Sadly, the thing that’s been clipping my wings the most lately is my health; physical issues, not emotional, although they certainly feed into one another.
You see, lately, I’d started to forget I was sick. I’d started to feel a restlessness, a need to return to my old, uninterrupted, pre-illness life. At some points, I’d started to have the same level of energy and stamina I did before the illness, which is quite a feat for someone on multiple medications that list “lethargy, drowsiness, and loss of endurance” as a side effect. Although the adjustment has taken me 9 months of my life, I finally started to feel as if I was getting my life back, piece by piece. Friends had even remarked how I’ve been more able to handle social occasions without difficulty, go to places I’d not be able to handle months ago due to the lights and noise, and would experience fewer episodes of needing to leave early due to dizzy spells or panic attacks.
Part of this, admittedly, has been thanks to a wonderful doctor who is not only well-educated and a naturally empathic person, but is a huge fan of naturopathic and “alternative” medicine. She had a full workup done on me to see if I could be ill due to some lingering nutritional deficiency, after I complained to her that the medications I was put on to manage my symptoms zapped my energy and caused me to gain nearly a sixth of my body weight in two months…odd for someone who has been roughly the same size since puberty.
Thanks to her intuition and knowledge, she determined I suffered from anemia and a severe Vitamin D deficiency, but more importantly, that I’ve had undiagnosed bouts of hypoglycemia for most of my life. Of course, I didn’t show many symptoms of this because a large part of my diet consisted of Coca-Cola and chocolate, as well as plenty of refined sugars and carbs. When they put me on medication that has a side effect of lowering your blood sugar and simultaneously told me to cut out caffeine and significantly watch my carb intake, I started eating foods I’d never occurred to want before; 3 pound bags of jelly beans, boxes of Cheeze-Its, bags of Cheetos. By the time they did enough tests on me to determine I was binging on junk food in order to keep my blood sugar stable, the damage had been done. I also noticed that when I stuck to my old patterns of eating twice a day, the medication made it impossible to handle that. My blood sugar would drop abruptly while waiting for dinner, making me so irrationally angry that I’d want to stab myself and others with sharp objects, and end up yelling at everyone. I didn’t understand it, but fortunately, my doctor did, and helped explain things to me.
Following her advice has helped immensely. I’m still on the drugs, and consequently, haven’t lost the weight (which is a sad and frustrating issue for me), but the frequency with which I have panic attacks and migraines has decreased considerably. I’ve even started with light cardio again, which is impressive for a girl who couldn’t go for a five minute walk without feeling dizzy and having an anxiety attack.
Yet, tonight, we went to play trivia at a place that seems to strangely provoke my symptoms, and remind me all is not well. Part of it is that they have lighting that bothers my eyes, and two different rooms playing music at club-level, although the restaurant is mostly empty. I started to feel exceptionally dizzy, and then irrationally angry and wanting to behave in self-injurious ways, so I had to escape for a little while and take an additional quarter of a Valium, hoping it would chill me out. I started to feel so much anxiety that my arm went numb, prompting me to conclude I was having a heart attack and needed to panic.
Extra Valium didn’t do anything. I’m pretty restrictive about the anxiety medications, knowing that popping an extra pill to “zone out” is a dangerous path to tread. Frankly, I’d rather drink, and I can’t do that if I’m on a higher dose of medication than I am now. So, I’ve managed to keep my Valium dosage at what my doctor considers a “maintenance level”; enough to help me deal with vertigo and other symptoms caused by the vestibular disorder, but not enough to effectively treat me for anxiety. (I was prescribed another drug for panic attacks, and frankly, that drug scares me, so I won’t take it unless it’s a dire situation…and I haven’t had to take that pill in maybe 7 months.)
What did help me, however, was sharing chocolate cake with pistachio ice cream with The Guy I Am Currently Dating. It’s like sugar is a drug that helps my body cope with stuff somehow, which is horrible for someone who wants to lose weight. Chocolate cake functions as a drug for me, and it’s really odd.
We got 1st place at trivia, and double points, but I left with a migraine and a sense of being emotionally off-balance. I’d been reminded I wasn’t “better”, and felt immensely discouraged. I wondered if I’d ever be “better”, and thinking about the doctors describing a “chronic condition that can’t be cured, but symptoms improve over time” was not something that lifted my spirits. I know when they talk about time, they’re talking about years…but I’m still the kind of girl for whom a month is an eon, and so much can change. Thinking about recovery in years is unfathomable.
It depresses me. What if I don’t have years to wait to get “better?” What if it just never happens, and I’m stuck with these limitations on my life forever? Am I just supposed to put my life on hold, waiting to see if I’m ever again the person I used to be?
I want to be free. I don’t want anyone placing limitations on me, specifically not my own body. All the partying and recklessness and attempts at self-destruction I engaged in throughout my younger years, it’s ironic that when I finally came to peace with the idea that I was an adult who was going to live past 30 without getting hit by a Mack truck or murdered by a crazy ex, a year later, I developed an illness that’s difficult to both diagnose and treat. It’s the ultimate in irony.
I trick myself into thinking I’m stronger than I am and pushing myself because I have to, because I want, and *need* to be better. I can’t afford to be sick, because who is going to manage my life for me? I can’t afford to lose everything because my body won’t cooperate, so I’ve forced myself past my comfort zone—with the help of people around me—over and over again.
Yet, when I encounter an obstacle that defeats me, it beats me down a little. I should be stronger than that.
Mentally, I am, because I stayed in the environment that caused me such distress and tried to force myself to deal with it. But, physically, I just can’t do what I’d like, and that’s hard for me to accept.
I just want to be better. I want my freedom back, even if it doesn’t change much about my life. Knowing that the world is full of possibility and adventure, and I’m not limited from allowing those things in, that inevitably makes a world of difference.
I have learned to soar in different ways during this time of illness, to develop other interests and pursue a career path and explore sides of my character and relationships with other people I’d had a habit of treating very casually. I’ve learned the virtues of approaching the world as an introvert. But, yet, I still am not…and too much confinement, too much limitation, throws me into a sense of loneliness and an emotional tailspin that leaves me feeling utterly lost.
I miss *me*. Perhaps I am a better, more substantial me because of this experience…but I am ready to fly again. I am ready for experience and adventure, and it’s hard to do that when you get dizzy or panic because you can’t stand the lights or noise around you.
I used to be able to sit for 24 hours on a bus or airplane. Now I can’t fly, and I have to break up my travel plans into manageable blocks, schedule time for me to rest. I used to love the summer, and now since the heatstroke issue last year, my body can no longer tolerate direct sunlight without very ill effects.
I’m not dead yet. I shouldn’t need to schedule “nap time” in my life. And I’m not a vampire…time outside shouldn’t kill me.
Someone, please unlock the door to my cage. I want out.