Friday, January 24, 2014

My Life With Chronic Illness

Can you imagine being a 22 year old recent college graduate and having your normal life ripped from you? I know this all too well. I don't like to talk about my illness much but from late 2008 to early 2011 that was my life. It was scary and excruciating. All of the sudden I couldn't function and I was a slave to the couch. What made matters worse was having doctors not believing what you are suffering from is real. I was put through numerous medical tests: EKG’s, various heart tests, MRI’s, blood tests, ultrasounds, ct scans, you name it I probably had it done, and not much was found. I began to suffer from anxiety and became depressed because of all of this. I was put on Cymbalta because my doctor didn't know what else to do. I became a semi-functioning zombie as a result.

After a terrifying episode in late 2010 that put me in the hospital a doctor finally realized something was wrong and put me in the hands of a neurologist that helped me tremendously. He believed me, and to a person suffering from invisible/chronic illness that is huge. My fibromyalgia diagnosis changed my life. My treatment started with Lyrica, and I slowly saw improvement. It was amazing not living in the fetal position on the couch. I gained back weight I had lost and then some. I started to feel like myself again. Or what I thought myself would have been had this not happened. Unfortunately I had some side effects from the Lyrica that I could no longer handle and the doctor weaned me off of it. He decided to help me go a more natural route and my body responded well to that, and still does for the most part.

I have a laundry list of medical issues. I suffered from chronic migraines throughout my childhood as well as OCD. I battle fibromyalgia, IBS, GERD, and asthma. I still have bouts of anxiety, depression, and insomnia as a result of these medical issues. Stress also plays a huge factor in my quality of life. When I have bad IBS or Fibro flares I don’t want to do much of anything. Nausea, stomach and intestinal pain, yeast imbalance, perpetual exhaustion, chronic headaches, muscle aches and sensitivity, numbness, pain and other strange feelings are something I've come to accept on a regular basis. There are days I have a hard time just getting up from a seated position on the floor. My stamina is nothing to right home about, but it does get better when I'm working regularly. It sometimes takes a while to for me to recover from major physical exertion or outings. The weather plays a huge role in how my body feels as well. With that said it doesn't mean I don't have good days. My good day's are just different.

I've suffered more set backs in the last year than I would care to. My emergency appendectomy 7 months ago was very difficult to recovery from because it was so invasive. I've struggled to regain weight I lost, and flares have been more frequent. It also took a toll on me mentally. My work situations have left me with a lot of stress which also causes flares, and unfortunately mild depression, anxiety, and insomnia came to play as well. I'm doing my best to cope now, and not let things consume me. I breathe and focus on the positives. Sometimes you have to put on a smile and push forward no matter how hard things are.

I'll be honest I'm not one to complain about what I'm going through via social media or otherwise. Most people don’t understand it nor do I want to garner sympathy or attention from it. There are times I don't even tell my husband how I'm feeling even though he would like me to. He does so much for me and I simply don't want to burden him with certain things. I'm working on that though. Keeping things to myself isn't always healthy either.

I've been on lots of different prescription medications throughout my life, and I've found that I would rather work with natural supplements as much as possible at this point. My supplement regimen has fluctuated over the last couple of years to see what works and what doesn't. I take magnesium (500mg) daily for nerve and muscle function as well as Vitamin D. I also take probiotics for my digestive health. I have found Kefir is also good to have on rotation. I drink chamomile or cinnamon tea's in moderation for health benefits. I try to keep up my vitamin c intake but that can occasionally be irritating to my stomach. I also try to drink Ensure Plus regularly. I've recently started using arnica gel. I massage it in areas that may be particularly painful and I do get some relief. Stretching (yoga) and light exercise has also been helpful but I don't do it as regularly as I should. I found the book Yoga Cures by Tara Stiles particularly helpful for me. None of this is 100% effective but it helps me in my everyday battle.

I felt compelled to share my story because it may help or be relatable to someone else, and most importantly to help myself. People suffer with things we can’t always see. Don’t judge them. You will never know what it’s like to walk in the shoes of someone who suffers from chronic illness or a disability if you have not experienced it. A little respect and understanding can go a long way.

Thank you for reading.

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