Governmental Nonsense and Way Too Many Tears

Getting affordable insurance is still insanely hard if you’re chronically ill and unable to work. Part of the problem is that getting disability is hard. If you have income, even if that income isn’t from working, and even if it doesn’t cover all of your bills, you’re sort of shuffled to the back of the line (or so it feels). Disability would qualify me for MediCal which is what I’m trying to get, but I’m $200 over the limit, and that’s enough for them. It doesn’t matter that I can’t pay my other bills, I’m over the limit.

They actually just suggested I decrease my alimony so that I would qualify. Are you kidding me? I’ve already expressed the reality that if my roommate didn’t cover so many of my bills, I’d be homeless already. 

I swallowed my pride and got the information for a charity that helps, and I’m hoping they can provide some help so I can keep insurance for a few more months at the very least.  I also need to talk to my ex at some point, and inform him that I’m changing banks. I emailed him but I don’t know which email he actually uses to be honest. (He has several from when he was cheating, that he still has activated, so it’s impossible to really know what is going on with that. I suppose I’ll have to text him, too.

Funny how part of the divorce agreement was me making sure he knew where I was at all times (phone, email, address), but I don’t get any of the same luxuries.

It’s odd being sick. I took an unexpected 3+ hour nap after trying to write this earlier, because I’d sobbed myself into incoherence. There is a hopelessness once you’re in the disability system. You’re lied to by the ease with which temporary disability can be obtained. When you realize your disability isn’t temporary, and apply for permanent disability, you’re struck with the truth. It takes forever, and the details don’t often make sense.

Now the best way to get MediCal, is to be officially disabled, but hey, fun fact, that process takes, on average FOUR years.

You want less homeless folks San Diego? Help get them enrolled in disability, of some sort, because many have mental health issues or physical issues that, if fixed, would allow them to work. Additionally, let’s get more drug rehabilitation facilities for those who want or need them, because that will also help. And build some affordable housing!

These programs that exist to help, they want you making less than around $1300 a month, which is a glorious theory, but completely unreasonable for San Diego. Now it’s 2am and I’m debating how peaceful my sleep will honestly be, given all the crying I did today (and that unbelievably ridiculous nap. People were actually worried because I just crashed so hard. I think I may have swapped my indica heavy and sativa heavy pens, because OOF.

And before people judge, medical marijuana is literally the only thing that stops the vomiting sometimes. If we find out my GI transit time is slow, but not so slow it can’t be managed, there is a chance I’ll be given IV access for nausea drugs. The only issue is that means life with a needle in my chest. I’ll also likely be running fluids (if I have a say) because drinking less means I can try and eat more, and more of what’s on my nutritional plan, but we will see.

Let’s hope tomorrow (well today), brings less tear inducing drama. 

 

Advertisements
Governmental Nonsense and Way Too Many Tears

Chronic Illness is Not Enviable or “Cool”, And Gastroparesis is NOT an Eating Disorder

A few years back, a seemingly healthy friend of mine, expressed jealousy over the fact that I could have my dog in apartments that were, otherwise, not pet friendly. I explained that he had been an emotional support animal, before I realized he could sense my seizures and heart rate changes. At that point he was trained to be both a medical alert dog, as well as a psychiatric service dog. (Back then I was struggling with some major side effects from PTSD. Today they’re under control, though I do still appreciate my dogs waking me up if I do have a night terror.)

She would, eventually, announce that she had PTSD as well, and promptly run out and adopt a “service dog” of her own. All of it was whatever, until she started trying to convince folks with very little, or even no, trauma, that they too, could have PTSD. Ever feel anxious in social situations? You probably have PTSD. It was absurd, and I told her as much. It was suddenly this popular thing. Emotional support animals were getting scrutinized, but psychiatric service dogs became a loophole. They’re totally legitimate, but seem to be easier for some folks to sneak through the system, which is just sad.

The breaking point came when my struggles with gastroparesis became extreme. This was prior to chemotherapy, when I was really thin. My frailness, something that prevented me from going out and enjoying life, became this enviable thing. Someone with an eating disorder clung to it, and decided that they could eat whatever they’d like, vomit, blame it on gastroparesis, and gain sympathy.

It worked.

I still didn’t really think much about it at the time, or even now, because we all have our own battles. What I did think about, and what I still become aggravated with, is this idea that gastroparesis is an eating disorder. After years of being accused of anorexia or bulimia, finding myself in that viewfinder again, was beyond aggravating. I wanted to eat, desperately, and I wanted to drink even more, but I simply couldn’t overcome the nausea. It wasn’t worth eating just to be sick. Some people with GP, will eat, and get sick, either because they want to attempt to eat, or they miss the taste of food, and a small percent I’m sure, do have true eating disorders on top of the GP. Eating disorders can also cause GP, but it can be reversible in some cases.

I am not in the reversible category, and I need people to accept that.

I have good days and bad days with gastroparesis, but it never goes away. A good day can actually cause a string of bad days if I’m not fully aware of what I’m consuming. My behavior may look eating disorder like, but the reality is I can’t digest as much as I may want. A good day means I’m not as nauseas, or I may even have an increase of collateral blood flow, letting me digest…but my GP doesn’t go away.

There is a condition called median arcuate ligament syndrome, or MALS. With MALS, the arcuate ligament runs in an odd manner, and causes impingement of the celiac artery. This results in a lack of blood flow to the stomach, liver, and some other stuff in that area. It can also cause compression of nerves. In a nutshell, you get abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, lack of appetite, and all that fun stuff. Surgery helps some patients, but not all patients, and the theory behind this statistic is that patients who have nerve damage, will have continued pain.

I don’t have MALS…but I do have significant celiac artery stenosis. They can’t stent it, they don’t know what causes it, and it’s significant enough, that spasms from my vasculitis, could cause it to close off completely, worsening the pain, and gastroparesis episodes.

Except of course, doctors don’t love that conversation, because having your celiac artery narrowed to about 90%, like mine is, when you don’t have atherosclerosis, is weird. Also, even with atherosclerosis, the celiac artery would be an odd point of discovery. Some doctors agree, my celiac artery is the cause of the gastroparesis and other upper GI issues, especially when combined with my chronic gastritis. Other doctors refuse to even approach the subject. When MALS is understood, accepted, and still debated, being that one random patient with a bum celiac artery, tends to sort of become something that your doctors ignore.

I won’t wake up one day and be able to eat normally. I always have pain when I eat…always. Even friends who get excited to see me eat a meal, don’t understand the effort. I will have pain. I will have nausea. I may actually need to sit a certain way, use a hot pack, something, to alleviate the discomfort. Once we hit my intestines it’s really a toss up as to how that will go. There is always some pain due to dehydration, and the stool softeners and laxatives I’m required to take. Some sections don’t always work. Other sections are sometimes ulcered. It’s a fun time down there.

So when someone tells me that I will “heal” my gut as I move through my “eating disorder” like they did, I want to scream. 

Being sick is not something that gets you the kind of attention you might think you’ll get. I want love. I want to build a career and a life. Spending time in infusion chairs, ERs, doctors’ offices, it’s all just a lot of stuff that gets in the way of living life. Yeah, my wheelchair helps me get around, but now that I don’t live downtown, where will I go? You can’t put it in a car, so it leaves me stranded unless I take the bus, something I’ve yet to attempt.

I may start a day feeling good, go to an event, and end up with legs that won’t work. It’s funny how the people who seem to be disability envious, who suddenly find themselves with the same conditions, only have issues when they’re home alone, or want to hang out with friends who seem to have plans that they don’t have the ability to participate in for some reason other than their health. If you always feel healthy enough for parties, concerts, and other leisure activities, but suddenly seem violently ill to avoid obligations, or garner attention, I’m going to question your sincerity. I’m not talking about a recovery day (or week) because I know that one good day for me, when pushed to far, can definitely screw me up. It’s the people who seem to cling to the fringes of the disabled or “spoonie” communities, join somehow, but always seem to have luck when it comes to when their condition will flare up.

Today is a hard day, because I find myself bitter. I want this life I cannot have. This isn’t something positive thinking can fix. Most of the time I do accept my circumstances, and I work to find things that can make me just as happy, if not happier, than my original plans. It doesn’t mean I don’t get angry sometimes. When someone gleefully jumps into the sick people community, only to have oddly good luck in terms of when they’re actually sick, and when they’re not, I struggle to bite my tongue.

Be interested, be included, but don’t lie. Even a small illness deserves support. Hell, all people deserve support. You don’t have to fake being seriously ill to get it.

 

Chronic Illness is Not Enviable or “Cool”, And Gastroparesis is NOT an Eating Disorder

Port Placement and Panic

On the 11th I had my port placed. It’s funny, I’d spent months wanting it, but when the time came, I totally panicked. The idea of a catheter, just hanging out that close to my heart, suddenly had me second guessing my decision. The fact that some doctors were on board with the decision, while the others weren’t, didn’t help matters. In pre-op, the nurses couldn’t get a vein, so they called the IV team, they used an ultrasound, numbed up my arm, and went after a deep vein. The nurse told me that my veins are really small, and apologized for having to work hard to get into the vein. She also said I would be happy with my port.

I had to be at the hospital at 6am…but when I arrived, I wasn’t on the schedule. I hadn’t really slept the night before, so I ended up falling asleep and was taken to the pre-op area at around 7am. I still wasn’t on the schedule, but they said I’d go back by 9:30. 9:30 came and went, and at this point my anxiety is screwing up my vitals. The lowest my heart rate got was 99 bpm. My blood pressure was a mess, too. I didn’t end up going back until 1:30. By then, I was a mess. I’m begging for the versed, and worried that I’m going to just back out of the entire thing. There was a miscommunication between the nursing staff and myself. Basically I hate pain killers. They make me vomit, and I just don’t like the feeling as they wear off. Throwing up, shaking, cold sweats, it’s a disaster.

For some reason the nurses wrote down that I had a low tolerance to both pain killers, and versed. 

After several syringes, the frustrated nurse told me that I had a really high tolerance to versed, not a low one. I told her that I knew that. That’s when I found out, basically, that I hadn’t been given enough of either drug. I was a bit loopy, but totally coherent. The doctor started, and I hadn’t been told we were starting, and I felt pressure and blood.

It isn’t pleasant to feel your blood trickling down your neck.

The procedure went well, thankfully, and I went home, but panic was immediate. Every move that I made caused my neck or chest to twinge. I kept worrying that the catheter was going to stab my heart. I kept worrying that I was going to get a blood clot and die. I still am worried about the port, especially the blood clot issue, but I’m realizing how necessary it is. I haven’t had my infusion of fluids and vitamins in over a month. I am going in on Monday. It’s still scary to think about my port being accessed, but I need to get used to it.

I think part of the stress of the port, is feeling like I’m more sick. The port is going to improve my quality of life, but having it makes me feel like I have, “sick girl,” stamped on my forehead. If my gut wasn’t messed up, I wouldn’t need it. Well, I’d probably need it eventually for IVIG, but I’d have a while at least. Nobody will see it once the wound heals, unless I have it accessed, but it’s just a stressful situation for me personally.

I’ve met people online who seem to want to be sicker. They want the feeding tubes, the ports, the wheelchairs, and I just don’t get it. I’d love to fade into normalcy. I want a job. I want to drive. I want to go to a restaurant and eat something. I want my dogs to just be dogs, not dogs with jobs. At the end of the day, I can get back to most things. I may never be able to eat normally, but that’s okay, that I can work around. I would love to get IV fluids regularly.

Maybe it isn’t about getting back to how I felt before getting sick, but about learning to find ways to enjoy life and be happy with the life I’m living now. 

Port Placement and Panic

Medical Marijuana Discussions

I live in California, where marijuana is now recreationally legal. Anyone over 21, can go to a dispensary, and buy marijuana. There are regulations on where you can use it if you’re smoking or vaping, but other than that, it’s all fair game. As a teenager and adult, I never had the urge to try marijuana. Yes, I’d heard about it, but with all the medication I was already being put on and taken off of, it just seemed like a risk. Not to mention all the drug testing for school, work, and medical tests. Then the gastroparesis situation got dangerously bad, along with the Behcet’s, and you all know that story.

With the legalization of marijuana I don’t need to renew my medical card at the end of the month, but I likely will if I can find the funds, because it’ll entitle me to certain discounts, and provisions for having more in my possession than a recreational user. Not that I’ll ever have that much in my possession, I’m way too broke to store that much weed, but it’s nice to know that, were I to move somewhere that allowed me to grow some, I could.

Recently I’ve graduated to vaping a few times a day. It isn’t something I particularly enjoy, because for me I’d rather take less medication, including marijuana. I view it as both a recreational option, as well as something that has medicinal benefits. It’s all about how you use it. I would thoroughly enjoy the opportunity to join the recreational trend, and just use it periodically to relax, alone or with friends. Right now, I could theoretically smoke more with friends, or different strains with friends, and feel different than I do when I use it medicinally…but it sort of throws me off mentally.

How can something I rely on to avoid hospitalizations and severe dehydration, also be something I use for fun

My brain keeps comparing it to opioids because of what a professor said about the legalization of marijuana being a gateway to the legalization of heroin. Obviously he was off base, just based on the reality that heroin doesn’t have a direct medicinal use in it’s abused form…but it is an opiate. Opiates can be prescribed to treat pain. In fact, a lot of heroin users started by abusing pain killers. They switched to heroin because it’s cheaper. So what is it? What defines something as a recreational drug, versus something that is used medicinally?

In the end I think it comes down to how it’s used, and how it’s acquired. Yes, marijuana is legal in my state. If you smoke it until you can’t function, pay your bills, or exist, then you’re an addict akin to an alcoholic. If you use it periodically in a responsible manner, then you’re a recreational user. If you use it as recommended by a physician, then you’re a medicinal user. It seems simple, but people judge you anyhow.

Now that it is legal in California, people view my regular use of Marijuana, as though I’m some stoner who can’t get by without being high. Truth is that I’m rarely high unless I overshoot my intake, or change to a new strain that impacts me in an unexpected manner. 

I need marijuana, but only because Zofran can only do so much. (Not to mention waiting for it to kick in when you have gastroparesis can be excruciating. There’s nothing like taking an antiemetic and knowing you’ll probably throw it up…) If I can get a port, and start getting more IV fluids, then perhaps the nausea will be more manageable. As it is, I’m sort of low on options for treating the nausea. I can’t take any more Zofran than I am, and they would prefer I take less, because apparently there is a link between Zofran and an increased seizure risk. Phenergan increases your risk of developing a movement disorder, which is a problem since I’ve been on it so long. That caused a decrease in my dose, and I’m only supposed to use that as absolutely necessary. I’m allergic to Compazine. I thought I wasn’t because I didn’t have flat out dystonia like I did years ago, but after a few doses it felt like my muscles were on fire, and I was super twitchy.

Today I’ve had a bowl of gluten free macaroni and cheese, and two small rice crispy treats. I feel like I’ve eaten an entire family’s Thanksgiving meal.

This is life with gastroparesis. What I did eat, was courtesy of weed. I’m beyond grateful that I was able to even get that down. I haven’t had water today, just a little gatorade, and yes, I’m bad, I had soda. I’m working on giving it up, but I am addicted to caffeine. I’m also a graduate student with 2 weeks left of class before she starts her thesis, so I mean, it is what it is at this point. (Let’s toss in a personal life in turmoil, and finances in ruins, and I think we can excuse the fact that I consume 1-2 cans of cola a day.) Thankfully, for whatever reason, fizzy beverages are easier on my system than flat ones.

So yes, friends, family, and potential future people that I meet…I use marijuana and it has undoubtedly saved me from hospitalizations, passing out, and at one point, a feeding tube. 

On one side of the page is the list of symptoms relating to chronic illnesses you have, on the other side are the tools you have to deal with those symptoms. Ginger helps with nausea, it’s also totally legal for anyone to buy and consume because they just like ginger. It is possible for something to be enjoyable and fun for one person, while another person uses it for help in dealing with their health.

Medical Marijuana Discussions

Family Planning (NSFW-ish)

Okay folks, there will be some basic biology talk in this post so if you don’t want to read about any of that, I’ll see you next blog 🙂

_____________________________________________________

Ah yes, birth control. That thing you wanted until you turned 30, then immediately wanted to burn so you could start a family with the guy of your dreams…just kidding, this isn’t a sitcom. I was put on the pill at 16 because I had periods that were brutal. It turned out that I had really bad ovarian cysts. I was on the pill from 2002 until 2014. I wasn’t on anything for a little over a year. Then, after a year and a half (or so), I got an IUD. There is my birth control journey in a nutshell. There were different types of pills involved, but because of my cyst issues (and what turned out to be endometriosis) I needed high dose oral contraceptives. I went off for a little over a year because I wanted to see if cysts were still an issue, and while they were, the endometriosis was really more of an issue than the cysts were. At the time it wasn’t diagnosed, though. Once I kicked the pill, my doctor felt comfortable with the diagnosis. So how does this all fit into Behcet’s?

For starters, there is an awkward give and take with the whole birth control issue. Most of my medications are contraindicated in pregnancy. Some are actually so bad for pregnancy, I had to prove I was taking reliable measures to avoid becoming pregnant. Of course my family history of blood clots, and having vasculitis, meant I was pushing the limits of estrogen containing birth control pills. My doctor had told me that being on birth control pills that contained estrogen, was a surefire way to get a blood clot.

I really didn’t want a blood clot.

I was able to forgo birth control entirely because I had failed to get control over periods using non-estrogen containing oral contraceptives. They had wanted to use an IUD, but I was super afraid at the time. I also knew that I wanted children in the next five years. At the time I was with someone who had lab work that showed issues, issues that would make conception without intervention highly unlikely. The chances were low enough that, when presented with the numbers, my gynecologist was comfortable enough with me going sans birth control, despite being on medication that usually required me to be on birth control.

Score one for male factor infertility.

I don’t do drama, so for the record, my ex did go on to have an adorable baby boy with his gorgeous girlfriend. While we were together I was informed given the information at my disposal, that we could not have children. Indeed, I was able to stay off of birth control for well over a year, without a pregnancy. 

Now, for so many years the goal of life was to avoid pregnancy. Let’s me honest, for most of us that’s how it goes. We try to avoid pregnancies, until all of a sudden we realize we want kids. Some people are lucky enough to avoid pregnancy, then become pregnant, when they find it convenient. Other people find themselves getting pregnant when they didn’t plan on it, or struggling to get pregnant at all. Then there are the weird sick women out there, who have the added benefit of having to seriously plan out pregnancies because of illnesses and medications.

Doctors have had various recommendations for me. Some have looked at the research and been comfortable with my proclamation that I want children some day. For many women with Behcet’s, pregnancy brings a relief from symptoms. Doctors don’t really know why, but Behcet’s symptoms, and even the disease itself, tend to lessen during pregnancy, and even shortly afterwards. Of course some women have worsening symptoms during pregnancy, and more have issues following the birth of their children, but there was hope.

Other doctors have acted like I’m insane. The medications alone make it a really risky idea. I would have to stop certain medications for a certain period of time, but also be able to start pregnancy safe medications within that time, to keep all my symptoms in check. A seizure during pregnancy would be really bad. Gastroparesis makes me nauseas and struggling to feed myself adequately, how in the world will I be able to nourish a growing baby? They point at the unknowns genetically in terms of how many people in my family have autoimmune ailments. Of course there is no guarantee that I’ll be passing anything along.

The rest fall somewhere in the middle, which I feel is the right place to be. I definitely don’t expect to have an easy go of it, but I would like to have at least one or two children of my own. I would love an adopted child, or a stepchild, just as much, but there is something about a biological child that does call to me. I’ve definitely considered IVF with a surrogate, but that is an expensive route. It’s also the safest in terms of what would be best for the baby. (Think about it, my body does a poor job of keeping me alive, entrusting it with a fetus seems terrifying to me.) A surrogacy would also mean I could stay on a lot of my medications, or at least go back on medications sooner. (Some medications you cannot be taking because they pass along birth defects via the egg, so I would have to stop those prior to egg harvesting.)

Is this a fun read or what…

I know my best chance at having a healthy biological child, is via a surrogate, but it doesn’t make thinking about it any less daunting. I mean, I was married, I’m in the process of getting a divorce, I’ll be 32 in April…and there is a timeline on fertility. I didn’t do myself any favors with the chemo. (I still don’t know if there was damage to my eggs, but again, that’s not something I can really know without specific fertility testing. My insurance only covers fertility tests if you’ve been trying to conceive for a period of time without success.

I’m pretty sure I don’t meet the qualifications of trying for any period of time, given the fact that I’m painfully single.

Another issue for me is that I did have early stage cervical cancer. They removed a pretty decent size of my cervix, and the location has made it more likely for me to experience issues with premature labor. So, you know, as if it weren’t enough to have Behcet’s with heavy GI involvement including gastroparesis…I had to go and get cervical cancer, too. Don’t get me wrong, I am beyond grateful that it was caught early, and that I only needed local surgery instead of a more invasive surgery and chemotherapy. It just would have been nice if I could have avoided cancer all together.

Doing six months of chemotherapy, then getting diagnosed with cancer? Yeah, that’s only something that happens in my life.

This is another rambling blog, but today was infusion day, and I’m in that weird headspace of sleepy, but full of vitamins. I hope I find someone someday who can love me, illnesses and all. I also hope that they want children (or already have children) and are supportive of whatever pathway to parenthood we choose together. It may not be conventional, but that’s okay. Right now I do have an IUD. It was placed before I was diagnosed with cancer, and I’m thrilled with it. It controls my endometriosis issues, and I don’t know it’s even there. There isn’t a worry for me regarding pregnancy, which is important still with all the medications I’m taking. With my nausea issues, vomiting, and malabsorption, it was time to get something that didn’t rely on another pill I would have to remember to take. Plus, no estrogen!

Family Planning (NSFW-ish)

Dieting With Gastroparesis?

Okay, so that phrase seems counterintuitive, right? It is…but it isn’t. During chemotherapy I gained a substantial amount of weight. I needed to gain weight, but not as much as I did. I went from 120 pounds to 195 pounds. Ideally I’d love to hang out around 145. Currently I way 170. That 35 pound drop? Yeah, I got myself down to 190, but the other 30 is from gastroparesis.

So how the hell do I diet. I mean, I want to lose weight, but not because I’m not eating.

There isn’t really an easy answer. I eat what I can, when I can, and I try and make sure that the food I’m eating is easy to digest, but nutrient dense. It isn’t easy. Protein bars, protein cookies, etc., are all options, but sometimes the protein is really hard for me to process. Lately I’ve been doing toast with some butter and honey.

Today I’ve had two pieces of toast with honey, and two little pieces of soft fresh mozzarella cheese. 

That isn’t enough. I also wasn’t supposed to be eating the cheese, but I had a moment of hunger, and just went with it. The problem is that I’m so full, and haven’t had much to drink at all. That’s the other issue with gastroparesis (for me) is that I often find myself choosing between food and water. I know I need water, but I also need to keep my blood sugar up. Again, I go to honey. I have hot lemon water with honey. I think I’m just hoping the honey will keep my blood sugar up, while also tasting good and giving me some calories.

Yes, I want calories. 

This is where people can go down very different roads. Some people, like myself, want control over intake and output. I want my exercise and calories, to be well matched. I don’t want to lose weight too fast. I know that I need to keep muscle on, and burn fat. If I’m losing too much weight, I’m losing muscle, and telling my body to store fat. Others go down a very different path. They see the massive weight loss gastroparesis is providing, and they lean into it. It becomes an excuse for intentional disordered eating.

If you have a digestive order, and you’re using the symptoms or medications to help lose weight intentionally, please talk with your doctor. 

Some conditions and some medications cause weight loss, but you should be working with your doctor and your nutritionist to mitigate the impact of this. Being sick is not a good way to lose weight. I was 120 pounds because of gastroparesis. I gained weight during chemotherapy because of the drugs I was getting, including steroids. I also developed a ravenous appetite for sweets. I would eat a little bit, all day, and I could process the gluten free vegan options…so that’s what I ate.

Look, I’m not going to rationalize my weight loss or gain. The reality is I should have been receiving better care before I got to 120 pounds, but I honestly didn’t even realize I was that thin. I was so focused on the symptoms, and because I didn’t feel hungry, it didn’t dawn on me that it was an issue. Friends would make comments, and eventually I realized that I was wearing dress sizes and pant sizes that I had never worn. Sitting in a dressing room, holding a small and extra small, when you’re as tall as I am, can be a sobering moment. I remember thinking that I’d wanted to lose weight, but being utterly confused how I’d gotten so thin.

I don’t get hungry, so I try to be mindful of my nutritional and caloric needs. I am 100% sure that I’m deficient, but I’m not negligent.

I get infusions of vitamins and amino acids, because I cannot take in these specific vitamins and amino acids, by mouth. I’m also dealing with periodic malabsorption. I have ulcers in my intestines that prevent adequate absorption, and I also have sections of intestines that just don’t move properly, again, contributing to malabsorption.

It’s funny because I have moments where I’m just matter-of-fact about my gastroparesis. “No thank you, I can’t eat. I have gastroparesis, so I’m still full from breakfast,” she says at 8pm. Then there are other moments, where I get defensive. I’ve been told that not eating sufficiently, for x amount of days, makes me anorexic. There was a heated exchange because anorexia has a physical impact on your body, but ultimately it’s a disease of the mind. Gastroparesis can lead to anorexia, or contribute to anorexia, and severe enough anorexia can even lead to gastroparesis (or at least issues similar.) Someone who has gastroparesis, and loses weight because of it, is not automatically anorexic.

I want to lose weight. I do not want to use my illness to lose weight. I acknowledge that my weight loss is unhealthy, and I do everything in my power to slow down the weight loss, as well as to supplement nutritionally and calorically. 

We can go back and forth for the rest of our lives, but ultimately the important thing is achieving health. I want to be able to work out. I want to be able to eat salads again. I want so many things. The last thing I want, is my gastroparesis to decide my body shape, and for me to have to go along with whatever the disease decides.

Dieting With Gastroparesis?

Changing Your Expectations and Being Okay with It

I have had to change so many of my expectations over the last few years, and you would think it would get less painful each time…but it doesn’t. When my ex-husband and I separated, it was a relief. It wasn’t a good marriage, despite being a long marriage, and the freedom from the constant verbal and emotional tirades was beyond amazing. My health had momentarily improved, leading me to believe that I would be so much better physically, because I had freed myself emotionally. It was partially true. My C-PTSD symptoms did decrease, to the point where my medications could be removed, but my Behcet’s didn’t get the notice.

Denial was my first mistake. I refused to accept that the symptoms I was having were Behcet’s related. Wasn’t I always uncoordinated? Didn’t I always have stomach issues? Finances were a mess because I’d blown my knee out, so the stress was of course causing me some physical distress. I made so many excuses for so many obvious signs of flaring, that I was eventually sitting in the medical marijuana office, weighing in at 120 pounds, all 5’10” of me. I got my medical license to smoke, and for the first time ever, tried marijuana. At that point I was struggling to keep down water.

My second mistake was over optimism. Let me explain this further. Being optimistic is wonderful. You need to be positive to stay on track and fight your chronic illnesses. Being overly optimistic, though, prevents you from planning realistically. I kept telling myself every treatment change would work. When it didn’t, I just kept pushing forward. I pushed my body to the limit because I was still in denial. I had a boss prior to getting sicker, who was into positive thinking so seriously, that we literally couldn’t express any negative feelings. I clung to the idea even after leaving the job.

The final mistake was combining mistakes one and two, with lying. I lied to my family. I lied to my friends. I told people I was fine, and when they saw me, they were floored by how not fine I was. By the point I was going to NYU, where they would recommend Remicade and if that didn’t work, Cytoxan, I had been hospitalized for over a week, and was barely able to walk with a walker.

Denial, overly optimistic thinking, and lying to yourself and others, is not going to help you.

I still believe there will be a day when my illness doesn’t impact me day to day, because I’ll have treatments and tools at my disposal, but I am still coming to terms with that reality. Some days I will need my wheelchair. I will likely need IVIG regularly, for quite some time, if not indefinitely. Remission is out of the question, but given how aggressive my case has been, it isn’t likely.

And that’s okay.

That may sound like over optimism again, but it isn’t. I will adjust my life as needed, and with time, I will be able to find things that I can enjoy and do with whatever my body is capable of. I don’t know if anyone will ever be able to love me enough to live with me and commit to me, and while the thought of never settling down and actually living with someone hurts, I do know that it’s a possibility. I also know that there are people out there with chronic illnesses who have found partners, so it isn’t impossible. The first step, though, is accepting myself, and my body, for what it is.

My schooling changed. My potential career paths changed. It hurts. I wanted to be a clinical laboratory scientist more than anything, and I may not be able to ever pursue that path because of my ataxia. What I have found, though, is clinical study associate positions, and they’re actually really interesting. To be honest, I should have gotten my MPH (Master’s of Public Health), but I wasn’t as sick when I committed to the forensic program. Ultimately I can still get certificates for clinical study administration, and because of my undergraduate and different graduate degree, I could make a case that I would be an excellent advisor. I’ve literally studied the lab piece of things, and the investigative side of forensics, I am the perfect person to put together official studies that pair the work that is seen, with the behind the scenes work.

I have literally discovered a career I never knew existed, and it’s in demand where I live. I can also do it in a wheelchair, and even handle some administrative tasks from home.

Currently I’m not in a position to work, but I want to be working someday, and this career field gives me hope. Regardless I love the idea. I could also look into PhD programs with my undergraduate and graduate school, because they have agreements with certain degree programs, where they pay for your PhD if you give them 5 years of your time as a professor. I would actually enjoy teaching college students, and the flexibility of the potential online classes is amazing. Even if I had to do in person instruction, the ability to do it in a wheelchair also makes it a viable option.

Mostly it’s about recognizing that I even have options.

You may not be doing what you thought you’d be doing, but very few people in their 30’s are where they thought they’d be in their teens or even early 20’s. The friends I think that have it all, don’t really all have it all. I come from a small town and most of my friends have gotten married and had kids, but there are others like myself, who got married young and then got divorced. I’m glad I didn’t have kids with my ex-husband, because we would never have been able to peacefully coparent. I also wouldn’t be able to focus on getting myself well, if I had children to look after.

I am not where I want to be, but I am still here, and I still have the opportunity to move in a variety of directions. I just need to be open to the options that I have.

Changing Your Expectations and Being Okay with It