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Giving a Voice to Invisible Illness

I participated in this incredible project where a group of individuals across the United States and Canada read a poem. We tried to shed a little light on the invisible illnesses, diagnosed and undiagnosed, that we deal with every day. You can learn a little more about each of us here. Many thanks to Leah Holstein (who has a second blog about all things Disney because she’s awesome) and Catherine Richardson for crafting the poem and bringing us all together.

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Tis The Season For Withdrawal

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Happy New Years Eve! As the holiday season comes to a close, I wanted to touch on something rather important. As hectic as the holidays are for the everyday person (A fever? Why, you shouldn’t have!) and the amount of time spent with family is often cited as the reason for madness (Grandma got run over by a reindeer…or a chevy), individuals with chronic illness face unique challenges that mean the holiday season is filled with both joy and pain.

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For example, Maverick is joyous over the attention and yet almost painfully afraid of Santa.

The insane switch from Thanksgiving to Christmas leaves even the most sugar-rushed individual feeling tired and in need of a drink or 3. When your own body is fighting against you and 7-8 hours of sleep a night are non-negotiable, those 4 weeks become a marathon. In spite of proper rest, monkey wrenches might just throw themselves in ones path as well. You wanted mom’s homemade kielbasa? Here’s a flare instead. Until you can’t eat, you don’t necessarily realize how much socialization is centered around food. When one can’t partake it can leave a bereft feeling. Especially if it’s a tradition that holds value to the individual unable to participate.

This year, my own holiday hurricane came in the form of a medicinal withdrawal. I’ve been weaning off of an old medication for weeks but 2 days before Christmas Eve was day zero. I was completely unprepared for the symptoms that were to follow. At work I was dizzy and nauseous with a rather annoying headache. When the symptoms first appeared, I thought that I must be hungry or suffering from one of my awesome migraines. And then came the strange disjointed vision. Followed by an inability to regulate my body temperature. I called my doctor, but alas they were already closed for the holiday.

Despite my fiance’s wise advise, we drove 3 hours to see my side with the assistance of Dramamine. After product-detail-dramamine-drowsy-packagea visit from ole Saint Nick and taking pictures where I look abnormally large due to bloating, the night ended with frequent sprints out of bed and uncontrollable shaking. But I’m what many people would possibly describe as stubborn, and I was determined to have a great Christmas. Desperate, I thought, perhaps it was a weird stomach bug, but the symptoms didn’t cease. Things were temporarily easier upon waking but any attempts to eat or drink ended in miserable failure. Luckily, God said let there be Zofran and that shit is good (This is the Bible according to Sam). But, sadly, even Zofran can only do so much. On the verge of needing ER care the day after Christmas, my doctor was able to contact me and wanted me to alternate my med for another week to lessen the symptoms. To clarify, that would be my terminated med that was innocently sitting at home 3 hours away.

With the patience of a saint, my fiance drove with me in a ball huddled beside him in the passengers seat in day-after-Christmas traffic for almost 5 hours. I was then instructed to sit on the couch and stay. Considering I felt like a zombie, this wasn’t really a hard command to follow. It took over 2 days, and therefore 2 doses, for me to be able to eat without a nausea aid or intense abdominal cramping. The shaking ceased slowly over time and eventually I was able to remain awake for an entire day without severe consequences.

The point of my story isn’t to inflict guilt on the healthy individuals of the world, but simply to raise awareness. Chronic illness is a ripple, a difficult, uncommunicative, wave that touches family, friends, and even acquaintances. The strain from being sick is felt, for me, most poignantly during this time of year, and I know I couldn’t have made it through Christmas alone. Without my family and fiance I probably would have landed my pale, shaking ass in the hospital, but in spite the pain I was able to remain home for Christmas.

There are amazing resources and support structures popping up every day for individuals dealing with a vast array of illnesses, visible and invisible. Some of my favorites are Spoon Shares and Just Mildly Medicated. You may notice, I prefer a heaping of humor along with any advice. Have a safe and happy remainder of the year, and cheers to whatever 2015 may bring!

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Enjoy what you read? Check out More!

Malevolent Maladies:

Tips for the Anxious

Being a Young Professional with a Chronic Illness

More Fun:

I’m Tired and I Don’t Want to Cook!

The Night Before Puppy’s First Christmas

Other Sites I Recommend:

The Magical World Of: For the Disney fan in your life. She’s funny, sassy, and you don’t want to miss her March Madness series in the spring.

Abby Has Issues: I have issues, she has issues, and it’s fantastic.

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Being a Young Professional with a Chronic Illness

Being young and being ill are not mutually exclusive. Most people look at me and see a perfectly healthy young woman. I have no obvious outward ailments, but that’s the problem with illness. It doesn’t always show on the surface and even when I am feeling symptomatic I may not allow others to see how much pain I am in.

I suffer from a chronic condition dubbed IBS, which means that I have bouts of extreme pain and nausea that can come on suddenly at any time for no known reason. My doctors are constantly attempting to find triggers or natural aids so I can remain functional. But, of course, there are flare days. These days are filled with stabbing pains, fatigue, sweats, chills, nausea, fog, and maybe a few unpleasant tangos in the restroom. It’s hard to function in an office environment when you feel like your organs have been brutally beaten and mangled.

As a young professional I don’t have the same flexibility as my older peers. I haven’t yet earned the additional personal days, flex time, or established a long-term reputation as a dedicated responsible employee. All of these things mean that I need to go to work regardless of my physical condition. If I’m not contagious I’m dragging myself in. But, reality check, sometimes I don’t have the energy after an attack to make myself soup more or less wear heels and walk into my office building smiling all day. So what do I do? I haven’t figured it out yet. So far I’ve managed to abate the attacks and confine them to weekends and nights with a carefully balanced regiment of 409080Stomach Ease tea (thank you, Yogi, you have saved me!!!!!), soup, and Ritz crackers. I could probably single-handedly maintain the Ritz empire with my consumption of crackers alone.

For me, the support of my family and friends has been invaluable as I’m trying to find the work-life balance I need in order to maintain my health. Surrounding myself with people that want me to succeed has made a large difference in my motivation to find new ways to help manage my illness and take back control over my life. As I continue to find my way I want to share anything I learn with my readers, and I’d love to hear about how you’ve managed to navigate the rocky road to work-health balance!