Two summers ago, after a year of freshman comp teaching and a life-changing decision to move across the country, I developed an anxiety-related skin condition. I’d suffered from stress-induced breakouts before, and I knew getting rid of this one would call for daily exercise, lots of vegetables, and diligent water drinking. Instead of doing any of that, I went to a dermatologist, got a prescription for an antibiotic, and took it every day for two months. As it turns out, this was not such a good idea.
I didn’t know it at the time, but even as the Doxycycline was clearing up my breakout, it was killing off the good bacteria in my intestines that helped me break down and process food properly. One night after taking my dose, I found myself hunched over the toilet in my apartment, vomiting up my dinner whole. A few days later, I had to swing across three lanes of Los Angeles rush our traffic to throw up by a tree in a Ralph’s parking lot.
I’d started the pills in June of 2011 and I took them every day until the end of July. By September, something as little as a sip of water left me feeling like the monster from Alien was about to birth itself through my belly button. Garlic fries at dinner meant a night on my knees on the bathroom floor. The prospect of the holidays, which I usually spent with my boyfriend’s family outside Boston, became suddenly horrifying. Things went on more or less like this for over a year.