1. The illness I live with is chronic pain caused by severe pelvic and abdominal adhesions. I also have migraines and pre-diabetes.
2. I was diagnosed with it in the year 2007 during surgery to remove a cyst, but wasn’t told that the adhesions were the cause of my pain until 2010.
3. But I had symptoms since 2005 after a long hospital stay.
4. The biggest adjustment I’ve had to make is that I have had to quit work and school. I have emotionally had to try to accept that this is forever, even knowing that there are a few specialists that claim to be able to remove the adhesions. My life now consists of staying at home and in bed most of the time. When I leave it is either to go to a doctor’s appointment, physical therapy, or grocery shopping.
5. Most people assume that I am ok because I look ok from the outside. All of the real damage is on the inside…physically and mentally. Sometimes I am asked about my tracheotomy scar that I got during my extended stay in the hospital in 2005 while on life support.
6. The hardest part about mornings is convincing my body to get out of bed and my muscles to relax. Somehow when I sleep I tense up and I end up getting out of bed and walking around like an old arthritic woman for about 5 or 10 minutes.
7. My favorite medical TV show is definitely House. I absolutely loved that show. House was such a jack ass that you couldn’t help but laugh. Also, I loved the way he always figured out what the problem was. I wish it was that way in real life. People go way to long without being diagnosed and some never are. I think that a diagnosis really means a lot especially to the person without one.
8. A gadget I couldn’t live without is my smartphone. It keeps me connected when I want to be but can also easily be ignored when I want.
9. The hardest part about nights are falling asleep and staying asleep. I take my medicine and it makes me sleepy so I go to sleep and then wake up at 2:00 or 3:00am and have a hard time going back to sleep. Or, I fight the medication to stay awake, usually end up loosing the battle and still wake up at 2:00 or 3:00. Then I have to try to go back to sleep again. Or, I win the battle with the medication and am able to stay up later, but then somehow later turns into really late and it is 2:00 or 3:00 before I can fall asleep. What is up with 2:00 and 3:00?
10. Each day I take 16-20 pills & vitamins.
11. Regarding alternative treatments I am currently reading a book on how to meditate and another one on beginners yoga. At this point, you get to where you will try anything just to have a small piece of your old life back.
12. If I had to choose between an invisible illness or visible I would choose: I really hate to say this, but I would choose a visible one. It is so much work trying to explain my pain. Having to explain that because of that pain I am always fatigued. When I do go somewhere I put on my brave face so that no one knows that anything is wrong and as soon as I am alone I break down. It really is a vicious cycle how you have no energy to do anything so then you get stressed about feeling useless or lord forbid you have relationship issues. That stress just makes your pain and fatigue even worse. And forget having no energy but doing it anyway. Forcing your body to do more than it can is a BIG mistake because YOUR BODY WILL MAKE YOU PAY.
13. Regarding working and career: I miss working a lot. I used to be a nail technician so I worked with the public. I was constantly meeting new people and making friends with the ones who returned. Then I decided I had done that long enough and went back to school for a BA in Foreign Languages. My specialty was linguistics and I wanted to be a translator, an interpreter, or an editor for translated books. The pain got so bad that I could barely sit through class, but I did until I had to start taking medication for the pain. That made me so “foggy” that I couldn’t properly do the work. That was when I had to quit school.
14. People would be surprised to know Just how much my dogs have meant to me. Something as simple as a pet can teach you what unconditional love is. My dogs don’t care if I’m hurting or if I’m not. If I’m in a pissy mood or happy. They love me for me. And when I get upset and cry, the one dog comes and tries to lick the tears off my face.
15. The hardest thing to accept about my new reality has been that there is no easy fix. I either have to put years of work into learning how to deal with the pain naturally or I have to find a doctor who will operate to remove the adhesions. That will be hard enough, but then to live through another surgery, especially one so complicated that every doctor I know has turned me away…it almost seems like a fairy tale. I’m not sure it can be done and a lifetime of narcotics and not being completely “here” is not an option.
16. Something I never thought I could do with my illness that I did was go on a 12 hour road trip that turned into 16 hours because we decided to take the dogs. Then spend a week with in-laws trying to pretend that I was ok when I felt like I was dying inside. Then the trip back home. It took me 2-3 days in bed (where the only thing I got up for was to go to the bathroom) in order to recuperate, but I did it! However, I don’t plan to do it again any time soon!
17. The commercials about my illness do not exist yet. Adhesions happens to around 90% of people who have surgery, yet they remain a “secret” that doctors don’t want to talk about. And that’s just surgery. Then you have to add all of the people who have had some kind of infection or damage to the area. Those are usually the ones that go for YEARS suffering without never knowing what is wrong because the only way to diagnose adhesions is with surgery…which will cause more adhesions. Here we go with the wicked cycles again.
18. Something I really miss doing since I was diagnosed is going out dancing. Having a couple of drinks and then dancing the night away. Hahaha…I wouldn’t even be able to sit on a barstool anymore. How sad is that?
19. It was really hard to have to give up my studies. I had promised myself and someone special that when I went back to school I would finish it. Even if I never ended up working in that profession, just to be able to say that I had done it and have the diploma on the wall. Also, it was very hard to give up the thought of having children one day. I so badly wanted to have children, but my body would be unable to do it.
20. A new hobby I have taken up since my diagnosis is BLOGGING. I just recently started, but it has been such a blessing to me to be able to meet other people who are dealing with the same things that I am dealing with. To be able to read their stories and it sound like I’m reading my own. It has become really special to me to be able to connect with real people again after being stuck in the house for so long.
21. If I could have one day of feeling normal again I honestly have no idea what I would do. There are so many things that I WANT to do, places that I WANT to go, that it would be really hard to decide what could be fit into one day. The one thing I would do is pray to whoever will listen to please give me one more day.
22. My illness has taught me not to take things for granted. It is amazing the things that “healthy” people take for granted with their bodies. Digestion for one. Whenever I eat I can almost feel it move completely through my system because of the pulls and tugs and aches along the way.
23. Want to know a secret? One thing people say that gets under my skin is: “Well you know what – I’m tired too. I worked a whole day and I’m tired. So that is no excuse for _____ not being done. I mean, you just lay around here all day. You have plenty of time to do things.” AARRGGHHH! Of course I have plenty of time. I have a whole lifetime to do things, but only if my body decides that it will let me. Or, sometimes I do feel able to do something around the house for example, but I know that I have a doctors appointment or sometimes even two doctors appointments the next day and I am going to need that energy. And the tiredness YOU feel after working all day is nothing compared to the tiredness I feel after dealing with severe pain all day, trips back and forth to the bathroom, washing and folding a couple of loads of clothes, hand washing dishes, cleaning up dog vomit, changing the bedsheets and then taking pain medicine to try to get all of those things done and then it wipes out whatever energy I might have left. Deal with that for a day and then compare your tired to my tired.
24. But I love it when people TRY to understand. They ask me questions because they don’t want to just say “oh, yeah” when they have no idea what disease or disorder I’m talking about. Honestly, they will never fully understand because unless you’ve felt it, there’s no imagining it. But at least when someone truly tries to understand what I deal with I feel validated.
25. My favorite motto, scripture, quote that gets me through tough times is: “God give me the serenity to accept the things I can not change, courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.” It was my mother’s favorite verse. I also love the poem Footsteps. My father enjoyed it. My favorite part is the very end where it says “The Lord replied ‘My precious, precious child, I love you and would never leave you. During your times of trial and suffering, when you see only one set of footprints in the sand, it was then that I carried you.'”
26. When someone is diagnosed I’d like to tell them that as much as it seems like it, they are not alone. There are others out there who understand what they are going through. For years, since adhesions isn’t listed as a disease or a disorder, I thought that it was just me. It was the circumstances that I had been through -no- put myself through that had resulted in me having these weird things inside of me gluing everything together. It wasn’t until I moved to the city that I live in now for school and was trying to find a doctor. Of all places, I found my doctor on a website created by a lady in Australia that was suffering from adhesions. It had profile pages and forums of many, many women who also suffered from the same thing as me. I was shocked. I was even more shocked to see a profile of a lady who lived close to me who recommended this OB/GYN who specializes in pelvic pain. He has been my doctor for three years now. He told me on my first visit that we were going to have a tough ride trying to manage my symptoms, but that however long it took, he would be there with me. And he has been. I thank the Lord every day that I was lucky enough to find a doctor who not only understood what I was going through, but knew I was in pain…admitted that he knew I hurt. I would make sure to tell the person recently diagnosed with ANY type of pelvic pain issue my recommendation for a GREAT doctor.
27. Something that has surprised me about living with an illness is just basically how unrelenting it can be. I can’t believe that it will always be there and it has surprised me how it has affected me emotionally. At times I realize that I am a lot stronger than I thought I was, and other times I just cry and cry like a baby. It has really been a roller coaster ride and I expect that it will continue to be for a while still. There is so much I have to learn about myself and my pain before I will be able to manage it my way.
28. The nicest thing someone did for me when I wasn’t feeling well was cook me a steak. A beautifully seasoned and grilled steak. Even with all my recent dietary restrictions (some things hurt to digest) I was able to eat that steak and not hurt. After a month of turkey sandwiches and sweet bread called Conchas, that steak was a real treat.
UPDATE: After seeing that I felt bad as soon as I woke up but still having to go to the doctor and do a whole day’s worth of running around, M- surprised me with an iPad that afternoon. Do you know how long I have been wanting one of those?
29. I’m involved with Invisible Illness Week because I have an invisible illness and I want to raise awareness. I not only want to raise awareness for my illness, but for all of the people who suffer other invisible illnesses and are not taken seriously because they “don’t look sick.”
30. The fact that you read this list makes me feel: proud to have completed it (and worth the pain of sitting up this long to type everything out). If only one person were to read it, then that would be one person who has a better understanding of what my life is like, and the lives of countless others dealing with the same issues. Oh, and after all this work, it would be nice if you left a comment! 🙂