Grieve and then Grow

I woke up today several times. It was one of those mornings when nausea wakes me up, so I handle it with medical marijuana because it’s the fastest working thing that won’t increase my seizure risk…then go back to sleep until it returns. My rheumatologist messaged me back and basically had said that I needed to see my primary care doctor, or go to urgent care/the ER. My primary care doctor didn’t have openings, and urgent care is closer.

At this point I know what I need…fluids and nauseas drugs. I also know the reality is I need something to make this flare go away. Nothing is going to make this flare go away, at least not anything that can be reasonably sustained over a period of time. The ER this time of year is a just a pile of germs, especially after a holiday weekend, and unfortunately urgent care wasn’t much better.

The first doctor was sort of baffled by my symptoms, and wanted me to go to the ER and be admitted to the hospital. She recognized what I already knew…anything they did today, was just going to be a stop gap measure. I needed treatment of the underlying cause, not just the symptoms. Preaching to the choir doctor…but I’m not going to hang out in the hospital while confused staff rheumatologists go through my charts and realize we’ve tried all of the conventional stuff. She also said the marijuana could be causing my constipation. The day I used the most was the day I finally went to the bathroom, probably because I was able to drink enough water that day…

So she gets a bit flustered and says she can’t make me go to the hospital, and I ask if I can get fluids and nausea meds there (in urgent care) and she says yes.

Let the process of trying to draw my blood and place an IV commence…

Look, I have bad veins by all standards, but toss in the vasculitis and even the best nurse is going to struggle. They manage to get the IV in, but drawing blood requires two nurses, because one has to keep the needle in place while the other swaps tubes. I also bleed super slow, so that was making it extra fun. After this point a new doctor comes in, because of shift change, and he’s a laid back guy. He agrees I’m flaring, contemplates trying a different steroid, but after talking about my prior issues with steroids (needing super high doses for any sort of efficacy) he agrees that my original plan makes the most sense. Get the fluids, check the labs, and switch over to a high fluid diet in lieu of solids. It’s better to eat ice pops and Jell-o, than to end up in the ER because I’ve had solids but no fluids.

When you’ve been sick for so long, you learn to sort of gauge what the right response is to whatever symptoms arise. It’s only when something new pops up, that you’re truly thrown off. My doctors, especially ER doctors who haven’t seen me before, are going to struggle a bit to process what the best course of action is. I get it. If I were any other patient, you’d keep me until I had symptom control. I won’t get symptom control that can be extended after my exit from the hospital. It isn’t a pessimistic view, it’s reality. At this point in time, there isn’t anything they can do for me during an admission, that is going to extend beyond 1-2 w weeks post admission.

That is the depressing part. I want a normal life, LA with my friends for the holidays, ice skating, and running around the beach. I want to join a sports league in my city, so I can meet new people, and bowl!

Could I bowl? Absolutely. Could I plan in advance what days I would be physically able to bowl? No. That is the part that sucks. I am normal, but I can’t be normal. I want to work, I want to buy things on Cyber Monday, and I want to make holiday plans. There are so many things my friends and family members are doing, that I just can’t, at least not consistently.

This has been the struggle with disability. There are some days when I am able, but other days when I need medical intervention just to obtain adequate hydration. I don’t get to choose which days are which. I can choose when I get some of my medical procedures, but again, that doesn’t guarantee what days I’ll feel what way.

It isn’t all, “I hate my life!”

One thing I’ve been wanting to do lately, is bring people together who struggle with chronic illnesses. I am optimistic, and I do cope, but I definitely have days when I just can’t, and that is okay! Kick, scream, cry, do whatever it is you need to do. Embrace the anger and the sadness. Why? You need to make peace with the negative parts of your illness. I always thought it was black and white. That if I was pessimistic, at all, I would be giving power to the disease. The truth is that we can’t be honestly positive, until we have embraced the things we’ve lost to our diseases.

How can I appreciate the interest I’ve found in investigative forensics, unless I own the fact that I’ve lost my ability to really be in a laboratory environment on a consistent basis? How can I appreciate the absolute amazingness of my friends who have stood by me, or have come into my life during this difficult journey, until I grieve for the friends and family that I’ve lost because they couldn’t handle my illness?

Turn the losses into gains, by acknowledging just how beautiful your new circumstances are…because they’ve grown from the loss of something else.

Grieve. I grieve the loss right now, of my ability to do the things I would normally do this time of year. I grieve the opportunity to join a sports club. I grieve for my financial losses. I grieve because it’s natural, and because I know that I will be able to connect these losses together once something beautiful has grown up from their roots.

I don’t believe that everything happens for a reason, but I do believe that positivity allows you to make sense of the things that have happened in your life.

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Grieve and then Grow

Happy Thanksgiving…Send Sorbet and Hugs

I was actually excited for Thanksgiving. Even though I can’t eat much with the gastroparesis and intestinal dysmotility, I was going to be spending time with a friend I haven’t really had a chance to spend time with in years. Then Behcet’s decided it would be a good time to struggle with horrible headaches. I had a ride to LA, but given that it would take 2-3 hours without traffic, or just normal LA traffic, I knew it wouldn’t be the best decision to go. I pushed myself for the musical, then last weekend when another friend came in from out of town. My body is showing the effects.

It’s frustrating. I would have rather spent Thanksgiving with my friend in LA, but because someone else had non-refundable tickets to visit last weekend, what I’d have preferred became unobtainable. If I’d utilized the wheelchair option at the zoo, I likely would be feeling much better right now. Don’t get me wrong, I’d still be stuck in this flare, but maybe it wouldn’t be this bad. Maybe going up to LA would have been the thing that pushed my symptoms over the edge.

Thanksgiving has always been one of my least favorite holidays, anyhow. My stomach issues have been in play for quite some time. Any holiday with a focus on food, is going t be low on my list of preferred holidays. Still, I wanted to see my friend. Symptoms wise, the headaches have gotten worse. I know I need IV steroids, nausea meds, Benadryl, and something else that always forget about. The glorious migraine cocktail, just tweaked a bit. We are 100% sure that my headaches are vascular spasm related, but nothing over the counter works on them. The headaches were bad enough…but then the oral symptoms arose.

I have GI ulcers. I know I do, because of the situation with my bowel movements. They’re infrequent because of the motility issues…but I do have a whole lot of scabbing and skin coming out. Normal people would probably panic, but for me? I’m just glad there isn’t too much blood. To make things extra interesting, I developed a yeast infection. I have medication for it just always on hand, because the infections used to be so frequent. Of course the fun is figuring out what is ulcer related, what is yeast related, and whether it really matters because you’re already taking all the meds you can anyhow…

Then last night, there was some fun. I’ve had some mouth pain and swelling, which I attributed to a few ulcers, and the likelihood that I was brewing up a few more. As the pain got worse, I focused on my chronic state of dehydration. Maybe I was in pain because my mouth kept getting so dry. Last night I ate some gluten free crust with just feta on it, nothing else. I followed that up with a Pedialyte ice pop. I’m eating this ice pop, when I start to wonder two things: the first was, “why does this ice pop make my mouth burn?” and the second was, “what is that taste?”

It turns out my mouth was bleeding. Not in a few spots…just literally all over blood, oozing out of what must have been super tiny blood vessels. 

Yeah. Thanksgiving is hard when you have slow or even no motility in your stomach and intestines. It’s hard when you have GI ulcerations. It’s hard when you aren’t allowed to drive, so you can’t be at all the fun events. Thanksgiving is impossible when your mouth is on fire, and actively bleeding whenever you eat.

All the doctor’s are gone for the weekend, so I’m going to check out urgent care tomorrow if things get worse. The headache needs a cocktail I can only get in the ER, but I’m borderline functional right now. I’d rather sort the headache out at home, rather than expose myself to the ER germ factor. My mouth is a whole other story. I’ll be making some Jell-o this evening, and looking into getting some liquid food options. The most likely culprit is a combination of arteritis, oral ulcers, and thrush. With the seriousness of the yeast infection I have, I wouldn’t be shocked to find yeast was also hanging out in my mouth. It’s gross. It’s painful. It’s embarrassing.

Needing a hug boils down to the reality I’m living in. My dog needs shots, I’m running out of items to sell, and I can’t afford to get textbooks, or even feed myself, if the money I should be getting for my book stipend, food stamps, and disability, never comes. I want to work. That’s the thing people don’t seem to understand. I apply for part-time jobs that I could theoretically do via a wheelchair…but there is a pretty major limit when it comes to the availability of such jobs. My education, my prior experience, it just doesn’t lead to jobs that I can do in my current shape.

I see everyone around me being normal, and I get so frustrated that I can’t just go and be normal, too. This is one of those days where I want to kick, scream, and cry. My body is sick, and aside from brain fog, my mind isn’t. Sure, I have neurological issues, but my mental abilities don’t match with what my body can do. Hopefully the doctors will be willing to push up my IVIG plan. It’s a long shot as it is, but with the symptoms lingering around, I’m willing to take all of the shots available.

Happy Thanksgiving…Send Sorbet and Hugs

Crying With Sadness and Joy

Today I had my rheumatology appointment. It was kind of a big deal because we’ve basically tried everything remotely reasonable at this point. We’ve established I cannot tolerate azathioprine orally. The drugs they use for active ulcers and retinitis, don’t work well for neurological or GI symptoms. I’ve developed antibodies to biologics, or at least developed the reactions you’d expect one to have with antibodies. Either way, I can’t have them anymore. Six months of chemo brought me a few months of relief, but it’s far too soon to do more chemotherapy, and the doses I needed for improvement, are not something human beings are meant to do indefinitely. I tried not to cry, for as long as possible. My amazing rheumatologist has to be thrilled she’ll be on maternity leave during whatever we decide to do, because I’m sure the novelty of having not just a Behcet’s patient, but one with rare complications, has worn off by now. She did mention immunoglobulin therapy as a long shot option, which gave me the strength to ask about plasmapheresis. They use it in complex autoimmune disorders, and it has been used for Behcet’s patients before. She wasn’t sure whether or not it would work in my case, but decided she’d write to Dr. Yacizi at NYU to see if she could get him to weigh in.

Yes, I did cry, I was frustrated and I wanted to know immediately if she thought was a good idea. I have to remember that I am usually just like she is. I want evidence, facts that have the data to prove that something is scientifically valid. She’s not going to just say, “Yes, let’s remove all your plasma and replace it with donor plasma and/or a substitute,” because that is one hell of a rush onboard. 

I left the office feeling defeated. I’m already taking 2 grams of cell cept daily, and while I know I need to see a GI doctor, I don’t love going to see GI doctors. Maybe I could increase to 3 grams of cell cept per day, with GI’s help with the nausea and lack of mobility, but that is one hell of a maybe. Bright side is, I gained way to much weight during chemo and steroids, so I have some literal cushion when it comes to losing weight at my current rate. I’d rather gain muscle and lose fat, but sine I’m mostly fat at this point, I’ll just take whatever comes. I will need to hit the gym in the wheelchair to work on building up muscle strength, but that will come in time.

Waiting for my roommate to come get me, I get a notice that the raffles for the theater show Hamilton have closed for today, opening up the ones for tomorrow. I’ve been trying 3 times a day to win these damn tickets through this app, and failing each time. I’m feeling low, and I’m expecting to see the same “I’m Sorry” message pop up…but instead it says that I’ve won.

Excuse me?

I take a moment to call my “friend” and ask if he’s available to go up to LA tomorrow (they don’t give you much notice so you typically have to be in the city within 36 hours for the show). He immediately agrees which makes me tear up again, only this time I’m happy.

Will this be an easy thing on my body? No. 2.5-3 hours in a car, when motion really sets of my motion sickness, is a risk. The fact he wants to drive back the same night, is just even more of a risk. I’ve got the nausea meds, with the bonus benadryl just in case, at the ready. I’m getting as much sleep as I can tonight, and I’ve warned him that I may sleep on the way back. I’m hoping he takes his parents up on their offer to let us stay at their house that night, since the show doesn’t even begin until 8pm. Between doing my hair and makeup (a task if I’m shaky tomorrow), shaving, the car, dressing in less loose clothing, everything really, I’m going to crash hard on Thursday which, isn’t ideal because I’m supposed to have a job interview at 12:30…but I don’t even want the job to be honest.

Life is a balancing act for everyone, it’s just more apparent when you’re chronically ill. You have to figure out where your limits are, and push them just enough to find enjoyment without endangering yourself or others.

Crossing my fingers I can get the doctors to agree to plasmapheresis and that it’s the treatment I need to get things under control. 

Crying With Sadness and Joy

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

Failure Isn’t Always Failure

Sometimes I do stupid things…like apply for a job and accept an interview, even though I feel like utter garbage. I told myself that the hours, 12pm-4pm, and the fact that it was doable in a wheelchair, meant I could totally handle the position. Friends got behind me, encouraging me to give the interview my everything. These friends weren’t aware of the extent of my relapse, at least not what is going on internally. They know I’m nauseas, sleepy, sore, and that I can’t eat much. They also know that my balance has been off, and that I have the shakes. What they haven’t known is how much pain I’m in, that the shakes are more than just the shakes, and that my situation is expected to just keep getting worse. I cancelled the interview for today, by calling in and saying I was sick, and  moved the interview to next Thursday, because I have rheumatology next Tuesday.

I felt like the biggest failure.

All these people from here and back east, were cheering me on, and telling me to try. I did try, but I just couldn’t pull myself together. I went to take a shower, and each step was so painful. My colon definitely has ulcers in it, and the fact that I’m not going to the bathroom isn’t helping matters. Gastroparesis is a gnarly thing, and I have a weird form of it (of course). I don’t just have issues with getting food from my stomach, into the rest of the GI tract, I have issues with my entire GI tract. I’ve gone to the ER with bad abdominal pain, knowing I was constipated, and ended up with baffled doctors because I had no GI sounds whatsoever. Your stomach and intestines make noises, even when you’re not hungry or eating something. You can’t always hear them, but with a stethoscope you really should. They medicated the hell out of me, and barely got a gurgle. I ended up refusing the enema because it’s super uncomfortable, and doing it at home is much easier than being given one in the ER. (I’d also had a really traumatic experience with a prior enema because the medical staff didn’t do imaging first, and I bled severely. I am on the fast track to enema town right now, and I am doing my best to avoid it.

The other issue for today is just the tremors and weakness. I saw my neurologist yesterday, and he was definitely concerned. The last time I had a flare that progressed to neurological symptoms, I ended up incapacitated in the hospital, with the possibility of being placed in a skilled nursing facility. I couldn’t feed myself because of the shaking, I couldn’t walk at all. I couldn’t even be touched without my body locking up and spasming. Yesterday my neurologist said that he felt I needed to be back in chemotherapy, but I’m not sure that is an option. For one, it’s hard on the kidneys, so they limit the number of sessions you can get. The other thing is, it worked, but only during the sessions, and for a few months after. We know that you can’t stay on chemotherapy for the rest of your life, at least not what I was receiving…so what is the point?

I want to work…but if I were to get this job, and then find out I was going back into invasive treatment, I wouldn’t be able to keep the job. Additionally, taking the job impacts my disability claim. So if I took the job, and then had to quit the job (or be let go), because of my health, it would be a huge letdown. I would no longer have a job, and still be less eligible to receive disability.

I am not a failure, though.

My health isn’t in my control. Yes, I can do things to help myself, like supplements, and watching what I try and eat…but I can’t think myself well. Staying positive is important, and does help how you feel, but knowing and accepting your limitations is important, too. I knew from the second I woke up today, that I was not going to make it to my interview. The interview was scheduled for literally right now…and it still hurts to try and lift my arms or legs. I’m wondering how many ulcers are in my colon, because it feels like a billion. If I had walked in, looking hungover, miserable, and unable to walk straight, they’d have questioned my sanity, and my ability to perform the position. I did the right thing moving the interview, instead of canceling it all together. If I get bad news on Tuesday, I can call the company and explain that something has come up medically, and I will no longer be able to fill the role successfully.

If you’re reading this, and you’re chronically ill, remember that you can only push yourself so far, and that’s okay. We can’t give up entirely, because then we’re just as bad off, but we also shouldn’t be pushing ourselves into the hospital to appease others. The longer you’re sick, the better you get at predicting how you’ll feel, and what you can and can’t do. I never know from one day to the next how horrible I’ll feel when I wake up, but I do have a basic idea once I am awake, how I’ll be for that day. It’s okay to cancel plans. It’s okay to stay in pajamas. It’s okay to take a few naps!
What we want isn’t always what is best for us. Loving yourself starts with accepting your limitations, while working with medical professionals to expand the things you can do. There are tools and resources to assist with independence, it’s just a matter of finding them, and using them.

Failure Isn’t Always Failure

Neurological Symptoms Getting Worse

Things haven’t been good, and between the livedo reticularis getting seriously bad, and my neurological symptoms flaring horribly, I know that my Behcet’s is winning. I’ve been on a steroid taper, but there just doesn’t seem to be much relief. I went to neurology today, and we’re increasing my seizure medication and my neuropathy medication, but he really doesn’t have a ton of faith that it will help my symptoms, including my shakes and ataxia. It could help other issues, but there really isn’t one drug to help my specific set of neurological symptoms.

We don’t know what is happening in my brain/spine/nerves to cause my shaking, ataxia, and hyperactive reflexes. I present a lot like an MS patient, but I don’t have MS. Also, because the symptoms get worse with flares, and do improve slightly during high immune suppressing treatments, it makes logical sense that it’s related to my Behcet’s. With my GI system crashing though, there is a question of how to adequately treat most of my symptoms…while also having to embrace the reality that I’m sadly unique in how my neurological symptoms present.

Today the doctor mentioned IVIG, but we aren’t there yet. I’ll bring it up with my rheumatologist next week, just to see if that combined with other therapy options is an idea. I’ve also read some things about plasmapheresis, though again, it would be experimental because Behcet’s is so rare. If I had to do more chemotherapy to live independently, then obviously I would, but I’m desperate to try other options first. Some of the things I want may seem odd to someone who isn’t chronically ill, but for me they’re everything.

First and foremost, I want a port. I know there are a lot of risks, and the risks do scare me, but because I’m so hard to stick, if we were to take on another IV treatment, I would want to have an easy access situation. The other benefit of a port, is we could talk about hooking me up to IV fluids, and even IV medications. With my poor GI motility, it just makes sense for me to bypass my stomach for a lot of things. My seizure meds, and my immune suppressing drugs, as well as my nausea medications, are the first things I think of. Also, I have to choose between eating or drinking, which sucks. It is so painful to do either, that I’ve been giving up on food so I can drink enough fluids. Doctors are still saying I’m dehydrated though! This has gone on for years, with doctors always insisting I need to drink more water, but my body just can’t handle more water orally. IV fluids at home would really benefit me, even if we just did them every other day.

The second thing is the wheelchair, and while I’m disappointed at needing one, I appreciate that it will be a tool for me to use to become more independent. At this point, they have approved me, so I’m just waiting for the company to get in touch, and to work on what kind I’ll be getting and when it’ll be arriving. I’m still really embarrassed to need one, but I’ve fallen several times in the last few weeks, and with my diet so limited, the weakness is even more pronounced. We know from the way my body has declined in the past, that my neurological symptoms are only going to get worse. It doesn’t make sense for me to put pride over my well being. If I wait until I’m fully unable to walk, then ask for a wheelchair, I’m going to be stuck waiting for however long it takes.

The third thing is nutritional supplementation. I refuse to get an NJ or an NG tube placed.  I would likely need an NJ as my stomach is the issue, and they’d want to bypass my stomach. My gag reflex is just too strong, and living with a tube from my nose into my intestines would not be something I could handle. I also don’t feel like I’m sick enough to warrant a surgical feeding tube, and wouldn’t want one anyhow. I can still intake things orally, and I feel like if we got the right supplements I could get by. I’ve been choking down Boost, and I can tolerate potatoes, PBJ (sometimes), and sorbet. My issue is I’m not getting enough protein, or other nutrients, on my limited diet. Today I had a cup of sorbet, and that was it until 6 when I forced myself to eat some potatoes. If you’re wondering, it hurts, and I’m miserable, but at least I kept it down thus far.

I need a support network. I need people who get what I’m going through, and don’t judge me for being negative. I had a friend who was really close to me, who had multiple medical conditions as well, so I’ve been venting to her about my health lately. She is also someone I go to when it comes to how to date with chronic illnesses, and how to talk about health issues with someone you care about. Unfortunately we’re not friends anymore. She felt as though I was becoming wrapped up in my illness and letting it define me, and that my casual dating situation with the guy I’ve been seeing was unhealthy for me. Yes, I want to find someone to seriously date, but at this point I don’t have the energy to put into dating. (Not to mention I can’t eat much, and alcohol is a big fat no at this stage.) Yes, I have other positive things going on in my life, but everything has changed course because of my illness.

If you’re reading this, and you have a chronic illness, don’t feel bad about feeling bad! When you find yourself in a rut because your disease has taken over, it’s okay to process it for as long as it takes. In my case, I began losing more and more things that I’d discovered about myself in the last two years. After my marriage ended, and I was free from an abusive situation, I really started to find who I was as a person. Then, my disease progressed, and I began to lose things I’d started to enjoy. That process is ongoing, which means my frustration and sadness is ongoing. I don’t dwell on it publicly but I do vent to friends because I need help finding me. Yes, finding yourself is a personal process, but I think being sick it’s important to have people in your corner to help you. If I didn’t talk about my health, I can honestly say I would get lost in suicidal thoughts.

Really? Yes, really. There have been points in this journey where I’ve just wanted to die, and I think it’s something anyone with a chronic illness deals with. Whether or not you’re truly suicidal, or just feeling overwhelmed and the thoughts crosses your mind, it’s a real issue that requires real help. I am on anti-depressants, and I’m setting up more counseling sessions. I don’t want to actually die, so I need to make sure my mental health is being handled by professionals.

Please seek professional help or go to your nearest emergency room if you are feeling suicidal. Various countries and states have numbers you can call if you need someone to talk to. Call 1-800-273-8255 in the U.S. for the National Suicide Hotline. You can also chat anonymously. 

So that’s an update on my situation. My brain is starting to become worthless, so I’m off for now. Please address issues you have with your illness, and know you aren’t alone if you’re depressed or anxious. We can get through it, you can get through it. Your life (my life) OUR LIVES, are worth fighting for.

Also the only thing that’s working on my nausea is medical marijuana. That makes the part-time job hunt harder because I can’t take anything that they drug test for. At the end of the day, I can’t work if I’m up all night dry heaving, so it’s worth it for me to forgo those positions in lieu of the medical treatment that actually works for me.

Neurological Symptoms Getting Worse

Navigating the Potential Work Force

More like the “What the F*ck” force…

Before getting really sick, I worked. In fact, I worked so much, I’m pretty sure the stress of it contributed to an increase in flares, and symptoms in general. My relationship at the time was also extremely abusive. Going home was more stressful than being at work, and sometimes I would finish a shift, and just sit in my car in a parking lot because I wanted to avoid my ex. (Yeah, I was winning at life back then.)

Since leaving him and moving across the country, my health improved, before taking a drastic nose dive. As far as we can tell, I was exposed to a fair amount of mold in my first solo-apartment here, but a nasty flare was on the horizon from the moment I moved anyhow. It was a stressful time in my life, and my medications weren’t totally effective anyhow. I got my shit together, found a part-time bartending gig, and made that work…until dehydration, exhaustion, and just general autoimmune issues, led me to having a massive seizure…at work…

After that things got worse. That was when the Rituxan didn’t work, and I couldn’t walk, and we ended up finding out I wasn’t tolerant of Remicade. NYU said do chemo, so we did, but obviously that has failed…so here I am.

The thing is this: I never had a hard time finding work. Even when I was sick, I could find something, I just wasn’t ever sure if I could keep it. When I found out my doctor would be submitting for my wheelchair, I was both elated, as well as disappointed. I don’t want to be the girl in the wheelchair, but being the girl who stumbles around and falls a lot, isn’t a huge bonus either. Plus, with the wheelchair, even shaky and sick days, could still be work days, since I wouldn’t have to worry about fainting, etc.

But how does one find a job that one can do while in a wheelchair?

I cannot work in my degree field, at least not at this point in time, because of issues with shakiness. I’ve decided to move into clinical research guidelines (I think) and do some management of the clinical research that goes on in my area. I figure I may not be able to get into things on a straight laboratory level, but I can still provide oversight. If I don’t get into that, I’ll get into something with public health, maybe even my MPH. In the meantime, though, I have bills to pay. With my divorce hopefully nearing completion, I’ve had to face the reality that I won’t have healthcare anymore. I can pay to keep it, for $475 a month…money I don’t have…and even that won’t give me dental or vision.

Now, if you’ve got Behcet’s, or are familiar with it, you will know that having vision coverage when you’ve got it, is kind of a big deal. I was lucky to have only had posterior uveitis, but it was scary, and knowing that I could get a more severe form (anterior uveitis) that could leave me with decreased vision, is even scarier. I’m already dealing with neurological issues, and GI issues, I don’t need to go blind on top of this. Having some sort of vision coverage, is a priority. My teeth also suck from years of throwing up, acid reflux, poor nutrition, and ulcers. Dental is kind of a big deal, too. I’ve also lost several fillings and have just gotten my fourth crown, because I like to apparently screw up my mouth during seizures.

I want to work. I don’t want to be at home sick. I want to get my own apartment. I want to be as self-reliant as reasonably possible, and I can’t wait 18-24 months for disability to decide what to do with me. I could do office work, but not full-time. I can’t do anything full-time right now because of the GI issues and fatigue alone. The wheelchair will mitigate the balance and coordination concerns. Commute is a nightmare in general because I can’t drive, but I could make public transit work if needed.

All the informative websites say that you don’t have to disclose a disability in the application process, but obviously if my ass rolls into an interview in a wheelchair, they’re going to know. Plus, a lot of the office jobs even state that you have to be able to bend, lift, etc. Even more want you to have a valid driver’s license! Since when was being able to legally drive, critical for being able to answer phones and file patient charts? If I were healthy, I’d have been working all along. If I’d have gone into remission, I’d be working now. The fact that I’m being forced to own up to my limitations, is the only reason I’m so stressed about all of this.

Then there are the scary thoughts. What if my seizure drugs become less effective, and I have a seizure at work? I know it wouldn’t be my fault, but it has happened before, and it’s embarrassing. What if I’m in the ER again, and they turn me black and blue? I’ll show up to work with what looks like track marks running all over my body. How will I answer questions about why I’m in a wheelchair in general, when people know I can walk? It isn’t as though I would be using it regularly, though perhaps at work I would just to avoid the awkwardness of having it around some days and not on others.

Why is disability so damn hard to get when you have multiple medical professionals insisting that you cannot and should not be working?

That’s the kicker for me. My doctors, who have treated me for years, are not comfortable with me entering the workforce again…yet the government has decided I’m too well educated and too young, to actually be disabled. Please come live in the shambles of my life, and tell me all of that again. My ex may have been a bad person, but I keep running through his final words to me, about how nobody would ever love me because I’m sick, and I worry that there was some truth behind his twisted words. What if I don’t find someone who can love me, because even though they may like the healthy version of me, that isn’t the me they’ll always get.

I spend a lot of time saying that I’m not my illness, but it is part of who I am, and I cannot deny that. An oatmeal cookie with chocolate chips, isn’t technically a chocolate chip cookie. My drive and determination may be at one level, but my actual ability to function and do the things I want, and my partner would want, may not live up to that level. The irony in this situation is that I want to go meet up with this chronic illness support group, but I can’t afford the $30/session fee…because I’m chronically ill and cannot work. Thanks universe…the one thing that could have offered support and assistance emotionally…is out of reach financially…because I’m chronically ill.

F*ck me.

So yeah, the depression game is real right now. I feel useless, lonely, and stressed out. The things I want, are out of reach, as are a lot of the things that I need. I’m hoping I’ll find something I can do part-time, just to make me feel productive again, and to help me pay basic bills, but only time will tell if that’s attainable. Everyday I get mad at my body for letting me down. I know I should be grateful that it’s fought as hard as it has, despite the things that its been through, but I just can’t be grateful right now. Overseas they’ve done bone marrow transplant for GI Behcet’s and neuro Behcet’s patients, with 100% remission in all patients. Some patients got transplants for something else, but also had Behcet’s, and all went into remission, too. Granted it was a small pool of patients, because obviously it’s an extreme procedure, and there aren’t that many people who have Behcet’s to begin with…but I still find myself willing.

How bad is that? I want to be admitted to a hospital, have my entire immune system nuked out of my body. Probably throw up everything I’ve ever eaten since childhood…then have someone else’s cells pumped into my body in the hopes that I don’t die from secondary infections during all of it…just because it may give me a shot at normalcy again.

Maybe the question isn’t how bad is it that I want that, but rather, how bad must my current situation be, that the entire scenario actually sounds like a relief?

For now? Steroids and tons of Cell Cept…along with all of the other meds for neurological issues, sleep, and nausea. Truth be told, the most effective thing right now is medical marijuana…for literally everything. I have a strain for the depression, a strain for sleep issues, and a strain for fatigue. All have nausea benefits because I have to have that regardless.

Navigating the Potential Work Force