I need to get that stuff, you know, it comes in sliced, in packages, you use it for toast?

That is a literal question I asked someone because I couldn’t remember the word “bread”. Brain fog isn’t anything new for me, but the increase in frequency, and severity of the lapses, has started to concern me. My professor thinks I’m slacking because I had things in at the last second, even when it’s something I already had an extension for. I reassured her that I wasn’t procrastinating. For me to actually retain even a few bits of the material, I need to take my time working on the subject matter. If I miss a lecture, which I have, I don’t just play it and write up a generalized summary to meet the requirements. I listen to a few minutes, pause to take notes, then continue on with the lecture.

Notes on a  two hour lecture typically takes me 6-8 hours.

I need those notes for tests, only in this class, test times don’t really allow for you to dig stuff up in notes or on the books. (I take classes online since I can’t make it to campus anymore.) Another reason for taking accurate notes, is that I love the material. It was different in classes I found incredibly boring. It was material I really wouldn’t use again, and I had no interest. In this class I am interested, it’s just also complex, and contains a lot of minute details. If I can’t remember that bread is what you use to make toast, how am I supposed to grasp the ridge counting system and pattern equations you use to fill out a fingerprint card? (Important side note…I had to take a few minutes to remember the word equation. Sometimes I’ll get annoyed and just look up key words I know related to the word I’m forgetting, but this time I’m proud I figured it out eventually.)

My brain and body are screaming at me to just sleep. I’ve gone from embarrassment of needing a wheelchair, to impatience regarding the length of time it will take to get one. I’m still worried I’ll end up single forever, but I also understand that right now the key is staying alive and protecting my brain from my body’s overly active and very confused immune system.

Most of us who are chronically ill, have had someone judge us as lazy, or we’ve been labeled as procrastinators. We’ve seen the eye rolls, or lost friends because we ran late to often, or cancelled plans.

If I have to be somewhere at 6pm, I start getting ready around 3pm, because I know I’ll need breaks. I also go to bed early, and sleep in, the night before.  If I’m sore, I shower more than once, and take baths to get my muscles as relaxed as possible. I longingly will eye my high heeled shoes, before grabbing my sensible flats. Picking an outfit depends on how long the event will be, and how swollen my various body parts are. Since most of my swelling right now is in my lower abdomen, I have to plan for how that looks. Shape wear?  No way. The pain that results from attempting to contain a bulge that is actually my intestines, colon, ulcers, and of course stool, is beyond explanation.

Last night I saw a movie. It was amazing to go out, but the process began the day before. I tried to be cautious about what I ate, as I usually am, but because I’d eaten a bit more than my intestines could handle, I had a very obvious swelling of my lower abdomen. No worries, we can just kind of layer two tops and hope that it isn’t as noticeable. Makeup? Yeah, that’s fun when you’re arms and legs are weak. I need to get a full length mirror so I can sit and do it easier. Right now I have a rigged up way of doing it that allows me to sit in my bathroom sink so I can use the medicine cabinet mirror to do my makeup.

No, I am not joking.

Forget cleaning up any mess that was made while doing my makeup and hair, if I clean it up, I’ll be too tired, and I was already running 15 minutes late. Now the whole trying to get to my friends house. He’s only like a 5-10 minute walk away, and the weather is nice, but I know that the walk would drain me. It used to be something I wouldn’t think twice about. My part of the city has a free ride electric car that goes around, but alas, there were no available drivers. Plan B was a Lyft Line, but the wait was 10+ minutes, and by this point I am so tired, I really need to take some Zofran. Shift to a regular Lyft which costs more, but doesn’t involve a wait.

So I get in the Lyft, and I’m regretting my large purse, but whatever, I can unload things once I get to his place. As much as  I want to see the movie, I’m considering just going back inside and going to bed, and it’s only like 4pm.

This is where things get really important: I didn’t give up.

I relaxed a bit at his place, he got food (I watched him eat it because that’s what I do now haha), and he was nice and got us a Lyft to the movie theater. Usually it would have been a walk, but I wanted to enjoy the movie. The mall had several flights of stairs that I needed to climb to get up to the theater. The elevator on the side we were on was broken. (Of course…) So we go up stairs, stairs I’ve climbed dozens of times. My legs hurt, parts go numb, I’m starting to wonder if I should just sit down, but I don’t want to make a scene. I start moving slower and slower, but eventually we get to the top. I’m in pain, but we’re there. After enjoying the movie, I remind myself that I need to make it back to see Star Wars, but that perhaps I’ll go alone so I can use the stairs or my walker.

After the movie I did a really dumb thing. We were walking around looking for a specific shop, but we couldn’t find it. We walked and walked and eventually we were almost back at his apartment. So he asked if I was cool with just finishing the walk and I said I was.

But I wasn’t.

Today, I am paying a price. Brain fog is extremely intense, the urge to just keep sleeping is preventing me from doing a decent job on my homework. Have you ever worked out really hard, and you have really sore muscles the next day, where even lifting your spoon is painful? That’s where I’m at. I was having muscle and joint pain before, but pushing myself beyond my limits was just plain stupid.

Lesson: regardless of what you think other people with think of you for using assistive devices, or refusing to walk when the distance is considered walkable, listen to your logical brain. 

I could go to bed right now, and it’s only 5:40pm. I have homework to do, so I can’t just sleep. I could take a bath to ease the pain, but eventually I’ll have to get out. Plus the hot water is a dangerous scenario with my autonomic nervous system being such a bastard lately. Plan is to take a lot of homework breaks, think as much as I can about the homework topics, and if I really need to sleep, then I will let my body sleep.

Advertisements
I need to get that stuff, you know, it comes in sliced, in packages, you use it for toast?

Wheelchair Evaluation and Fundraising

First and foremost, my wheelchair evaluation is in exactly 10 hours! My apartment is nowhere near ready for it, but it’s as good as it’s going to get for right now. One of the aggravating parts about any chronic illness, is having a list of things to do, and only enough energy to do a few things. The kicker is never knowing which things will drain you. I thought for sure I could at least fold and organize my clothes. Instead I ended up with clothes in boxes and baskets. It’s chaos, but at least my space is open for the mobility advisor.

Unfortunately the kitchen and living room are an unusable mess. I try my best to take care of my own messes, but I’ve run out of energy to keep up with my roommate. I know I need to follow through with my promises to do cleaning in lieu of utilities, however, it is just too much. When I was nightly cleaning, I would often end up having him fry something after it was all clean. It just felt futile.

People have been saying, “You walk fine,” and rolling their eyes when it comes to the wheelchair. They don’t seem to appreciate how much effort it takes to walk “fine”. I am constantly reminding my body where things are, and even the constant tension of my muscles can’t always prevent a fall. I used to walk blocks to take the dog to the grassy area. Now going around the block is nearly impossible. There tons of places and things I’d love to do, but I know my body isn’t capable of the walking required.

I am getting a wheelchair because I have ataxia. I am not coordinated, and it is worsening. I also have tremors. A few steps for me, equals a whole lot for someone else. Toss in my difficulty get adequate nutrition, and you have my life.

Then there is the fundraiser. I started a fundraiser to help me keep insurance once my divorce is finalized. It will be hard to continue living where I am living regardless, but if I cannot come up with insurance funds, I’m not sure where I would go or what I would do. There was sone resistance since I did a fundraiser to get to NYU a year or two ago, but that was under different circumstances. My divorce settlement has shifted, and the shift leaves me without insurance, or a way to pay for insurance.

I hate asking for help, but sometimes it has to be done.

Just a short update tonight. I’m quite tired, and I have to be awake earlier than usual!

Wheelchair Evaluation and Fundraising

Realizing I’m Not Procrastinating…and It’s Okay

So I’ve been trying to do homework for the majority of the last few days. I will get some done, but inevitably fall asleep, or lose focus. Prior to getting really sick, this wasn’t an issue. I could watch complex shows, and catch on quickly, every single time. There was no such thing as me not being able to focus on an assignment. Sure, I’d procrastinate, but when I sat down to actually do the assignment, I’d do the assignment. Today, I sat down to do the assignment, and I simply couldn’t answer more than one question at a time without requiring a break equal to the amount of time I put into answering the question…or even longer.

I’ve had to accept a few things about this whole prospect. The first thing is that I’m under an insane amount of stress, and that stress breeds an inability to focus. Even if you want to focus, and aren’t actively thinking about bills, and you know, dying alone…you’re still stressed somewhere in the back of your head. Oh anxiety and depression, you spiteful little bitches you. The second thing, that is really important to acknowledge, is the sheer amount of medication required to keep me alive. Some of which causes sleepiness, while others make it hard for me to sleep. Even the marijuana I use for nausea can make me lose focus. Of course without it I’d be throwing up, or focused on trying not to throw up, so I guess that is a matter of perspective. Fourth, I’m not eating normally. My GI motility has seriously taken a nose dive, and this makes me bloated, nauseas, and unable to provide myself with proper nutrition. Lastly is just flat out brain fog itself, as a result of the nutrition, but also because of my brain.

I have a neurological condition, and sometimes the most basic activities require more energy for me, than they would for the average human. My brain itself is also not running on all cylinders.

When my muscles are fatigued, or weak, I have to really focus on not falling over. When my balance is off, which is always, I have to deal with the same thing. I stopped to really think about my movements the other day, by watching how other people moved, and I was forced to admit that I really do walk differently, hold things differently, even sit differently. A lot of what I have to do, takes more effort, and therefore makes me more  tired. Therefore…my brain is just spent.

Brain fog itself is a problem. They don’t know what causes it, or why, but some of us folks with chronic illnesses, just lose our abilities to focus. It used to be every so often, but lately it’s more often than not. When someone tells me I’ll like a show, I have to say I’ll watch it, but then admit to myself it’ll take a special situation for me to actually watch it. I don’t want to miss things, or not enjoy it, simply because I’m working hard to focus on it. The last time I watched a show I actually enjoyed, I fell asleep during the second episode. People assume that means I’m not interested, but the reality is the opposite. I get so interested that I’m trying harder to focus, which results in my falling asleep, or losing focus. Literally can’t win!

So, now that this is done, I shall go back to trying my best to finish some homework before bed. It’s hard because I used to be the night owl who could write an essay in an evening. I don’t know how to adjust to being the student who can’t stay awake, and has to plan out her coursework meticulously in order to get things done on time.

 

Realizing I’m Not Procrastinating…and It’s Okay

Don’t Make Decisions When You’re Panicking

My friend Molly lives in Mexico. She works in the U.S., but she lives in Mexico, and she loves it. Lately I’ve been struggling financially. That’s a lie, I’m drowning financially. As I try and come up with ways to stem the financial hemorrhage, while my symptoms increase, my mind starts to scramble, I start to tell myself I should just run. It isn’t rational, and I know it…but I can’t help but embrace the flight after so spending so much time embracing the fight.

This is why you don’t make a decision while you’re panicking.

In the past month, I’ve thought about moving to Virginia, North Carolina, New York, Washington DC, Washington State, Los Angeles, and Texas. This isn’t an over exaggeration. If anything, I’m forgetting a state or two. The only real reason I haven’t moved forward is that I love it where I am, and the thought of having to move myself, and two dogs, wherever, is daunting. I’d also have to rent my room out.

It isn’t undoable, it’s just not something I should (or would) rush into. I have thoughts, though. I think about stopping my medications, seeing what happens. It isn’t because I want to get sicker, but because some part of me hopes that I would get better. There is no logic behind it, in fact, I know logically that it would be a terrible plan. Even on my current medications, I struggle to get by. I required IV fluids on Monday, and I’m sure gastroenterology tomorrow will decide I should be getting IV fluids more often. (At least I hope they come to that conclusion. Waiting until I’m sick enough to warrant an urgent care or ER visit, is just not good for my body.)

I want to go camping. I want to have a normal life. I want to ice skate on the beach. I want to fish off a pier.

It isn’t just about what I want though, it’s about what I need.

As I move forward with scheduling an appointment with the new mental health provider at literally the only clinic within 30 miles that takes my insurance, I have to face the reality that they’ll force me back into counseling. Don’t get me wrong, counseling is a wonderful tool, and it has definitely helped me in the past…but the type of counseling I would receive, isn’t the type of counseling that would help me in this instance. We could go through my history, and evaluate why I feel how I feel about myself, the causes for my low self esteem…but that won’t change the limitations that I have now.

I’ve found a lot of counselors don’t know how to approach someone who is chronically ill, which is a part of a the reason why I blog, and started an Instagram. It’s also why I plan on starting up a YouTube channel once I’m able to acquire the space and privacy. Us sick folks talk to one another, but we aren’t really honest about the emotional toll our illnesses take on us. We may joke about not having personal lives, being in long-term relationships with our heating pads, or cheating on Naproxen with Acetaminophen…but the thread in all of that is that we joke about it.

When you’re chronically ill, you’re more likely to make light of your difficulties, than to be honest about them. You’ve been judged for complaining, so now when you need to vent, you do it in a comical way. Friends laugh with you, even chronically ill friends…but who do you have that is willing to listen to you when you’re genuinely struggling?

I think the answer to that question is probably scary. I had a friend who would always listen to me, and I would always listen to her…until one day she told me my disease was consuming me. This was about a month ago, and I shut down. I threw myself into only being positive about my disease and the conditions that sprung off of it. And while I know that there is a lot of positive things that I can focus on as a result of having Behcet’s, I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that I grieve the loss of a lot of things, especially this time of year.

When I was younger I made plans. I was the insane planner. Even when I began to get ill, I still had plans. I didn’t think about my disease worsening. I couldn’t have imagined the path my life would take. While the divorce should have been foreseeable (it was to those around me), my Behcet’s becoming the severe was never even on my radar. My ex told me nobody would ever love a sick girl like me, but I had told myself he was only saying it to hurt me. He knew that I was insecure about my health, I still am, and he couldn’t have known at that point in time that my health would rapidly decline…still…the words haunt me.

I had plans to have kids around the age of 30. I’m 31, single, and am on several drugs that you absolutely cannot take during pregnancy. It also isn’t known whether or not the Cytoxan impacted my fertility or not. My run in with cervical cancer also cost me a chunk of my cervix, right in the center. While I was lucky not to need further treatment, just a few more biopsies and regular tests each year, I was warned that I would potentially need a cerclage during pregnancy to prevent preterm labor. Two different doctors also told me, point blank, that I would be high risk from the second I conceived. The second told me that even without the drugs I’m taking that cause issues during pregnancy, I would still need to carefully plan any pregnancies. It isn’t a case of deciding when I’m ready to start a family, it’s about actually seeing doctors months in advance for blood work, supplements, and other tests.

It isn’t just the idea of starting a family. I know that I theoretically have time for that, and there is adoption and surrogacy if carrying a child myself isn’t possible. The other issue is that it’s the holidays. While most people love this time of year, I find it utterly depressing. For years I was in an unhappy marriage, and the holidays meant making sure to put on the correct face and attitude. I had to be convincing. I had to go to my ex’s coworkers’ parties, and while there were some good times in my marriage that I could lean on for support, there were many many reasons why I was anxious in these situations. Would I say something wrong? Was he looking at me in a way that meant something I should be able to pick up on?

I had thought being free of that would mean that I could relax, but because of my health, I haven’t really been able to enjoy the holidays. While I’ll never truly know what he, or anyone else for that matter, is actually thinking during the holidays, I know that I look around and feel so utterly alone. Thanksgiving? I can’t eat. Christmas? I desperately want to ice skate this year…but I know that doing so would require adaptive equipment and I don’t want to be the girl with a walker on the ice skating rink. Perhaps I’ll go see a movie on Christmas day, to try and distract myself from just how alone I feel…but there is so much of me that resents my body during these periods of time.

Plus time! Holidays remind me that time is passing,g and I can remember last year choosing to do all of my chemo treatments near holidays so that this year the holidays would have to be better. Instead I’m being reminded that I sacrificed those holidays and now I’m stuck fighting for a treatment that manages my symptoms better. I don’t regret doing chemotherapy, it was the right choice, I’m just desperate for something that can make me enjoy my days in general.

The holidays are just anxiety provoking for me. I want so much, but am so limited. Even the idea of getting my wheelchair has been bogged down by the reality that the process takes some time…and my insurance coverage is going to be gone soon. The up and down and go-go-go of the seasons, probably give most people with chronic illnesses a bit of anxiety!

I told myself for Halloween I’d carve a pumpkin, but I didn’t. I told myself for Thanksgiving I would find gluten free stuffing, and spend time with my friend in Los Angeles, but I couldn’t. There are things I want to do for Christmas, but I’m afraid to even say what they are, because I don’t know how to make them happen. Perhaps I will go ice skate on the beach, even if it means using adaptive equipment, but I would have to do it alone. Nobody I know could afford to go, hell I can’t afford to go, but I really want to do it. (It’s on my bucket list.) The people I do know who could afford to go, probably wouldn’t want to see me with one of those stands children use to keep themselves from falling.

To be honest I really wish I could just spend a weekend in a cabin, and see the dogs play in the snow.

Well, I guess I put it into words. Perhaps the idea is to have ideas, but no expectations. I wanted to be somewhere else at this stage in my life, and I may just have to accept that my path has shifted. It doesn’t mean I won’t have the things I wanted, I just have to find a new way of getting there…

Don’t Make Decisions When You’re Panicking

Revisiting Original Content – My Ex, My Friend, and of course Dating

Okay, so it’s time for a bit of a flashback Friday. Without digging back into original posts, I’ve come to realize that there has been a bit of discussion regarding my personal life, and how my personal life has contributed to my struggle with Behcet’s. After some thought I’ve decided not to delete those posts, but instead, address my situations (past and present) in a new posts.

I got married to my high school sweetheart literally 10 days after I turned 20. At the time I didn’t see red flags, nor did I think anything other than we were young, and we’d need to grow together. That isn’t quite how things turned out. Within a few days of our wedding, he was deployed with the Navy. Within a month, I was sexually assaulted over a period of about a week by a mutual friend of ours. That horror was pursued by an investigation that was marred by, frankly, a ton of disinterest. Civilian officers had other more provable cases to deal with, and military police just wanted my assailant out of the Navy. He was discharged on “unrelated” charges, but it was sort of common knowledge that they didn’t want to deal with the rape charges.

After all of this there was a disconnect between my husband and I. My PTSD from the assault formed the framework for some insidious abuse. Mentally and emotionally I was stripped down, called worthless, and even a whore, despite the fact that the assault was not my fault. Looking back, there were signs before my PTSD, that he simply didn’t think like most people I’d known. He had an entitled air about himself, like the rules and laws shouldn’t apply to him. There was grabbing, shaking, and pushing. He also liked to speed, and then slam on the brakes to scare me. Once I ended up in a shoulder sling because he slammed the breaks while I was turned begging him to stop the car.

This blog post is in no way a post to bash my ex. He has moved on with his life, and I don’t wish him harm or anything negative. The only time I think about him is when I have to stress out over our ongoing divorce (two years and counting), and when I think about his fiancé and their son. I want her and that baby, to be treated wonderfully, and I never want her to feel isolated or alone. Everyone needs someone who can help them if they need out of a bad situation, no matter how amazing your significant other may seem.

That disclaimer out of the way, there was another man I spoke about who was always referred to as my friend or “friend”. Things with that are pretty much the same. I’ve let him set the foundation for whatever it is we are, and we go with what we are collectively comfortable with. While there is a part of me that desires that stereotypical romance with hand holding, and PDA, there is the part of me that recognizes the important part of any relationship, is the care and support you provide one another. We’re best friends, and while I’d be upset if we were only friends with nothing else romantically linked to our friendship, I would be fine so long as he was happy and found someone to make him happy. I know he feels the same for me.

People tell me  constantly that I need to go on dates. They want me to see other men because they feel that two years with one man, without much traction towards official milestones is ridiculous. There are moments when I have to agree. I want to live with someone for practical reasons. I like to cook, and wipe down dust, and I also like to have someone to go to bed with, and split bills with. What I don’t want is to ask. How awkward would it be to tell someone that we function well together and should give cohabitation a shot? I could easily rent my room out, which would reduce rent at my old place, but ensure I had a place to go back to if things at the friend’s place didn’t work out. Alternatively I would my belongings into storage regardless. I would never move in with a man, and not keep my stuff in storage if there wasn’t a place for it in the home/apartment we were renting.

I need a safety net. My dating life was difficult, but that’s an understatement. Falling in love for me is a neurological state of being. Our brains release chemicals, and those chemicals cause euphoria, relaxation, happiness, and in high enough doses, we interpret it as love. Love is real…but it can be explained by science. I want to feel it, and to know that someone feels it coming from me, too. Even overwhelmed by those chemicals, I know I would still put my stuff in storage for when the chemicals wore off. Anyone can love anyone in that chemical soaked place, it’s when you’re pipes have burst, and it’s 3am, and the carpets are being destroyed, that the love you share is tested.

Even if I wanted to date…how could I? I think I’d mentioned in prior blogs how miserably my dates had been before I met my friend. Do you want to be stared at funny, and have men walk out during the appetizer round? Show up and order no food, but a Sprite. Decline the wine. Just sit there, uncomfortably, sipping on soda and making small talk. I’ve had a lot of men unexpectedly get calls that they had to go to the hospital, back home to do work emails, etc. Eventually I just tried to get them to meet me on dates that didn’t involve food or alcohol. Wasn’t easy.

Yes, my divorce still stresses me out, but I let my lawyer juggle the more stressful parts. It would be easier if I didn’t need to pay to keep insurance, but I do. As we move towards procedures that can caused upwards of $10,000 per infusion, it’s important that I keep coverage. Often times my struggle is perceived as refusal to accept the divorce. All I want is to be divorced. If I could work, I’d have signed already, but I need the support while I’m getting back on my feet.

A friend I had but may have lost, mentioned that lately I seemed to be consumed by my illness, and my special friend. Well, my illness has been flaring a lot, despite doing all that chemotherapy, and my special friend has been supportive but must be getting sick of always being the one that has to be there for me. I wanted this other friend to support me as I navigated alternative options for treatment. Instead I received harsh criticism. I’m too focused on my illness and the guy I’m seeing, I’ve lost myself.

No…I’ve found myself.

I am sick. We can sugar coated it with “spoonie” terms and phrases, but I am sick. I’ve begun compensating for deterioration in my nervous system, but people around me have noticed. Missing buttons on the elevator, falling and being unable to catch myself in time, horrible forgetfulness. Add in the sleeping for 10-12 hours at a time (at least) and you’ve got yourself one flaring chick.

It’s okay that I’m sick!

 I don’t have to be one thing. I can be sick, separated from her spouse, in an unconventional relationship based on attraction and mutual respect despite not using labels, sick, and still be me. Just because I talk about the things that I’m struggling through, doesn’t mean I’m not a student working hard on there M.S. in forensic studies. A lot of forensic jobs happened to be part-time, so maybe I can push to try and get my treatments so I have energy to look into the job market.

If someone where to ask me if I were single. I’d say technically yes. They’d as why, and I’d say I have a friend with benefits, but that it’s sort of a complicated version of that fad. He’s my best friend, and the rest is just bonus add ons. If someone were to ask me out, I’d politely say that I’m not in a place where dating is a good idea. My health needs to be more stable so that I don’t back out of too many events.

My prior relationship was a huge source of stress. Having that weight lifted through this divorce, has been amazing. My body is still recovering from chemo, and new meds, but the less stress I experience, the better. Hopefully the divorce with finalize soon, for both of our sakes!

I’m exhausted, so this post may be a little all over the place. I meant no disrespect to my ex, his wife, and his child. I honestly just want the best for the family they’ve created. I chose not to have children with my ex. We were like oil and water, we didn’t mix, in fact, we were more like thin paper and a burning match. We would come together and ignite, eventually destroying whichever one of us drew the short straw, and wound up as the paper doll.

So to recap:

  • Ex is still in play because the divorce isn’t over
  • Friend is “friend” is best friend, and regardless of where life takes me, he’ll always be special to me
  • Dating around isn’t doable because my stomach and neurological issues make most dates impossible to plan
  • I don’t hate my ex. I may hate some of the actions and words that he’s engaged in, but I don’t hate him as a human being. He’s moved on with his life, and I just wish the best for his fiancé and child

 

Someone needs to invent a Tinder for people with disabilities and chronic illnesses…but we’d have to weed out the folks that have a fetish for that sort of thing.

Revisiting Original Content – My Ex, My Friend, and of course Dating

I Can(t) Do It!

It was a rough weekend. Despite doctors’ orders (yes that is plural), I pushed myself and went to the zoo, hung out with friends, and generally pushed myself too far. My gastroparesis had been brutal. When you have plans, but not enough nutrition or fluids, those plans become more complicated. Throw in the added benefit of an autonomic nervous system that doesn’t know how to actually regulate things, and you get a disaster. The first day/night with friends ended with me watching everyone eat, while I sipped on water and ended with me stumbling home looking drunk because my blood sugar was painfully low.

The next day was the zoo, and while various doctors have requested I used a wheelchair during such outings, a new friend became overbearing with her questions. Did I want it? did I need it? Wouldn’t it be easier to get one in the beginning? Whether or not she intended to be condescending, the various questions regarding how I was feeling, along with her actions, made me feel like a complete invalid. Did I actually need a wheelchair to navigate the zoo? Absolutely. Was I willing to admit this? No way.

I did make it the entire day without a wheelchair, but it wasn’t easy. I opted to forgo food, minus two packets of mini-cookies. I drank an Icee because I knew it would get me both water, as well as sugar. That Icee was probably the only reason I lasted the entire day. My good friend was impressed by my ability to push through and make it through, while the vibe from the new friend was less than stellar. I didn’t really have time to process her confusing judgment of my state of well-being. I was seriously hurting.

As I sat in the car, I felt my muscles give up. Somehow I managed to get out, to the restaurant, where I again watched everyone eat, and then I managed to get into an Epsom salt bath. If you’re wondering, this was great for my aching muscles, but terrible for my autonomic neuropathy. Luckily the apartment was super cold, so I didn’t have too much of a struggle.

So what was the correct course of action? I should have used the wheelchair, or not have gone at all. It’s hard to admit you can’t do certain things, at least without assistance, so sometimes those of us with chronic illnesses end up making ourselves sicker. Today I’m miserable. I had to eat more to account for the calories burned at the zoo, and the muscle tremors that developed after, but my stomach can’t handle it. Worse? The lactic acid build up is making me feel even more awful. I wanted to show someone that I wasn’t an invalid, that I could do what everyone else could do.

I think I also wanted to show myself I could be “normal,” too. 

Take a break. Say no. Use the damn wheelchair. True, it may suck, and it may make you sad or angry (or both), but it’s better than brutalizing your body. There are times when pushing yourself makes sense, and there are other times when you just have to take the loss for what it is. I am sick. I have autonomic neuropathy, and Behcet’s, both of which contribute to my gastroparesis and intestinal dysmotility.

I was thrilled today when my stomach grumbled…but my intestines decided they weren’t going to play along. It ought food sitting in my stomach was bad, but I’d forgotten how bad it feels for food to sit in my intestines or colon. I left looking seriously pregnant, and with horrible stomach pain. This is just my life when I don’t play by the chronic illness rules. In no way am I complaining, or asking for sympathy…I just know that this is something other people with chronic illnesses need to hear.

When you’re put in a position with someone who judges you because of what you can or can’t do, the medications you take, or your illness in general, find a way to politely explain the reality of your situation. If they fail to respect you after that, then politely remove them from your life. There will be people who judge you, push you beyond what is safe, or even try to take advantage of you because you’re sick and they perceive you as weak. Don’t let people who don’t respect you, or accept you, run your life. 

I am who I am, and I have what I have. Treatment options are still being evaluated. Picking on me when I just finished a steroid taper, and can’t eat enough to prevent chronic hangry-ness, is really a bad idea. I am grateful that I managed to keep it together, though, because the urge to fly off the handle was strong.

Truth be told, I’m extremely sensitive about my health. I don’t like feeling weak or vulnerable. I can logically accept the reality of my situation, but it doesn’t mean I’m prepared when people are hostile or demeaning. Even if I were to see a list of the good things I do, and the good things about myself, I would feel as though my health eclipsed all of that good. Even though I don’t define myself by my illnesses, I feel as though my own identity gets lost behind what my illness pushes to the forefront.

I can go out, but I can’t walk long distances without assistance.

I will gladly go with you to a restaurant, but I cannot eat food. 

I can stay up late, but I’ll need to nap and sleep in. 

I can be your friend, I just may not always be ready to go at a moments notice.

The biggest thing is that I am still myself. I like to volunteer, read, and look for nerdy t-shirts. I love my dogs. I’m a student. I’m a nerd. I’m an introvert that likes live music. I am so many things, but I’m also sick. Perhaps I haven’t fully accepted the reality of my illness. Even if I were to go into remission tomorrow, I would still have what I have. I would still need to be vigilant about what I am exposed to, and any potential symptoms that arise. My wheelchair won’t be something I love, but it will be something that allows me to do the things that I do love.

So, if you’re struggling today, know that even those of us who look like they have a handle on things, struggle, too.

You are stronger than you know.

I Can(t) Do It!

The Financial Impact of Chronic Illness

As I’ve mentioned before, I am in the process of getting divorced. In my case, it has been over two years, and the divorce still can’t been finalized. Financially it’s been a difficult two years, with a cross country move, knee surgery, and severe worsening of my Behcet’s. I’ve been lucky to have insurance that covers most of my medical expenses, but when I lost the ability to work, things became difficult. After tearing through my savings, selling whatever I could, and doing my best to keep my bills as low as possible, I’ve found myself and an economic cross roads.

I want nothing more than to go back to work. For my entire life, I’ve worked, and being out of work makes me feel bad about myself. When my Behcet’s began worsening, I just job hopped, hoping I could find something that worked for me, while I got my symptoms under control. The problem was that my symptoms never really got better. During chemotherapy, I was getting temporary disability, which made the basics affordable, but not by much. I moved to a more affordable apartment, but then lost my temporary disability, making it just as unaffordable as the more expensive unit had been. My first two applications for disability were denied, and I was told to await a court date. That date would like be 18-24 months away. On top of that I lost my electric discount, and my EBT benefits, because both required an IRS form that I didn’t have. Last year I made so little, that what I did make was technically owed to me. I also expected to get more back on taxes if my ex and I filed jointly, because I had more in deductions than I had in earnings. Too bad he filed without me, and didn’t tell me.

As it all piled up, I began to become more depressed. Lately there has been a lot of anger, too. It isn’t as though I’m being lazy on purpose. I genuinely don’t know from one day to the next, what I’ll be physically capable of. Sure, once I get my wheelchair, my ability to work a desk type job, is more likely, but it’s definitely not guaranteed. Friends have begun pushing me to find something, because they think I’ll be happier once I’m working. What they don’t realize is the level of stress taking a job would create.

For starters, I can’t drive. My work day, even if it were short, would be lengthened by the commute factor. If I’m really sick, I’d end up using Lyft or Uber, which would of course cost me more. When you factor in the lower wages of most desk jobs, it just doesn’t make a lot of logical sense. Then you have my inability to be reliable. The day of my interview, I couldn’t walk because of my pain level. I was also insanely weak. I don’t have an adequate warning for this. Lately I’ve felt bad most days, but the days when I literally can’t function, are hard to predict.

Perhaps the biggest issue is whether or not I’m going to continue deteriorating, and what treatment options I’m going to undergo. Neurology suspects my neurological symptoms are going to get worse, and if the past is any indication, they’re correct. My GI issues are definitely worsening, and that means I’ll likely be getting another endoscopy and colonoscopy. (I’m fighting this as hard as possible because of issues I have with the preparation.) Neurology wants me back on chemo, but as I said in a prior blog, I plan on suggesting other treatment options first. The various treatments I could undergo, would all require days to weeks off of work. At the moment I require insane amounts of sleep, and I suspect treatment would just increase the amount of sleep I’d need, at least around treatment days.

It has been really hard, and then I got word that my divorce settlement went from something I was okay with, to something that would prevent me from being able to pay even basic bills. To say I was crushed is an understatement. I love the city and state that I live in, and facing the possibility of having to move because I cannot work, is heart breaking. I’ve looked into low income housing but the wait lists are 3-5 years. It’ll take about 3 years when all is said and done, to get approved for disability. What are those of us who are unable to work, supposed to do?

Those with chronic illnesses are more likely to face unemployment or underemployment, than others. When you have multiple doctors stating that a person cannot work, and you repeatedly deny based on age and education level, it’s mind boggling. (Those were the reasons I was given for my second denial.) I look at my degrees, gathering dust, and I’m heartbroken. Recently I had to swap from a laboratory focus, to an investigative focus with my Master’s degree, because I could not make it into school, nor could I safely manipulate the laboratory equipment. When you’ve spent decades deciding on a career, falling in love with the career path, and pushing yourself to achieve school goals despite many moves, it’s disorienting to lose it all.

I will be able to work, eventually, but it could be a while before I’m capable of working full-time, unless I can find something that allows me to work from home. Doctors have stated that I may only ever be able to work part-time, and that’s if we get the disease under control. I want to work, and I need to work, but my body just can’t handle it. Financially I’ve stopped opening bills, because I know I can’t pay them. I’ve even contemplated switching banks because of the amount I owe on my credit card. The monthly minimum payment is making me unable to afford food.

This is not unique to me. Most people I know with a chronic illness that impacts their neurological or gastrointestinal health, struggle to maintain meaningful employment. If they do work, it’s at the expense of their health, and that obviously isn’t ideal. I’ve witnessed members of my family, who really shouldn’t be working the hours they’re working, continue to push their bodies to the breaking point. As my divorce slowly works towards resolution, I have to face things like insurance. How will I afford my medications? I need insurance that covers them. Of course I’ll need to buy insurance…

My goal is to find a work-from-home job that is legitimate, and support myself, but it will take time. The issue is that it’s time I may not have. I find out Tuesday what the treatment plan will be for me, and I’m hoping that it’s something effective, but not debilitating. I keep telling myself that plasmapheresis could be the answer, because it’s important to stay hopeful. Perhaps it will work, and I’ll be able to work part-time, scheduling work around my plasmapheresis appointments. Maybe I’ll find work that I can do from my own home. Whatever the case may be, being chronically ill definitely creates a large amount of stress around the issue of financial security. The disability system is definitely broken.

The Financial Impact of Chronic Illness