As 2018 draws to a close, I want to write a little bit about my health and healing journey over the past two years. It has been a really really tough couple years. I want to share my story with you because I know there are so many other women who are going through similar things, being ignored by their doctors and feeling just as hopeless as I did about feeling ok on a daily basis. It has been such an enormous struggle for me to find things that work and find doctors that listen and advocate for your health. Finally, after years of feeling like garbage every day and thinking I was insane and worrying that I would feel this way forever, I’m finally finding people that are helping me to heal and get better, or at least manage it the best ways possible.
About two years ago around Christmas I caught a nasty stomach virus, it wrecked havoc on my entire system and caused gastritis and IBS symptoms for months following. My son, being in daycare two days a week at the time, brought home a constant stream of viruses and it seemed we were both continually fighting off some sort of illness. During this time between the constant barrage of viruses and debilitating digestive distress I began seeking help from my PCP. I discussed my symptoms and talked about how exhausted I was, how I was catching virus after virus and explained that my digestive tract still hadn’t healed from the stomach bug I had caught months prior. I was constantly either in the bathroom or having crippling stomach pains and cramps, everything and anything I ate caused me major problems, and by 3-4pm every day I was so wiped out I felt like I had been hit by a truck (muscle aches, brain fog, dizziness). I had lost so much weight I was a shell of my former self and my clothes stopped fitting. Essentially, my doctor told me that kids bring home germs and being a mother is stressful and tiring. Without directly saying so, he was telling me to suck it up and deal with it, that there was nothing he could do for me and that there was nothing wrong with me. He told me to make a follow up appointment in six weeks and instructed me to try eating a bland diet of white breads, crackers and bananas, avoiding nuts and fibrous foods (aka veggies, fruits and whole grains).
I left the appointment with my son, tears in my eyes, wondering if I had lost my mind. Asking myself - If this is how it feels to be a mom, why was I struggling so much? Do other moms really feel this crappy all the time? How do they get through the day? Should I start drinking more caffeinated beverages?
I started on the diet my doctor advised me to follow and the couple weeks following my symptoms only got worse. I was so weak from eating such a restrictive diet that I could barely walk around, my stomach was torn to shreds and I felt nauseous all the time. I stopped this absurd diet and called my GP again telling him I wasn’t getting better and that I needed a different solution. He called me back saying he didn’t know what else to do for me and referred me to a gastroenterologist. The year following I visited countless doctors, switched GPs and FINALLY started making some headway. It turned out the viral infection and gastritis following triggered lactose intolerance and gluten intolerance, cutting these out of my diet was HARD. I have a love affair with food and bread and dairy were one of my first loves in life. With the switch though I saw some immediate improvement, that coupled with a daily probiotic helped clear up my IBS symptoms within a few months.
Despite this positive change, I still felt unwell. Yes, I wasn’t in the bathroom ten times a day anymore, but my stomach pain and other symptoms persisted. The achey muscles, extreme exhaustion, dizziness, nausea, lack of appetite, feeling generally unwell all day seemed to signal something else in my mind. I hit another wall with my new GP, she insisted I was depressed and needed anti-depressants. I am quite aware of what depression feels like as I’ve dealt with it since my teenage years, I knew this was something different. My blood work indicated a low white blood count and because I was struggling to find more answers I took the initiative to call a hematologist on my own, months later they referred me to a rheumatologist and an immunologist. Fast forward to just the past two months, and guys a miracle happened, the rheumatologist I was scheduled to see in February (earliest time available) somehow managed to squeeze in a short visit with me during my immunologist appointment and got to work right away.
We are still working on an official diagnosis, but my blood work indicates an autoimmune disease. A lot of scary things have been thrown around but I am trying not to dwell on that until we know for sure and I am crossing my fingers that it’s something that can be managed so that I can get back on track. I’m currently taking steroids and it’s already helped so much with my energy levels and my appetite is back (finally!). I don’t feel like I have the flu 24/7 anymore! It’s been so long that I’ve felt so sick I forgot what it’s like to get through the day and feel normal. I still have days where I feel worse than others, but having good days is something I haven’t experienced in a long time. I am so thankful that I finally found doctors that are willing to listen and that believe me, and so grateful to have family and friends who have supported me through these intense couple years.
I’ve been so hesitant to share what I’ve been going through and to document these things because it’s heavy stuff, but I know there are people out there with doctors who are not listening to them and I know there are those who are feeling crappy every day thinking maybe it will get better on it’s own, doubting their sanity. It is such an isolating and maddening experience being sick, not knowing whats wrong with you and wondering if it’s all in your head. I promise, it’s not in your head! Please don’t ever stop advocating for yourself and listening to your body. You know better than anyone how you’re feeling and if something isn’t right. Push doctors to listen and if they don’t, keep looking until you find ones that will.
Thank you for reading my long winded story and thanks for following along on my journey toward wellness.