Six years after the miserable milk and eggs free diet that seems to have little effect, the undiagnosed Autistic Hermit, now a teenager, finds himself back on health food shop products again but this time with a slightly different requirement.
One issue that had dogged me throughout childhood was the fact that my enuresis* was not letting up.
It was only at the age of twelve that my mother finally concluded that we should consult my GP about it, not least because there was a school field trip coming up. For the next two years I was taking stuff called Tofranil on a nightly basis. I later learnt that Tofranil was chiefly used as an antidepressant though how a pill that controls urination can also boost serotonin rather eludes me.
Anyway after two years worth of that, and still no complete victory, it was decided to take me to the boffins in London. A few months on something called Ametryptaline had the rather undesirable side effect of making me fall asleep in class, most notably on the German exchange trip to the amusement of the native pupils and the embarrassment of my classmates.
But before I knew it we were looking down the allergy avenue again. First off a boffin in the northern part of the capital put drops of extracts of various foodstuffs into my skin and pinpricked them, concluding that raised bumps were proof of possible allergies. A few weeks later my mother and I were in the offices off Harley Street of Dr Wong**, a specialist in alternative medicine. Dr Wong’s method of assessing these things was to get you to hold a test tube full of the extract in your left hand while you stuck out your right arm and he tried to push it down. The stronger your resistance to this, the less sensitive you were deemed to be to the foodstuff in question. So keen was I to not have to abstain from my favourite foods anymore that I resisted his push very firmly to the point where he would fall and reel backwards, trying to keep his footing.
I was taken to see Dr Wong* regularly for the next three years and had to take a cocktail of things like Evening Primrose Oil every night as well as putting drops on my tongue from a pipette.
Back in the days of the lock of hair diet it had been milk, eggs and chicken I had to avoid. But Dr Wong* said I was fine with poultry, now it was milk and yeast that were off limits. So I could have hard boiled eggs with my school lunch and the presence of ingredients like “dried egg yolk” was no longer to be treated like an 18 certificate at the flicks. But back into the diet came Vitaquell (dairy free margarine) along with new arrivals such as soda bread and rice cakes. I could only have fresh fruit juice if it was from freshly opened cartons and had had no time to ferment. My nan rather wondered why on a one night stay I sampled all three of the cartons she’d bought. Alcohol was a no-no (agony for a teenager), water had to be filtered and, owing to a perceived sensitivity to dust mites, I could no longer have our cats on my bed (though I was free to stroke and hold them). I woke early one Saturday morning to hear Sage our half-Burmese crossbreed yowling outside my door and kept reluctantly saying no. This was in the early days of the diet when it was only meant to last three weeks. It lasted three years in the end and much of my resistance crumbled.
As you will have guessed, I didn’t adhere to this diet very rigidly. I guess I was thinking “Oh for pity’s sake, why are we back with all this again?!” But now that I was responsible for informing kitchen staff etc of these matters myself I would indulge regularly in spite of frequently asking if the dish being served contained any milk or yeast. And somehow I had not developed the skill of considerateness to at least exercise maximum caution when staying elsewhere. I still remember my nan moaning “Oh Christopher, why?” when it happened for the third time in a week when we stayed there.
But really it was all very random. For example on the trip to Norfolk in the summer of 1989 I managed to be bone dry all week despite indulging in bread and other yeast-containing substances (including having my orange juice spiked with vodka when we made a sly trip to a pub).
Eventually, about a year after I had left school, I told Dr Wong I’d had enough. By now I was seventeen and old enough to go by myself so in the lack of witnesses I don’t know if I misunderstood anything but he ran me through the tests and told me I was free to go free but just to go easy on the chocolate.
As for the problem it was all meant to be addressing in the first place, I only recall one more wet bed, about a month later, mercifully at the home of a very understanding relative.
A delayed reaction? Or just a natural cessation of the problem?
My conclusion will be revealed in Part 3.
*For the uninitiated, enuresis is the medical term for wetting the bed.
**Name has been changed.