Out of Mind, Out of Country

Graduation was a whirlwind — put in the simplest way possible. Navigating the transition from student to professional is a journey I didn’t expect to be as stressful as it is. During a time that is filled with joyous exclamations, “what’s next!?” or “how does it feel to be done,” I can’t help but think that the adjective “done,” is both intimidating and ambiguous.

When I get nervous, stressed, or anxious, the emotions seem to manifest physically. I find something tangible to focus nearly of my attention on and it becomes crippling. It’s my bodies personal way of dealing with anxiety, creating a diversion that is equally if not more stressful and causes my internal hardware to fixate on thoughts that are both cyclical and cynical.

When my thoughts feel out of control, or my current situation feels out of grasp (applying to college, getting a job, feeling nervous about a big race), it has manifests by my either controlling food, having hypochondriac like thoughts, or the latest and greatest, using laxatives. Feeling in control is something that I feel I “need.”

Lately, I’ve been finding the need to control the way my stomach feels. To make sure my digestive tract and belly don’t actually feeling anything at all. No cramps. No bloating. Just, “normal.”

I’ve had what I’ve percieved as digestive issues for so long that I think I’ve tricked myself into believing they were actually there…and while my GI specialist says I exhibit many (if not most all) symptoms for IBS, it’s when I scare myself into submission that my flare ups are the worst.

Graduating from university did a number on my belly. The nerves and social anxieties that accompany family flying in from out of town, wanting to make everyone proud, ensuring I actually did pass my classes to recieve my degree, all the commotion threw me and my body for a loop. And when this happens, the new trend has been for things come to an abrudt halt leading me towards an ability to go to the toilet and the most uncomfortable feeling of being backed up.

The caveat to all of this is that now I’ve become unreasonably scared of not going everyday that I stress and worry, causing this crippling internal pattern of constipation. So I turned to laxatives, something I never thought I would use, and for the past few months I’ve been popping them like candy. For, “safety”.

I read in a fabulous book called, Gut, about the tricky-ness of these little blue pills. They empty your colon, leading to an unnatural process of exiting which then causes the body to have to artificially mimic the natural process of going in the morning. This has a knock on effect. If you feel tremendously uncomfortable, it seems like a natural solution. A quick fix. Temporary (and very welcome) relief. But returning to normal is a fate that is unmanageable being that your body becomes flooded with a chaotic assemblage of mixed signals.

What does this have to do with being in London? Prior to take off, I was stressed about whether or not travelling across the pond would cause my already (mentally induced) bathroom habits to stalwart again. This book (Gut) explained in the simplest way possible to trust your body. For a brief moment, I let perspective take charge and thought to myself, what on earth are you so nervous about Gabi?

As I was sitting on a good friend’s couch the morning after arriving in London, waiting for things to keep moving, having fixated over not going, I told my mind to pipe down and finally relaxed. For the first time in months, I let it go. It would happen when it was ready to happen. I let go the stress of not having a job, I let go of the stress of finals, exams, papers and commotion of graduating. I let go of these expectations I had set for myself to be on the right track making the most efficient use of every moment.

While I didn’t quite anticipate my first journal entry about being in London to be so heavily focused on my bathroom habits, it’s been the awkward but relieving byline to being here. I’m relaxed. Laying in bed in what I will unequivocally admit as my favorite city, I feel calm. Everything tastes amazing, buttery, garlicy, non-IBS “friendly” and I’m digesting them like it ain’t no thing. Why? Because I’m not stressed about it. I’m not adding mountains of psyllium husk, flax seeds and weird green powders to my food….and you know what? My belly has never felt better.

Sure that’s the beauty of being on vacation, being able to relax, but I’m also still very much on the job hunt, learning how to budget my money being that I’m officially independent from my parents (barring health insurance); needless to say I am still heavily tied to responsibilities. The first three days in London, moving at an organic and leisurely pace have instilled in me how tremendous it is loosen the reins. They’ve instilled in me how wonderful it is to jog around the park, shower up and walk down the road for a coffee. Being abroad, Europe specifically, is a beautiful repose from the bustle I was consumed at Berkeley.

My body has found its rythm again. I’ve not been bloated since flying over here, I’ve had so many coconut flat whites I truly can’t even keep count and I haven’t read a single label nor have I worried about consuming “added sugars”.

Smashed avocado toast and poached eggs are abundant, the food scene is out of this world, and the cute English jargon heard on the street will make you want to fall in love with a stranger.

About the author

Gabi Maudiere enjoys eating rice cakes (smothered in crunchy peanut butter) despite popular criticisms and adheres strictly to the notion of reading before bed, even if it's just half a page before falling asleep.