I was sick for a most of my teen years. It started out as sinus pain, monthly colds, chronic headaches, severe migraines, an easily overstimulated nervous system, eyes sensitive to bright light, exercise induced asthma, anxiety and fear. The progression of all my symptoms were so gradual, that I barely noticed them at first. A lot of what I experienced I just thought was “normal”. But progress it did, ‘til my entire life was suffering from it.
Imagine having flu that never goes away. Fatigue so severe that most days all you can do is lay in bed all day, and walking up a flight of stairs you have to take breaks. And days when you either choose to whisper or not speak at all, because the energy required to form a voice is not there.
Imagine having headaches and pains for weeks on end that cannot be eliminated with pain killer. Imagine a mind so bogged down in fog, that holding a normal conversation is often impossible. Processing what someone says to you and then forming a reply takes a cognitive process that you now struggle with.
Imagine feeling like a zombie day in and day out—not really living, just surviving.
That was me. When I try to explain to another person how I felt then, it’s nearly impossible. Just like a headache or nerve pain, you can only truly understand it if you’ve gone through it yourself. The type of fatigue I endured is not the same as just being tired or fatigued from lack of sleep. You can fix that type of fatigue with caffeine, exercise or a nap. I couldn’t.
The best way I can describe it is this: Fatigue deep in your bones. So weary. A feeling like you’re dying (and maybe I was, but obviously I didn’t as I’m here now writing this). Pulsing, throbbing throughout your entire body, and the sound of blood rushing in your ears, proof that your heart is still beating even when you feel like you could die on the spot. If you’ve ever experienced an aching, throbbing, dying tooth, that is what my entire body felt like. Needless to say, I was not healthy.
The worst of it all was that despite going to medical doctors, no one could find out what was wrong with me. And despite how I felt, it was an illness that could not be seen. All that was visible was my round puffy moon face and the black circles under my eyes. No one can see aches, pains and fatigue, and anyone who has been in my situation will completely understand me when I say this: the most important thing you can say to someone suffering from an invisible illness is: “I believe you.”
Living this way was hard—almost unbearable at times. I distinctly remember the day I went to my Mom and said “If I have to live like this for the rest of my life, I don’t think I want to live it.”
It was then we found a holistic practicing medical doctor, and with her help I was able to find some relief. I turned my diet around and started on supplements. A few months later, 90% (about 40) of my symptoms were gone! Some days, I was even running up stairs. And, thankfully, I was sleeping again. I was able to get a nearly-full-time job, after working only about 6-9 hours per week for many years.
Still, the fatigue persisted. Though I had an increase in my energy, exercise was out of the question, and every day after work I wound up collapsed on the couch or my bed for the rest of the day. My house work continued to suffer. I continued to say “no” to everyone who asked for a favor, and the days I didn’t I should have. I didn’t have much of a social life at all, and I missed more fun outings than I care to remember.
At the end of 2014, I heard through a very kind soul about The Wellness Way. (This is where my life really changed a whole lot for the better, and I might just be having some tears of gratitude as I write this.)
With a whole different view on health—“We don’t guess, we test!”—I was finally able to get some definitive answers.
Beginning of 2015, I got the news: It was Lyme disease. I cried the entire day I received the results. After years of feeling sick and tired of being sick and tired, the relief of an answer (even though not a very nice one) was huge.
Healing hasn’t been easy; it’s been full of daily “oops, I did too much!”es, and “uh oh, don’t eat that again!”s. Weekly ups and downs, tears and prayers and positive quotes. But within 4 months I had gained yet still more energy, and because of it I am able to enjoy life all that much more.
I continue to work on healing my gut, working on my mindset and lowering stress, and despite the occasion cruddy day, my life has pretty great now. I can once again exercise (as long as it’s not too intense—hello, walking!), and I guess what? I have a social life! Yeah, I do things after work like other humans do.
I have since de-cluttered my crap and my life, and I can now keep on top of my housework. I have started a job I absolutely LOVE (sewing of all things!) and I do all kinds of things I wouldn’t even have dreamed of doing in my not-too-distant past. Never more do I think or say those sad words—the words I told my Mom that day years ago.
I may have “lost” some of my teen years, but I have gained so much more than what I missed out on: a whole different lookout on life, a whole different mindset about life (and pretty much everything), more satisfaction in the simple things, and so much more knowledge that I otherwise wouldn’t have learned.
And for all that, my friends, I am grateful.