Seven years ago my life changed forever. I was seemingly sailing along smoothly, when all of a sudden my ship hit an iceberg, and while I'm still afloat, the sailing isn't near as smooth as it was before. I've had to learn to adapt to a whole different way of living, and believe me, it hasn't been easy. For seven years I suffered an unknown chronic illness, one that doctors didn't seem to be in any hurry to diagnose.
They're not sure how it all came about, there are theories, but I don't think we'll ever know for sure what caused it. Seven years ago, in the month of September, I was working in a barn when one fine day I started feeling lousy. It came on as a general malaise then quickly got worse. That first day, my boss came in, took one look at me, and told me that I "didn't look so good" and to feel free to take the next day off. I nodded as I left, fully intending to be back at work the next day. Surely it would pass...
I ended up bedridden for the better part of three months. I never did go back to that job. I spent those three months in and out of doctors offices and Emergency Rooms. They ran every test imaginable, several times. Bloods tests, scans, numerous doctors..... and it all added up to a big fat, "we have no idea what's wrong with you." Most doctors just sent me on my way, acting like it was all in my head, some more patronizing than the rest. Others admitted that they simply couldn't figure out what was wrong, their tests all came back "normal", so they sent me on my way for lack of answers.
One doctor explained it to me this way: They knew that my organs were in crisis, the problem was that they couldn't figure out why. The muscles in my neck were also severely tight. They had no answers for that either. Eventually, an ER doctor, as a last ditch effort, gave me a cocktail of pills hoping to combat most of the symptoms or at least knock them back. With prescriptions in hand, I went home. I took the pills and rested some more....
Right around the turn of the new year, I started to regain some strength and stamina. I was able to get up and move around, slowly. It took another 6 months to get to a fully functional, semi normal state... but there was nothing normal about what my body had gone through. I soon realized that "getting back to normal" wasn't an option anymore. Life had handed me a "new normal" and I had to learn how to stay afloat in uncharted water.
Ultimately, I had to reassess every aspect of my life and make a lot of changes, from what I put into my body and what I did physically with my body, to my sleep patterns and how I dealt with my emotions. Everything needed to be adjusted. I now had to contend with a load of symptoms that included chronic pain, chronic fatigue, IBS, and migraines. I admit, a beautiful positive that came from this big negative was the fact that I did get healthier, ironically enough. I started treating my body a lot better than I had, I ate better, and I also addressed emotions that had been buried deep within me. This unknown chronic illness forced me to address other issues that I had, like my anxiety, and to learn to listen to my body better.
Fast-forward to about three years into the journey. I still had no answers as to what this illness might be, except that it was chronic. Doctors gave me vague diagnosis's and answers. The word Autoimmune disease was floated around a few times, along with "chronic fatigue syndrome" and "chronic pain syndrome", but nothing solid. While I didn't have the answers I was looking for, I did manage to achieve a "remission" of sorts by following a healthy, strict regiment. I was healthy, active, and felt great for the first time in years. My first remission lasted a glorious five months. The next remission, which came the following year, lasted for seven months.
I had a few setbacks in 2018, probably due to stress, among other things. Then 2019 came. In February of 2019, I started going to a chiropractor at the suggestion of friends. It was there that I learned that I have osteoarthritis in my neck and spine, which can account for some of the pain. In March, I decided that I wanted to start hiking again, something I enjoyed prior to the illness, but stopped in recent years due to mobility issues. I picked an even grade on the mountain in back of my house, hoping to slowly work my way up to harder grades. By April, I was experiencing symptoms that I first attributed to a flare up of the illness...... until they worsened to the point where I was having passing out spells, could barely walk, and felt as though my heart couldn't keep up with the rest of me.
In May of 2019, I tested positive for Lyme Disease. I had Lyme for the majority of 2019, finally being "cleared" in September. I went through four or five rounds of high-powered antibiotics in the process. It took me a lot longer to recover from the Lyme than I had thought it would. On top of causing more damage to my body, it also caused a few setbacks in regards to the chronic illness. I also developed a severe sensitivity to light and sound. It is now very easy for my brain to experience a sensory overload. I'm still learning to deal with this new issue and work around it.*
In the Autumn of 2019, I finally received a breakthrough diagnosis. I have Fibromyalgia. That is the chronic illness that I have been dealing with for the last seven years (on top of arthritis). I now know what I'm up against and can now hone in on it with more specific treatments. Because Western Medicine can't do much for me, except prescribe pills with side-effects, I've turned to a more holistic approach. I'm still early in that journey, but will document it more as I go. This post is to give a fairly full account of the first seven years of the chronic illness journey, one in which I can now build off of with future posts. If by chronicling my chronic illness/Fibro journey, I can help even just one person, I'm glad to do it.
*For more details about my health issues in 2019 with the Lyme and such, you can read my catch-up post, and my "You Look Fine" post. Also, a future post will address the brain issues more fully for anyone interested.
Born and raised in Upstate NY, Liz is a freelance writer. She has written for websites, blogs, and magazines for the last 10 years. She also acts as a proofreader and beta reader for several authors, all the while working on her first book.