Time for a New Year

2015 was a tough one for our planet and for many of its inhabitants. For me, it was no different. Four days into the new year, I was hit with the worst stomach bug of my life. This virus weakened me so much that my eye was infected and remained so for weeks. At the same time, I was dealing with chronic gut issues and a very painful torn meniscus. I had knee surgery the second week of February and worked very hard to regain flexibility and strength in that leg over the next couple of months. To the surprise of my surgeon and physical therapist, I was still feeling a sharp pain that was similar to the one I felt pre-surgery weeks later. By mid-April, when I returned to yoga, I was struck with a new (and very scary) problem. Two days after my period ended, I began to bleed heavily every day for the next 10 weeks. (The doctor made me wait 6 weeks before he would perform a simple 10 minute test). In May, while I waited, I started experiencing debilitating migraines for the first time in my life, frequent nausea for no reason (making it very hard to try to do yoga), abdominal pain, and loss of energy. By early July, my body completely ran out of energy. I felt like I was dying. I couldn’t stay awake for more than 5 hours per day. I didn’t have the energy to say hello to a clerk or person on the street. It took me 3 and a half days to collect enough energy to go out and get groceries, after which I immediately had to go back to bed. I didn’t know what was happening to me. But I knew I didn’t want to live that way. I was ready to die.
At the end of July, I had my second surgery of the year. I had a polyp removed and the insides of my uterus blasted with microwave radiation to burn and destroy the lining. I woke up crying and confused. Part of me had thought that if they gave me anesthesia, I wouldn’t wake up. My body was too tired.
I anticipated that my energy would gradually return in the following weeks, but it did not. One night, while looking up the typical recovery time for my procedure, I read a long list of complaints from women who wished they had never had it. Many suffered from painful abscesses from pooled blood that could now not escape. I began to regret my decision.
By the end of August, I figured out that I was suffering from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. Luckily, after posting this finding on Facebook, a fellow long distance hiker wrote to me about her own experience of contracting this disease when she was 27. It was one of the best letters I had received in my life. It reaffirmed some of the things I had been learning myself. By this time, I had occasionally tried doing some yoga at home with the result of rendering myself bedridden for the next several days or week. My body had completely lost its ability to recover. I had lost the ability to access my strength in the only way I previously had been able to access it. A simple flat walk on the beach would send me straight back to bed. I had a few remaining talks scheduled, but didn’t know how I would manage to even drive over two hours to give them. At the same time, my brain was paralyzed with a fog that I had never experienced before. I couldn’t read or write. I couldn’t even reach out for help.
By the end of October, I knew that I had to drastically change my diet in order to even have a chance at healing. I had to give up coffee, sugar, all grains, all beans, all dairy, eggs, nuts, seeds, and nightshade vegetables. Two months into the diet, I was beginning to see some improvements in my digestive tract and brain fog, but I was disappointed with my lack of progress in regaining energy or my body’s ability to recover.
I have never been this sick for such a prolonged period of time. In many ways, having a chronic illness is similar to suffering from the flu every day consecutively for six months or years. It renders your body so weak that you are largely confined to bed. There was not one day this year (or in the last 2.7 years) where I felt healthy.
I also learned that very, very few people try to understand or sympathize with someone suffering from a chronic autoimmune illness, while they  become VERY responsive to those who have received a diagnosis of cancer. Cancer has been very well studied, funded, and publicized, whereas chronic “mystery” illnesses have not- even though more than 5 times the number of people have an autoimmune disease than have cancer and even though those who have been diagnosed with cancer are often able to live a much higher quality of life than someone with a chronic autoimmune disease.
I wondered throughout the year if I was experiencing the worst year of my life, but the truth is, I can’t remember when I haven’t had a very tough, challenging, and sorrow filled year. Some people’s lives are filled with an exorbitant amount of tragedy and strife. The playing field is most definitely not level. On the other hand, the human spirit is capable of tremendous resilience. I feel like this illness is giving me the opportunity to turn my life around. Not only am I learning to change my thoughts, perceptions, and therefore experience in life, I am learning that good things can be found in the most difficult places. I am learning that one’s biology and early life does not determine one’s destiny- that everything in life, including the expression of our genes can change when provided with the right environment.
In this past year alone, I spent many weeks unable to see, unable to walk, and unable to move my body at all (another name for Chronic Fatigue Syndrome is System Exertion Intolerance Disease). I know very well that there can be no “shoulds” in life. Exercising (or doing yoga) is NOT good for everyone. Being a vegetarian (or any other lifestyle of eating) is NOT right for everyone. Walking or reading or engaging with others is not possible for everyone. We all have different chemistries, abilities, injuries, and illnesses which determine what is possible for us. Only we, ourselves, know what is best for us. Our own intuitions and experiences are our greatest authorities.
I am hopeful that in this coming year, I will continue to heal, to learn more about autoimmune diseases and their causes, and to use my knowledge to help others. It is projected that the number of people who suffer with an autoimmune or other chronic “mystery” illness will double or triple with every decade to come. What I have been going through is not without purpose. Neither is anyone else’s suffering.
I wish everyone good health,  hope, and an abundance of courage in the new year. And thank you to everyone who has shown me support in this past one!!

Advertisements

2 thoughts on “Time for a New Year

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s