26 June 2013

Pica

Here's something you probably don't know about me, but you do now. I have Pica. You may know Pica as that crazy compulsion that pregnant women get to eat stuff not meant to be eaten. Well I'm definitely not pregnant.

Pica, it seems, can also affect people who suffer from malnutrition. Poverty can play a big part in pica.

My pica seems to have begun when I was living in NH. I would go days without food. All I had was water, and it got to the point where I was desperate for a flavor, any flavor, in my mouth. I began eating salt. At the same time, my tooth problems were becoming more pronounced. I was developing abscesses, and had big holes in my teeth where my fillings had fallen out. And of course, no money to get them fixed.

I would often stuff the holes in my teeth with cotton soaked in salt water, to prevent infection. Sometimes I would suck the salt fluid from the cotton for the flavor. Eventually, I began chewing the cotton, and over time it developed into a compulsion.

I didn't swallow the cotton at first, but now I like to chew it until it becomes little shreds that are easy to swallow. I recognize this behavior isn't exactly healthy, and I would like to stop, but I'm just not in a situation where I feel secure enough to let go of this compulsion. I get hungry. And when there's no food, I reach for the cotton balls. It helps me navigate the long stretches of time between meager meals. It helps give me a sensation of semi-fullness that I wouldn't get otherwise. And it allows me to experience flavor, even if salt is a flavor I don't particularly like.

I have high blood pressure, and I know the salt isn't good for me, but then, neither is the stress of hunger.

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