In January 2016, I was diagnosed with an ordinary case of strep throat. Or so I thought. Two weeks later my body became a prisoner to crippling fatigue. The real diagnosis? Acute mononucleosis. I shrugged it off thinking, “Okay, fine, I’ll work from home half days and excuse myself from social functions for a week or two.” Little did I know what was in store.
The “mono” resolved, but I was left with paralyzing fatigue spells. When they struck, I could barely walk to the bathroom. Nausea, stabbing muscle pain, and cognitive impairment ruled me. Before getting sick, I’d gone to the gym five days a week and run half marathons. I worked long days on challenging projects. Now I could barely walk my dog around the block and remember my middle name on GOOD days. Then came the numbness and weakness in my legs. Then pins and needles in my fingers and toes. Then the distinct feeling that I wasn’t as smart as I used to be.
I fell into a deep depression. My days were filled with physical pain and anxiety over what would come next.
My health challenges didn’t end there. By the end of 2016, I had endured every virus that flew through the air, kidney stones, a newly developed heart arrhythmia, and a spontaneous collapsed lung.
I fell into a deep depression. My days were filled with physical pain and anxiety over what would come next. Months of doctor visits, hundreds of tests, canceled plans, missed professional opportunities, and total reliance on others got the best of me. I was wholly dependent on my husband to keep our household afloat and to keep me from the dangerous edge. I cried, shook, and prayed for it all to end. Worst of all, I was constantly embarrassed, feeling that I didn’t deserve to feel sad about my (lack) of a diagnosis. Instead, I shamed myself into thinking I was selfish for feeling down when there are so many people in the world living with life-altering medical conditions or deadly diseases. I convinced myself I was just crazy and that my health problems did not actually exist.
I finally addressed my biggest problem head-on: allowing myself to grieve my personal physical and emotional pain.
With the support of my wonderful husband and a few close friends, and some well-timed words from one of my physicians, I finally addressed my biggest problem head-on: allowing myself to grieve my personal physical and emotional pain. By not letting myself face the reality that was (err, is) my life, I had become detached from everyone around me. I am now working every day to reattach to the world and those in it.
It’s mid-2017, and I still do not have many answers. However, one thing’s for certain: I face the day owning who I am and what I’ve experienced. I understand how to be a source of strength for others waging health battles, and I’m a better wife, sister, daughter, and friend for it. I took a job at a hospital, and my work now directly impacts patient care.
The moral of my journey is that you have to feel your pain to grow from it. You have to get comfortable with the unknown. Every single day is a good day, no matter how heavy the burden on your shoulders. Smile. Keeping looking up. The summit is in view.