Follow Your Gut

First of all, the word gut kind of grosses me out. I associate it with Zach Galifianakis’ sweaty swollen belly sliding against Robert Downey Jr.’s face in the recent film Due Date. Or, if I am not picturing a gut, “gut” gets lumped into the image of guts, which is about equally as unpleasant as the Galifianakis reference.

So why do people say follow your gut? 

Do my bowels know something I don’t?

Does my protruding tummy stick out further than any other part of my body, so I am destined to “follow” it wherever I go unless I walk backwards?

Is following the gut any different than following your heart?

Is following the gut the masculine equivalent to the feminine following of the heart? After all, they say the way to a man’s heart is often through his stomach (gut)!

Speculation. What I do think I can say pretty clearly is that the gut seems to represent instinct. Follow what feels right. In that sense, I would say the gut is synonymous with the heart, because both involve feelings. Emotions.

I’ve been at a bit of a loss lately, things have been fairly out of control and I really wasn’t sure what to do about it. My conclusion was, initially, to follow my gut instinct. 

After going through the stream of thoughts I’ve just gone through here, though, I concluded that might not be wise.

I have a bipolar gut.

I’d love to believe they aren’t, but my instincts are almost completely as inconsistent as I am. Relying on a feeling to make a decision in my situation means relying on something that can change rapidly at any moment. Going so far as to base my happiness on something that my gut tells me seems foolish, when three minutes later it might say, “just kidding!”

This back and forth dialogue of emotion usually continues until I either have what I associate as an epiphany (which in the last couple years I’ve concluded tends to be something linked to mania, in one form or another) or a total breakdown (due to depression), at which point the flip flopping stops just long enough for my gut to get a word in edgewise. This is usually the only time I rely on that gut.

How could I trust my gut otherwise? The instincts associated seem to sway back and forth with the tides of bipolar disorder.

And I couldn’t follow it physically, right?

I mean, what is says usually sounds a bit like, “arrrrarararrrrrraaaarrrrrr”.

Unless it is stressed out. Then it gets angry.

It kind of seems like the stress and anxiety in my life is hard wired directly through my gut, up to my brain. Really, the wiring could act as something of a stress-o-meter.

The only trouble with the gut-stress-meter is that mine wont discern whether the stress is good stress (like excitement or anticipation) or the bad kind of stress (frazzling, pressure of yucky magnitudes). If I am on my way to disneyland (and you remove the emotions from this equation), I will feel very similar physically to waking up and preparing to take a driving test. Good and bad both feel the same at that point, so if I had to discern which I was experiencing while blindfolded I couldn’t tell the difference.

Thankfully, I don’t usually have to make that distinction because I can tell if something is good stress or bad stress depending on how I feel about it emotionally.

Last week, for the first time in a long time, I was stressed out to the point I lost my appetite. It vanished without a trace for four days, and at first it felt almost somewhat refreshing.

Well this is nice, I thought on the first day, I don’t feel like eating continuously for the entire day! Maybe I’ll save a couple bucks! Maybe I’ll lose a couple pounds!

As the days began to go by, though, I started getting a little worried. By Saturday, there was a point where someone mentioned hot wings (that is a bit of a holy-grail food for me) and though I was overjoyed, my stomach still made no response. 

No response! 

It was as if my stomach had died. There was no pulse left, just a shriveled, lifeless blob.

(I ate the wings anyway.)

Maybe this is the sign I was looking for all along. If my gastric juices are not aroused by the idea of hot wings, I am certainly dealing with a lot more stress than is reasonable for my body to handle. If the stress is having that effect on my stomach, I can only imagine what kind of contribution it is having to the (rather excruciating) episodes I’ve been having.

And maybe if I can’t rely on these emotional instincts that are so willy-nilly, there is something tangible about what my gut is saying after all! Do you think there are physical instincts that I’m still housing in this body, even when my emotional instincts don’t seem to function properly? Maybe I’m just not in tune with the way my gut has been trying to communicate with me all this time.

It is easy, I think, to get wrapped up in the roller coaster of emotions I’m dealing with at any given time, and the things my body says to me fall by the wayside. It is almost funny, too, that even though I spent last week wishing I could shut my mind off, it was my stomach shutting off that finally got my attention!

Now that I’ve discovered this, I can absolutely say there is a huge gap in communication between my mind and body. I feel something like a pioneer who has crossed the West to finally get to the ocean, picking up a guttural seashell upon arrival, and putting an ear to it to hear the ocean.

6 responses to “Follow Your Gut

  1. As John Cusack’s character, Rob Gordon, says in the movie High Fidelity (please excuse the language), “My guts have shit for brains.”

    Also, loved the Zack G./Robert Downey Jr. imagery at the top. I’ve not seen that movie, but it was a nice hook.

    • Sarah @ bi[polar] curious

      Love the High Fidelity reference, I forgot about that one! I just might have to watch that this afternoon now!

  2. struggling with bipolar

    I have to say I find going with my gut and my heart to be different, but hey, that’s just me.

    I do think that there are times where our physical being and our emotional being is disconnected. It’s not an easy fix either. Is there anyway you can reduce the stress you are experiencing right now?


    • Sarah @ bi[polar] curious

      I’ve recently been reading a book about PTSD, and it has talked a little bit so far about the disconnect between physical and emotional self. I definitely don’t expect to “solve” this issue any time soon, but I am pretty excited to start working on it to hopefully make some progress down the line.

      And yes, I have resolved to cut out one of the biggest stressors that will hopefully make a difference within the next couple weeks. Thanks!

  3. Pingback: The Final Countdown | bi[polar] curious

  4. Ah yes, I constantly have to remind myself to listen to my body. It is so easy to miss in the cacophony that is often my emotional life. I hope you can lighten your stress load soon!

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