Thursday, February 23, 2017

living with chronic illness

So, I posted on instagram a while ago that i deal with chronic illness. I wasn't expecting anything from it, but I had an overwhelming (in a good way) amount of response to it, with many questions about it.
Hopefully this post helps answer some of those questions and explain a bit of what it's like living with chronic illness. I don't really like to talk about what I deal with because I don't want to seem like I'm complaining or trying to play the victim. But I also know that sometimes it's easier to lay it all out on the table versus trying to explain why "I don't feel well" on any given day. Please don't take this as anything of the such, because I am much more than what I deal with chronically.

I should start by saying that I deal with four chronic illnesses in total. Not all of them are as severe as others, but they all debilitate (and aggravate) me at some point during any given day.

The first chronic illness: My first chronic illness started when I was in elementary school. I remember sitting in class when my head started to hurt. It got worse real quick, and it physically made me sick. I went home crying because i was in so much pain, and my mom had no idea what was going on. I couldn't move without feeling sick, and every inch of my head and body screamed at me. It wasn't until she took me to the doctor that he told me I had a migraine. He said it probably wouldn't be an often occurrence, and to go home and drink a lot of water.

as if.

Ever since then, I've gotten so many migraines that I can't even begin to guess how many I've had in total. In college they got so bad I was convinced i would never been pain free again. I was having 3-4 a week, and when I didn't have one, I was busy trying to recover from the last one. My doctor diagnosed me with chronic migraines, and although I'm not able to take medication for them anymore (more on that later), I've tried my fair share of migraine "remedies". None of them really help, unfortunately.

If you've never had a migraine, please say a prayer of thanks. They aren't something you can really describe to someone who hasn't had one. Your head literally feels like its on fire, that it's going to explode at any given second. You feel like you're underwater; the auras around your eyes make it impossible to focus on anything but the pain. The smallest amount of light feels like sun is 2 inches from your face. The nausea, oh the nausea. Tt's like morning sickness on steroids. You can't move because the pain literally knocks you back down or makes you throw up.

It's truly awful. If you deal with migraines, I am so sorry.

The second chronic illness: It was only a few months into my marriage when the second illness hit me. I had had a horrible week of stomach pain. I was going on day four of severe nausea, not eating or drinking, not being able to sleep, and horrible pain in my upper stomach. My husband said it was acid reflux, and I tried to treat it on my own for a few days to no avail. On the night of day four, I was in so much pain that I couldn't see straight. My body was literally shaking and I couldn't get it to stop.

I literally thought I was dying.

Kyle took me to the ER, and thats when I officially had my first case of pancreatitis.

I say first because since then, I've been hospitalized twice, spent the night at the ER more times than i can count, and have had even more pancreatitis flares than that.

No, i'm not an alcoholic (the main cause of pancreatitis). I simply have chronic idiopathic pancreatitis. 20-30% of chronic pancreatitis cases have no known reason; it simply is. And I'm part of the lucky few of that 20-30%.

There's nothing anyone can do about it. I simply have to deal with it until it passes, and if it doesn't pass, I go to the hospital for fluids and pain medicine until it does. It's indescribable, just like migraines. The pain feels like you swallowed a knife and its stuck in your stomach. There are many days where I simply can't eat, can't drink, can't do anything but lay there and pray.

Because of the number of times I've had pancreatitis, it has damaged my stomach in so many areas. The lining of my stomach is super sensitive, the acid reflux I deal with is insane, the stomach pains and cramps I get is sometimes as bad as a labor contraction. It's basically a waiting game until I get the next flare up. it's the worst game i've ever played.

Because of the damage, I'm not able to take a lot of medications. They don't agree with my stomach, and they aren't digested properly. My body quite literally rejects them, so I stay away from any medication I can.

The third/fourth chronic illness: I say three and four, because they are intertwined with each other. Some might not view either of these as an illness, and that's okay. But I do. Because I deal with both of them on a daily basis, and they can be debilitating. And if you've ever dealt with either of them, then you know how I feel.

According to my doctor, it's a generalized anxiety disorder. Which basically means I have really bad anxiety, that causes panic attacks. Sometimes something triggers it...sometimes my body just gets upset and there's nothing I can do to calm it down.

If you've never had a panic attack, it goes a bit like this: a sense of dread literally fills every fiber of your being. you can't calm it down, and you can't talk over it. you shake, and you can't stop. your body goes into some kind of mode that you can't control. you can't think straight, you can't move. a fiery heat goes through your nerves. your heart feels like its going to beat straight out of your chest. you literally feel like you're going to die right then and there. and there's nothing you can do to stop it.

My anxiety got significantly worse after my first episode of pancreatitis, which is some sort of weird side effect of severe trauma to an organ. Who would have thought?

Those who deal with any kind of anxiety disorder are more prone to any kind of depression. which is where my "fourth illness" comes in. My doctor had told me that I would be significantly prone to postpartum depression after I gave birth to my daughter. He said if it got bad, he would simply prescribe some medicine and I would be fine.

But as I said ^^ up there, I'm not able to take 99% of medications, so it was back to the waiting game.

I didn't get hit with it right away, and I actually thought i had dodged a bullet.

But then one night, Lilli stopped breathing and was taken to the children's hospital. She came so close to death that night, and that's officially when my postpartum depression started. It's not near as bad as it once was, but I still have my moments.

I don't want to go too far into details with this one because it's a lot more involved than I have time to explain, and it's quite frankly a really difficult subject for me to talk about. There's a lot of people that judge way too harshly when it comes to PPD/PPA, and I don't want to be the start of any battle. Nne day, I might talk about it more. But I don't feel led to talk about to right now. So for now, I'll move on.

This is about the extent of what I deal with day to day. To anyone that doesn't deal with a chronic illness, it's okay if you don't understand. I'm sure there are many that will read this with judgement or confusion. And that's okay. I don't understand things that I don't understand, and that's okay. There's no point in being bitter over something I can't control.

I thankfully have had quite a few friends enter my life who also struggle with chronic illness, and some that don't, that I can vent to, and my husband is the most understanding man I know. He takes care of me more often that I care to admit, and then he turns right around to take care of Lilli. He never complains, never gets mad, never holds it against me. He simply lives out his wedding vows every day, and he's my hero for that.

If you do have a friend who suffers from a chronic illness, I hope that you are understanding of them. Understanding that sometimes they can't go somewhere, have to cancel plans, have to leave early. They aren't doing it on purpose, and they definitely aren't doing it to hurt you. Trust me, it sucks just as much being on this side. Tt sucks being someone who is completely dependable, but her body isn't. Who has to cancel plans because they physically can't go and feel terrible for days, weeks afterwards because they had to be undependable. Instead of being angry with them, love them. Offer to come over and watch a movie. Offer to watch their kid, make them dinner, or just come over to talk. Chronic illnesses aren't contagious, and the only thing you'll catch from us is friendship.

If you struggle with any sort of chronic illness, know that I'm praying for you. I'm praying that one day you won't struggle with any illness anymore, and until that day, that you have the strength to overcome any battle you have. Our Heavenly Father is one of miracles, but He's also one of strength. And He is way bigger than any illness that overcomes our earthly bodies.


"I don't want my pain and struggle to make me the victim. I want my battle to be a light to someone's darkness."

read my chronic illness updates HERE.

1 comment:

  1. I am so sorry that you have been going through these your whole life. I have a friend who has chronic migraines too. He has had to get head scans and so much done because they were worried it was more than just a migraine. Thank you for sharing this with us.