Intoxication was a common pastime where I grew up in rural Maine, but I took it to a whole other level, especially when I hung out with Pete.
One night, Pete called and invited me to go out with him. I was sitting on the couch with my mom, feeling sick and sorry for myself. I didn’t want to admit to him that I wasn’t up for it, so I did something I’m not very proud of. I covered the mouthpiece on the phone, and I asked my mom to tell me that I couldn’t go out.
She refused to be a pawn in my game, but I still told Pete (in a disappointed tone), “Mom said I can’t go out with you tonight.” At first, he was silent and then replied, “I heard everything you just said.” That’s when I realized the battery cover had fallen off the phone, leaving a gaping hole straight to the microphone. I was mortified, but I deserved it.
Our relationship ended soon after—not because of my foolish lie, but because I really couldn’t keep up.
This post is part of a series about my adventures recovering from chronic digestive issues. View all posts in order here, or click “NEXT POST” below to keep reading.