A friend once suggested I write a blog about my battles with chronic illness – my victories and losses and the unrelenting symphony of days. I told her that I’d considered exactly such a thing, but I always shied away because it made me sad.
But here, at last, I find myself in the headspace to give it a whirl. I think it’s no so much that it makes me sad to write about my life, as I am intimidated. I am not a writer, and I like to keep my inner battles close to my chest. I don’t want to be a sickly person, and consequently, I have a knee-jerk habit of downplaying my troubles as much as possible. And yet, I’ve soaked in a lot of solace by reading other stories of other people suffering, and fighting, and winning, and losing, and giving up, and finding that giving up didn’t really help, so they’re back to fighting again. This is how I feel. And at the moment, I’m back to fighting again. So here goes.
A little introduction
I lived the first 28 years of my life fit as a fiddle. I was happy and energetic, I ate everything, slept soundly, and was an all-around reliable and capable person. And then something happened and I got sick. The catalyst for the illness was picking up some parasites while traveling in Ecuador. At the time my doctors assured me that someone who was young and healthy like myself would make a full recovery – no problem. But 6 years later, that’s not how it’s turned out, and I can’t help but wonder if this chronic and fluctuating state of illness I find myself in was coming one way or another, and parasites just startled the bear out of hibernation early?
My first diagnosis was IBS, a syndrome I’ve discovered means “gosh, we don’t really know what’s wrong, but it sure seems like your guts aren’t working too well”. There are a wide variety of symptoms that can be diagnosed as IBS, but mine are primarily diarrhea, bloating and cramping and gas, poor nutrient absorption and nutrient deficiencies, and an incredible range of foods that trigger my symptoms. Since then, I’ve also struggled with fatigue (sometimes moderate, sometimes extreme, but ALWAYS present), depression, anxiety, migraines, a lackluster immune system, and feeling generically not very good (like having the flu without having the flu).
As bitter as I sometimes am that these rather unpleasant things are now a part of my life, I also have a life that I’m extremely grateful for. I have an amazing husband and loving friends and family. Most of the time, I’m able to hold down a job and do it well enough. Importantly, my job funds my medical bills, and I (finally!) found a doctor who takes me seriously, and is able to help ease my pain.